More than 200 acres of prime state-owned real estate with stunning mountain and water views has become a destination for private acquisitions.
Members of a commission tasked with planning the site that once housed the Laconia State School say a group is preparing an offer to buy.
“There is an active group that seem very interested in this property but I can’t tell who they are or what they want to do but it would be a great thing for the wider community and very good for Laconia. That was exciting, ”said Rusty McLear, a member of the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission.
George Bald, chairman of the commission, said that while any offer would be considered by the state, the commission was a focal point for those interested in purchasing the property on North Main Street and Meredith Center Road, adjacent to Ahern State Park and Lake Winnisquam.
“We have every reason to believe that they have the financial means or will get the funding for the project,” Bald said.
Any sale must be approved by the governor’s office, which under recent legislation has the ability to approve such takeover together with the executive board.
“We have explained to the governor the people who are interested and have to wait,” said Bald. “We don’t have any signed agreements. We have to keep working with these people. “
Governor Chris Sununu formed the panel four years ago to plan a path forward that would include economic development and job creation. The land is now underused. It has an operating status emergency call center and abandoned buildings from previous uses.
The commission hired and worked with consultants to study the property, market demand for future uses, infrastructure needs, government grants, historic preservation and environmental factors. Studies showed early on that there was insufficient demand for industrial use. A master plan was drawn up showing possible commercial, medical and residential uses.
Housing has been seen as an economic benefit as the lack of housing has become an obstacle to labor growth and business expansion.
Whoever buys the property would ultimately be responsible for up to $ 20 million in infrastructure needed, including water, sewer, roads and a water tank, Bald said.
Soon said there was also potential interest from more than one group.
A key aspect will be a plan to develop the land according to its master plan, he said.
“The city deserves the state doing a good job of making sure this becomes something the city is proud of and makes a difference in terms of taxes and what it looks like for the community,” he said. “Certainly there is a demand for living space.”
Mayor Andrew Hosmer said it could be good news for the city if a private group shows up to develop the entire property. His concern is that only the easiest to develop plots would be built along existing roads, or that a group would have to spend so much on infrastructure that the cost of new neighborhoods would be prohibitive for most workers.
“It’s not that easy to put up a sales sign and walk away,” said Hosmer. “When the state does that, they are neglecting their responsibility to the city and its citizens. The state has used this site at will, for the developmentally disabled, for prisoners, for Covid patients. It wasn’t on the tax lists. You don’t just get away from it. You should have a sense of obligation and responsibility. “
Calls to the governor’s office were not answered immediately.
A budget trailer law signed by Sununu last month stated: “The governor has sole authority, with the approval of the Executive Board, to sell, transfer, lease, rent, exchange, transfer, relinquish or otherwise grant property whether tangible or intangible, in the Lakes Region property on such terms as the governor and the executive board deem appropriate and without regard to any other statutory provision including sale, transfer, lease, rental, exchange, transfer , the abandonment or other disposal of state property. “
The normal process of selling government property would otherwise be quite complicated and lengthy. The Commission had asked for permission to create an agency that could have run a streamlined sales process.
The property was used as a home for people with developmental disabilities for decades. It was used for prison facilities, which were also closed. Some homeless Covid-19 patients were housed in an empty building on site at the beginning of the pandemic.
Several unsuccessful attempts have been made over the years to either sell or redevelop the property.
These articles are shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit Collaborativenh.org