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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, March 23, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

An artist’s rendering of the planned new beach fire substation at Hampton Beach. [Courtesy Photo]

HAMPTON — Beach precinct commissioners have signed off on a deal to transfer the precinct parking lot to the town for the purpose of constructing a new fire substation at Hampton Beach.

The commissioners voted unanimously last week to sign the memorandum of agreement, but it still needs approval from voters at the precinct’s March 30 annual Town Meeting.

“I don’t see it being a problem,” said Chuck Rage, chairman of the Hampton Beach Village Precinct Commission. “It’s basically the same agreement that the voters of the precinct approved at a special meeting last year. I’m confident that it’s going to go through and we are going to have a brand new beautiful fire station at the beach.”

The agreement is the last hurdle in what has been a decade-long discussion regarding a new fire station at the beach.

Town voters at the March 13 election approved a $5.75 million bond article for and addition to the Winnacunnet Road fire station and new substation at the beach.

The deal calls for the precinct to deed to the town its revenue-generating parking lot off Brown Avenue to allow the town to build a $3.1 million substation at Hampton Beach. In return, the town will demolish the current fire station and garage — both owned by the precinct — and deed a 9,500-square-foot parcel of land known informally as the Royal lot to the precinct to replace the majority of its lost parking spaces.

The town will also foot the bill to repave the precinct’s new parking lot, construct a precinct meeting room inside the new fire substation, and aid the precinct in recouping the parking revenue losses resulting from construction.

The major change has to do with a clause that states when the new building is no longer used by the Fire Department, the ownership of the land will revert back to the precinct.

While the original agreement called for the so-called reverter clause to last for 50 years, the new agreement is for 20 years — which coincides with the life of the bond.

In addition to a request from voters to approve the land swap, Rage said, precinct voters will also be asked for permission to tear down the old fire station.

If the precinct decides to keep the old fire station, Town Attorney Mark Gearreald said, the town will not have to pay to demolish the building to make up lost parking revenues.

Rage said he doesn’t expect voters will decide to keep the building, which is on the list of Register of Historic Places in New Hampshire.

“I think once voters figure out it will cost way too much money to do anything with that building and that we would lose a ton of income without having a parking lot, voters will vote to demolish it,” Rage said.

Rage said the century-old building is in “horrible condition.”

“It’s full of lead paint, the electrical system needs upgrading; it will cost us in excess of a half a million dollars to use that building,” Rage said.

He said parking revenue — which brings in roughly $80,000 a summer — is the precinct’s primary source of revenue.

“Every dollar we get from it goes to offset taxes,” said Rage.

A new parking lot at the site of the old fire station on Ashworth Avenue will attract more tourists, Rage said.

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