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Big Island girls' camp/conference center proposal goes back before zoning board

Union Leader Correspondent

November 19. 2017 10:42PM
Big Island in Paugus Bay is at the heart of a controversy where the owner of the island wants to build a girls' camp/conference center, but abutters oppose the application. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

LACONIA — A controversial Special Exception application to build a nonprofit summer camp for girls’/conference center on Big Island in Paugus Bay is back before the Zoning Board of Adjustment tonight.

The project is the idea of Scott Everett, a Gilford High School graduate who in 1999, founded Supreme Lending, one of the largest mortgage originators in the United States.

Although his company is based in Dallas, Everett owns a summer residence on Paugus Park Road in Laconia on the western shore of Paugus Bay. Within the bay, about 1,500 feet east of the northern end of Paugus Park Road sits Big Island.

Measuring 1.95 acres, the island is home to a three-bedroom, one bath seasonal camp that was built in 1950, according to Laconia assessing records. Everett bought the island in December 2012 and shortly thereafter transferred it to The NH Big Island Company, which is seeking to build the girls camp/conference center there.

In the summer, the camp would accommodate up to 40 girls, ages 8 to 12. The camp’s season would be book-ended by its use as a conference center for nonprofits that could hold 60 people. That second use requires a special exception from the ZBA before the project can then considered for a site-plan by the Laconia Planning Board.

On Oct. 16, the ZBA opened the public hearing on the Big Island application and when the hearing resumes at 7 p.m. today, the ZBA members should expect to hear more from Everett’s neighbors.

A dozen neighbors spoke at the initial, two-hour hearing, and the majority of them voiced concerns about noise, the impact on an established loon nesting area, safety, as well as a potential decrease in the value of their properties.

In a Nov. 15 letter to the Union Leader, seven Paugus Park Road property owners said they still had a lot of unknowns about what Everett and his charitable organization have in mind for Big Island.

The letter asks why the special-exception application is proceeding “when all of the ‘abutters’” and most of the other residents remain adamantly opposed to such an exception.”

“We simply do not want to live 1,500 feet from a camp/convention center,” the letter reads. “When we purchased our residences on Paugus Park Road many years ago, we did so believing that we would be living in a single-family residential neighborhood. We would like to continue to do so.”

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