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Laconia, Gilford planning officials discuss Wal-Mart expansion


May 09, 2012
Laconia's Conservation Commission met Wednesday, May 2 with members of the Gilford Planning Board to discuss the plans for the proposed Walmart addition at the plaza on Lake Shore Road.

Representatives from W.S. Development, owners of the plaza, submitted preliminary plans to the Commission as they prepare to extend the building into a designated wetlands area.

At a previous meeting in Laconia, Caleb Perrin, project manager for WS Development, said they plan to demolish 22,000-square-feet of the existing plaza and add about a 60,000-square-foot area for the new 130,000-square-foot Super-center. John Morgenstern, Gilford Planing Board Chairman, and John Ayer, Gilford Planing and Land Use Director, attended the Laconia meeting to discuss some of their concerns.

Commission members said they were less concerned about the wetlands area, as developers said they planed to increase the size of the retention ponds to reduce impact to the wetlands. At the previous meeting, Tom Sokoloski, a wetlands and soil scientist with Schauer Environmental Consultants, reported that the area behind the existing store constituted the driest wetlands one could find, as it contained trees and dry hard-pan soil usually found in upland areas.

Members of the Commission and Gilford Planning officials agreed that the chief concern was the impact to Black Brook, which runs from Lilly Pond to Lake Winnipesaukee, especially after large amounts of silt deposits were found after the more recent Lowes construction across the street.

At the previous meeting, Commission Chairman Dean Anson said the silt and runoff from that project eventually ended up in Lake Winnipesaukee.

According to members of the Commission and Scott McPhie,Laconia Planning Technician and Conservation Officer, Black Brook starts at Lilly Pond, then follows Lake Shore Road by Walmart, under the driveway, and is diverted under the road by the old Getty gas station. The brook then runs in front of Laconia Savings Bank and continues along the roadside in front of the new Lowes, then cuts behind CVS.

Aside from the impact on the brook, Ayer said, with much of the building scheduled to take place on the Laconia side, Gilford officials were more concerned with the appearance of the new facility and the state of the parking lot.

"With the whole front appearance, we want it to hit you as a good place," said Ayer.

Morgenstern had similar comments, but said the developers were excited about the new construction.

"We are very enthusiastic about the project," said Morgenstern. "We want it to look good. We want the parking lot to be viable."

Members of the Laconia Conservation Commission said they wanted oversight on the project to be a joint effort between Laconia and Gilford commission members. They planned to schedule a joint Commission meeting on May 15, after members of each commission had time to review submitted plans.

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