By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Scott Everett says he has received emails and text messages from hundreds of local people who are in favor of his plans to build a conference center and youth camp on Big Island in Paugus Bay.
His NH Big Island Co. is suing the city over a decision by the Zoning Board of Adjustment that blocked the project from going forward. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Belknap County Superior Court.
“The only people objecting are on Paugus Park Road, and maybe a few others, so it's a very small percentage of people objecting,” he said in a telephone interview Friday.
Everett, who grew up in the area and spends summers here, is the founder and president of Supreme Lending, a Dallas-based mortgage company with 200 branches and 1,800 employees nationwide.
His plans for the island, where there is now a single residence, stirred up strong opposition from neighbors who live on the nearby shoreline and were concerned about the potential for noise, traffic and environmental impact.
City Manager Scott Myers said Friday he has not seen the lawsuit and wasn't in a position to comment.
Everett said that his proposal addressed the concerns of nearby residents and that the board's denial was unreasonable. He said his goal is to boost the economic prospects of the city and provide a lakeside camp experience for girls, including some who otherwise might not be able to afford it.
He recently bought a stake in the Winnipesaukee Muskrats summer baseball team out of concerns the team was facing financial problems and would be in danger of moving out of the area if there wasn't a change of ownership.
“There are other purchases that I'm looking at,” he said. “I want to help the overall stability of the area. People see me as trying to do something nefarious, but that's not true.
“I need the overall sentiment of the zoning and planning board to be more respectful.”
He said decisions have to be made about the future of a city that is having problems.
“Will it become more dilapidated or will strong-minded business people make a difference?
“When I was a kid growing up, Meredith was not that nice, then Rusty McLear put a lot of time, effort and money in, and did Mill Falls.”
The lawsuit seeks reversal of the Zoning Board of Adjustment decision on the grounds that the board failed to apply correctly the city's zoning ordinance regarding special exceptions, that it disregarded findings from other city departments favorable to the project, that it usurped authority that belongs to the state and the city's Planning Board, and showed they were prejudiced against any development on the island.
The project requires a special exception because the island is located in the Residential-Single Family Zone.
Everett has already spent $2 million on the proposal, including running utilities underground to the island.
In the suit, Big Island is asking the court to award it attorney's fees and other costs associated with its appeal to the ZBA and the court.