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Phase 2 of WOW Trail clears 2 big hurdles

LACONIA — The Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail this week overcame the second of two obstacles that have slowed construction of the stretch from Veterans Square to Belmont when the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) granted the wetlands permit required to cross Durkee Brook.

The permit was required for the grading and filling necessary to provide drainage for the trail, replace an existing culvert, construct a boardwalk and build a 26-foot bridge over the brook. In May, Lawrence Joyce, whose residence — the last on the north side of Court Street — abuts the railroad tracks right-of-way where the the trail will be built, asked DES to deny the permit.

The northwest corner of Joyce's home sits on the boundary between his lot and the state's land and his lot reaches to within about 10 yards of the shore of Lake Winnisquam. Joyce claimed the impervious surface of the trial would add to the stormwater run-off on to his property. Moreover, since the trail would be fenced, he would no longer enjoy access to the lake. Finally, Joyce said that pedestrian and bicycle traffic along the trail would jeopardize the safety and security of his property and, with the fence, obscure his view of the lake and compromise the privacy of his home.

HEB Engineers, Inc., the firm designing the trail, responded to Joyce's objections on behalf of the WOW Trail. They assured DES any increase in run-off would be negligible, not least because the trail will be sloped away from adjacent properties and stormwater collected in a ditch lined with stone. The New Hampshire Department of Transportation confirmed that Joyce has neither rights nor permission to cross the railway to reach the lake and noted he would be required to apply and pay for a lease to do so. Finally, HEB Engineers conceded that the fence would "likely detract from the aesthetics" of Joyce's lot, but added that the WOW Trail is seeking state permission to erect a split rail wooden fence rather than a chain link fence, which would be more attractive.

DES granted the permit over Joyce's misgivings, but noted that its decision can be appealed to the New Hampshire Wetlands Council within 30 days.

Meanwhile, finessing a way past two abandoned wooden sheds along the railway just north of Water Street, had hindered the final design of Phase 2 of the trail for months. The New Hampshire Bureau of Rails designated the sheds, which have been neither used nor maintained since regular rail traffic ceased years ago, as "historic" structures to be preserved not demolished. Since the sheds stand in the route of trail through the railroad right-of-way, a way around them had to be found.

Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail, said that negotiations were opened with Lionel Labonte of Stratham Tire, which owns the property surrounding the sheds, for easement that would allow the trail to bypass them. Last December, before agreement was reached, Labone passed away. However, Beetle said that Labonte's daughter, Denise Littlefield, who succeeded her father at the firm, offered to donate enough land to bend the trail around the sheds. In addition, Stratham was among the corporate supporters of the annual WOW Ball in May to benefit the project.

Beetle said that on the advice of HEB Engineers bids for the construction will be solicited in the winter with an eye toward beginning work in the spring of 2016 and completing the project in the next construction season. He said that the WOW Trail has approximately $750,000 in hand, including $400,000 appropriated by the city, and has already funded the design and engineering portion of the project.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 August 2015 12:51

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City Council to seek 'stakeholder' input on possible changes to zoning in Weirs Beach area

LACONIA — While persisting with its effort to offer guidance to the Planning Board about studying changing the zoning at the Weirs, the City Council this week agreed to solicit the views of stakeholders — property, business and home owners — before framing any formal recommendations.

In taking the initiative to advise the Planning Board, the council has departed from past practice by which changes to the zoning ordinance have generally originated with the Planning Board. City Council always has the final word.

In 2006, a "Smart Growth" team, sponsored and funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency that visited the city, recommended rezoning the Weirs, most of which lies within the commercial resort (CR) district which extends northward from White Oaks Road to the Meredith town line However, no changes were proposed until this spring, after the Zoning Board of Adjustment granted one property owner and denied another a special exception to sell automobiles in the CR district. The decision prompted the City Council to ask the Planning Board to review the uses in the CR district.

