A recent change in law requested by Governor Chris Sununu allows him to bypass the typical review process and sell the old property of the 220-acre Lakes Region Prison in Laconia with just three Executive Council votes. But Sununu told advisers they can put any terms they want on a future buyer.
Councilor Joe Kenney, whose district includes the site, set a first condition, proposing to file a draft contract with a brokerage firm to market the property until interested parties can see it. Council unanimously supported his request.
Discussions on possible conditions will include the city of Laconia’s redevelopment goals for the site and whether the state emergency 911 call center and the Regional Lakes Fire Mutual, which rent buildings at the site , will have to spend millions to move. Also on the list will be access to Ahern State Park, which is adjacent to the site but cannot be reached without crossing the property.
“The board has the final say on whether or not to sell this property,” Sununu said at last week’s executive board meeting. “Any condition that the council would like to see or something like that, it is the empowerment of that body to ensure that any conditions requested by the city or the state or the city, it is the responsibility of that organ. And we can do it almost however we want.
Laconian Mayor Andrew Hosmer and Chief Jon Goldman of the Fire Aid Association, which provides fire and emergency services to 35 towns in the Lake District, raised the issues redevelopment and resettlement respectively with the State and the Executive Council.
“I’m skeptical when I hear assurances that basically say, ‘Don’t worry about that,'” Hosmer said. âI don’t want to disbelieve them. On the other hand, if it’s not written down, things can change quite quickly.
Hosmer said the city wants the entire site, and not just the easiest-to-sell plot along Old North Main Street, to be developed. âOur long term goals are the highest and best use of property,â he said. This could include housing, extensive green space, light commercial use and the extension of the city’s existing recreational trail, he said.
Goldman said the relocation of the fire relief dispatch center would cost at least $ 7 million, an expense member cities may object or struggle to meet. “We are waiting to see,” he said. âBut we’re pretty confident we’ll have to move. “
The site was for many years the Laconia State School and, more recently, a prison. It offers breathtaking views of Lake Opechee but also significant challenges including buildings in need of demolition, historical features, other issues’ both above and below ground some of which we know and d ‘others that we do not know but which we expect,’ commissioner Charlie Arlinghaus of the administrative services of the department told the advisers.
His department has warned that these complications could mean the property is selling for far less than the market value of a similar unencumbered property.
As the first step in selling the property, the Arlinghaus department selected CBRE, a global brokerage firm with an office in Manchester, to market the site to a private buyer. It was one of four bidders; the others were Colliers, NAI Norwood and KW Coastal.
The nine-page contract requires the property to be listed with no asking price.
CBRE will be paid at least $ 100,000 for its marketing work and possibly more if the property sells; the state will pay a lump sum of $ 50,000 and an additional amount of $ 50,000 or 5% of the sale price, whichever is greater. Hiring an outside firm to sell crown land is not uncommon, said Jared Nylund, who manages the sale for the department.
The fee arrangement speaks to the challenge of finding a buyer, which will incur substantial costs for demolition, zoning changes, land use permits, subdivision and investments in utilities and infrastructure, a the department said in a note to advisers.
CBRE’s broker on the project, Roger Dieker, who visited the property in August, did not return a message seeking comment. He said that at the time cooperation would be required from all parties. While the city hopes to see the property redeveloped – and introduce property taxes – “now is the city’s opportunity to take this seriously,” he said in August.
As of now, there are virtually no restrictions on the sale, Arlinghaus told advisers on Wednesday. âWe’re going to take the best deal,â he said.
Kenney asked Arlinghaus to contact city officials and the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission, a group created by the Legislature in 2017 to prepare the property for sale. Its manager said the commission learned of Sununu’s plan to sell the property himself from a reporter, not from the governor’s office. Should a buyer show up, Kenney said the details of that contract would be essential.
Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington said her concerns were about access to Ahern State Park and the city’s desire for the entire site to be developed. “I am happy to hear the governor say that councilors can impose any conditions they want,” she said. “I intend to actively work to ensure that the property is laid out in a way that benefits the community.”
Councilors Janet Stevens, Ted Gatsas and David Wheeler could not be reached immediately.