Foster's Daily Democrat [Staff and Wire Reports]
before the fire of June 16, 1999
PORTSMOUTH — The owner of one of three Hampton Beach buildings severely damaged in a fire two weeks ago said Wednesday that at least two of the structures will likely be torn down next week.
More than 200 firefighters from 23 communities responded to the blaze, which all but gutted the Old Salt Eating and Drinking Place.
Aided by a strong wind, the fire then spread to Beach Walk Enterprises, destroying five business and six apartments before damaging the top floor of Springfield Motor Lodge.
Robert Preston, Sr., owner of Beach Walk Enterprises, said that his building and the Old Salt will definitely be razed.
"I’m anxious to have them torn down. We’re still not sure about the Springfield at this point, because the insurance adjusters have been looking to save the first floor. I don’t know if that’s possible in light of the stringent safety codes that have been put in place. so I think it will come down sooner or later," he said.
Preston said no determination has been made as to who will be contracted to tear the buildings down or specifically how much the project will cost.
"So far the bids have fluctuated quite a bit, ranging from $40,000 for all three to as high as $65,000. We have three different owners and three insurance companies involved, so it’s a difficult situation. We just want to be able to substantiate doing the right thing," he said.
Meanwhile, the majority of the 88 employees at Old Salt who were displaced from their jobs as a result of the fire have been found new ones, according to Hampton Beach Chamber of Commerce President Glen French.
French said a good number of them have relocated to the Whale’s Tale Restaurant & Pub, located in the Hampton Beach Casino on Ocean Blvd.
In other developments, a joint meeting was held Wednesday among Hampton’s Board of Selectmen, the Zoning and Planning Boards and local business owners to discuss the possibility of changing the town’s zoning ordinance to permit more extended property development along Hampton Beach.
While no specific proposals emerged, a discussion centered around creating a broad-based committee that would include representatives from the three boards plus business owners.
If that plan is adopted, the committee would recommend changes to the zoning ordinance, which would be reviewed by the Planning Board.
The Planning Board would then present it’s considerations to the Board of Selectmen.
The Board of Selectmen would eventually be required to call a special town meeting, perhaps as early as September, in which residents would be asked to vote on any recommended changes.
During the meeting, a number of business people recommended changing the zoning ordinance to increase the allowed height of buildings facing the beach in order to attract hotel chains.
Others in the audience called for development of a beach-wide master plan. Earlier this year, voters rejected a proposal to spend $150,000 on a similar plan.