The board responded by proposing to rezone Weirs Boulevard from the Naswa Resort to Lake Street from CR to Shorefront Residential (SFR) and Lake Street from CR) to Commercial and to change 10 permitted uses within the CR district. When business interests objected to restricted commerce along the boulevard, the council scuttled the proposal.
In returning to the subject this week, Mayor Ed Engler said "it is not our purpose to revisit the earlier proposal nor is our conversation limited to Weirs Boulevard. He encouraged councilors to consider the boundaries and uses of the entire CR zone. And he reminded the council that only it could make changes to the zoning ordinance.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) said that zoning should encourage the highest and best use of private property that increases real estate values and spurs economic activity. As the hub of a popular tourist area, he suggested the Weirs should be zoned to fill a "competitive niche".
Engler was more specific, suggesting that the CR district might be broken up into two or more different districts. In particular, he said that the frontage along Route 3 between the Weirs Channel and Meredith town line could be designated for commercial uses, leaving the remainder of the land for residential or mixed use development. Engler expressed concern that the current zoning allows both commercial and residential development throughout the Weirs and asked whether some land should be reserved solely for commercial uses.
Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2), who serves as the council's liaison to the Planning Board, said that zoning issues will be addressed by the Master Plan, which is in the course of being prepared.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders assured the council that the land use and economic development sections of the Master Plan will be completed in the spring of 2016.
Lipman, who has voiced impatience with the process of drafting the Master Plan, said that the issue of zoning at The Weirs could be pursued along "parallel paths".
Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) repeatedly proposed that the council invite members of the public to express their views. "Let the people come to us and tell us what they want," he said.
Engler said that the council could either refer recommendations to the Planning Board or hold a public hearing, sound the opinion of stakeholders and then approach the Planning Board. Without dissent the council chose to schedule a public hearing, to which interested parties would be invited and all interested parties would be allowed to speak.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 August 2015 12:35

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New Hampton School senior raises $2,400 for Carey House

LACONIA — A local high school senior presented the Carey House with a check for $2,400 to offset the costs of fuel oil this winter.

Madison "Maddie" Schumacher of Morningside Drive is entering her senior year at New Hampton School and raised the money for the shelter by holding yard sales, soliciting contributions from family and friends and selling items on E-Bay.
Stafford Oil also contributed $300 to the cause.

The Carey House is a not-for-profit private shelter owned by the Salvation Army. At the present time, it is the only homeless shelter in the greater Laconia area.

This is the second year in a row Schumacher has raised money for a charity over her summer break. Last year she raised and donated money for the Kurn Hattin School (Vermont) for at-risk children.

For Carey House Director Amanda Lewis, the payment of what she said could be as much as two to three months of oil bills — depending on the price and the weather — is "absolutely wonderful."

Lewis noted that is was heartening to see someone so young taking an active role in her community and helping those who are less fortunate.

When asked what Carey House would do with the $2,400 freed from the oil budget by Schumacher's donation, she said money would be spent on critical repairs to the property and some would be added to the funds they use to help people buy toiletries, diapers and cleaning supplies. She also said some of it would be used to offset program fees for those who cannot pay them.

Schumacher is vice president of her senior class and plays volleyball, tennis and basketball. She said she plans on studying medicine and becoming a physician.

 

CUTLINE: New Hampton School senior Maddie Schumacher (right) gives Carey House Director Amanda Lewis (left) a voucher for $2,400 for heating oil for the winter. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 August 2015 12:30

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Randy Potter joins Merrimack Mortgage Company Potter

MEREDITH — Merrimack Mortgage Company, LLC. is pleased to welcome Randy Potter to its Lakes Region branch.

Potter, formerly with Regency Mortgage in Meredith, has joined Merrimack Mortgage Company's lineup of experienced, licensed loan originators. Potter will be based in the Lakes Region branch office, located at 92 Main Street in Meredith. As he has done in the past, he will continue to focus on helping home­buyers in Meredith, Center Harbor, and Laconia. He will also now be serving the greater Lakes Region community.

With over 23 years experience as a loan originator, Potter brings a wealth of knowledge to the company.

"We are so excited to have Randy on our team. His experience, enthusiasm, and commitment to providing exceptional customer service will be invaluable. He has an impeccable reputation, and his business philosophy is very much in line with our customer­centered approach here at Merrimack Mortgage", says branch manager Jennifer McCall.

Potter is a 5­-year resident of Meredith, where he lives with his wife and 2 children. He is an active member of is community. Potter has been a member of the Lakes Region Board of Realtors affiliates since 2014.

Randy Potter can be reached at ​603-­279-­7902 Ext. 225 ​or via email at ​ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Established in 1983, Merrimack Mortgage Company is a direct­to­consumer mortgage lender headquartered in Manchester. Recently acquired by HarborOne Bank, the largest co­operative bank in New England, the company has 31 sales offices located throughout New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut.

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Randy Potter (Courtesy photo)

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 August 2015 08:02

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