LACONIA — The Planning Board has agreed to recommend the plan for the second phase of the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail to the City Council for approval.
Two of the board's members -- Bill Contardo and Jay Tivnan -- dissented from the board's position. Cantardo lives in South Down Shores, and Tivnan is a resident of Long Bay. The third phase of the WOW trail is planned to pass through both condominium communities, along the western shore of Paugus Bay. Residents there have voiced opposition to the route, proposed alternative routes and contributed to a legal fund to challenge construction of the third phase of the trail.
Warren Hutchins, chairman of the Planning Board, explained that since the WOW Trail is a municipal project, it does not require the approval of the board, but was presented as a courtesy.
Jay Poulan of HEB Engineering Inc. of North Conway, explained to the board this week that the second phase begins at the Laconia Public Library and runs to the Belmont town line, where it joins a paved path. For most of its 5,000 feet the trail will be built within the railroad right-of-way. He said that there would be two sections of boardwalk outside the railroad right-of-way to cross wetlands near Bartlett Beach and a bridge would be built to cross Durkee Brook.
Two property owners raised objections to the route. Jeff Joyce of 361 Court St., spoke for himself and his father, who owns the property next door at 373 Court St. The two properties are the westernmost private lots within the city on the north side of Court Street.
Joyce said that the commercial building at 373 Court St. actually encroaches into the railroad right-of-way. He said that the trail, together with the chain link fence required by the Bureau of Rails of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT), would obscure the view of the lake from both properties and impair their value. Moreover, he was concerned about how construction of the trail would add to stormwater run-off on to both lots. Finally, he feared that the trail would attract undesirable elements, who already walk back and forth between Laconia and Belmont along this route, which is often strewn with litter of all sorts.
Poulan said while the trail would run close to the two properties neither would be affected by the drainage, which would be designed to carry stormwater toward the lake. Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail, said that fears of loitering and vandalism are misplaced, recalling that residents of Moulton Street expressed the same concerns when the first phase of the trail was designed. He said that as more and more people used and maintained the trail the problems residents anticipated diminished.
Robert Dupont, who owns half-a-dozen properties further east on Court Street, including a lot with more than 300 feet bordering the railroad right-of-way and a scrap of shorefront just west of the outlet of Durkee Brook, also objected to proximity of the trail to his property. Like Joyce, he took special exception to the chain link fence. He suggested routing the trail through Keasor Court and along Court Street, offering donate land to facilitate an alternative route.
City Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2), the council's representative on the Planning Board, said that while he was reluctant to change the route of the trail, he recognized that the requirement of chain link fencing along its route was a legitimate concern of abutting property owners. At his initiative the board agreed to urge the City Council to press the DOT to substitute the chain link fence with more aesthetic fencing like a split rails, particularly where the trail is adjacent to residential properties.
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