LACONIA — Work has begun on the main building of a commercial-residential project in Lakeport, although work on another phase of the project remains on hold due to objections from an abutter.
The delays are troubling for Scott Everett, the project’s developer, as well as being an issue that the city is mindful of.
Excavation is underway in preparation of pouring the foundation and footings of the 29,500-square-foot, three-story building which will house businesses on the ground floor and residential units on the upper stories.
Meanwhile, the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled to meet next Wednesday to consider a request from Peter Brunette, an abutter, who is objecting to the installation of a retaining wall 2 feet from the edge of his property behind the Paugus Elm site. That issue is holding up groundwork for the project’s parking garage.
Brunette’s opposition has so far put the project about two weeks behind schedule, according to city Planning Director Dean Trefethen, and could result in a much longer delay if Brunette chooses to take the matter to court.
At next Wednesday’s meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers in City Hall, the ZBA will decide whether to rehear Brunette’s objection to the board’s June 30 decision upholding Trefethen’s finding that the retaining wall is not a structure. Trefethen has ruled that the retaining wall is a construction technique and, therefore, not subject to zoning regulations that limit how close to neighboring property a building can be constructed.
If the board decides not to hear Brunette’s appeal on Wednesday, Brunette will have the option to file suit in superior court. However, if the ZBA decides to rehear the matter it will be taken up during the board’s next regular meeting on July 20, Trefethen said. If the board then upholds its original decision, Brunette can then appeal that decision to the court.
Everett said Friday he was pleased with the ZBA’s decision on June 30, but went on to say he was “upset at what has been happening to thwart the efforts of a multimillion-dollar project to this degree.”
Brunette has said his aim is not to obstruct Everett’s project, but his concern is that the method to be used to install the retaining wall using 35-foot long interlocking metal sheets could undermine the structural integrity of his house and the adjacent historic United Baptist Church. In addition, the work will damage and possibly kill a row of cherry trees which line the side of his property, he has argued.
Trefethen said the ZBA has expedited its consideration of Brunette’s challenges because of Paugus Elm’s potential economic impact to the city, in addition to the “ripple effect” the delays could produce for the developer.
Trefethen modified the cease-work order to allow contractors to start working on the main building. But he left intact that part of the order prohibiting work on areas of the construction site closest to Brunette’s property.
“We don’t want to have an unsightly hole in the ground,” Trefethen said of letting some of the work go forward. “People will like to see progress.”