It Might Not Be The End For the Weirs Drive-In
LACONIA — The curtain has dropped on an apparent plan to sell the Weirs Drive-In to a local developer who wanted to transform the property in a multi-million dollar lakes region residential and retail complex.
Al Mitchel, the anticipated new owner of the property, said Thursday that he was no longer involved.
“I had to move on,” he said. “A lot is involved over there; a lot of issues."
Patricia and Lawrence Baldi ran the theater for years. Lawrence died in 2011 and Patricia had been considering selling several years ago.
Baldi said in August she was closing down on Labor Day. She said her son was planning on taking some of the equipment and starting a new drive-in at a new location, but exactly where was undecided at the time.
Calls to Baldi went unanswered Thursday. According to a post on the drive-in’s Facebook page, “The season is over. I will keep you posted on whether or not the sale actually goes through. It's never done until the paperwork is signed. Thanks to all of you who came out. It was wonderful. It has been an amazing and wonderful experience to share your summer memories with you.”
Mitchell had planned on purchasing the land for $2.5 million. He said in August he wanted to put in about "80 higher-end" condominiums, shops offering items such as cigars, wine and cheese as well as an event building to "dress up motorcycle week."
Mitchell said he wanted to "enhance Motorcycle Week to take a lot of the honky-tonk out of it and class it up a bit."
Mitchel would not elaborate Thursday as to why the deal fell through, but did say he still planned on going forward to develop property he already owned nearby.
According to the Laconia Daily Sun, the deal died “after an initial study showed it to be archaeologically important.”
“I met with some people about the possibility of what might happen up there,” said state archaeologist Richard A. Boisvert at the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources. “It is my understanding the sale had not gone through before I spoke with the parties.”
Boisvert said that any large development may require federal permits. Due to the necessity of following the fed's rules, the developer would need to be aware of any historical resources on the parcel.
"We have a record of human life in New Hampshire going back 12,500 years," Boisvert said.
The Weirs area in particular, he said, has significant archaeological value because it was an busy and important gathering spot for early civilizations.
"The first reference to archaeology there is from 1930, " Boisvert said. "People have worked on and off there since then."
He said there is "evidence of fish processing at the Weirs on both sides of the channel going back a fair distance," and the drive-in is within that area.
Boisvert said there have been an "abundance of artifacts found throughout that area. We know that it is unquestionably a significant place for archaeology."
"You're going to find knives, scrapers, fire pits, spear points," he said. "There is a lot of evidence there. The Weirs is a unique place. There is only one Weirs."
Boisvert said he met with representatives of each party involved in the deal, as well as a Laconia Planning Board member "and explained to them how the process works."
"My specific role was to provide information to the interested parties," he said.
"It's too bad," Mitchel said. "I love the Weirs. I'd love to see something beautiful done to that property."
He continues to work on another project nearby and said that there may be progress there "by spring."
He said he was "hoping to do both at once."
"That won't happen on my watch; not the way I see it. Maybe the atmosphere will change," he said. "Maybe a year from now. At this point it's time to move on."