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Boscawen planning board accepts Dollar General application as complete 

  • Boscawen resident Andy Newcomb speaks during a public hearing about a proposed Dollar General in Boscawen on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff

  • Bohler Engineering representative Austin Turner speaks during a public hearing about a proposed Dollar General in Boscawen on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dollar General has advanced beyond a crucial step in adding a store to Boscawen.

The town’s planning board voted to accept the proposal, which is in its fifth iteration, as complete during a regular meeting Tuesday night. This starts the 90-day clock the planning board has to decide whether to allow the store chain to add a location on King Street, according to Alan Hardy, Boscawen’s planning and community development director.

The decision was followed by more than an hour of comments during a public hearing, the majority of which were opposed to the proposal. Of the roughly two dozen people who attended the meeting, 15 opinions were heard at the meeting; of that number, 10 were opposed, with seven of those individuals saying they were nonabutters. All five supporters of Dollar General said they were nonabutters.

Those in favor of the store kept their reasoning simple.

“The tax rate is too high, and businesses need to pick up some slack,” resident Eric Monroe said. “You’re not building more developments to offset the tax burden. ... You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

And resident Stan Blach said the town had a chance in the ‘90s to prevent stores like Dollar General from coming to King Street by zoning it as a historical district; instead, the town voted for it to be commercial.

“We need the tax base,” Blach said. “We’re going to be losing business down the street. ... I personally welcome them.”

But residents opposed to the project seemed to feel the discussion was anything but simple. Some, like Bill Devine, a nonabutter, were concerned about how the town had handled the discussion surrounding the proposal.

“I think every one of you whose face I can see has the best interests of the town at heart ... But I’m actually appalled at how this board is conducting its business,” Devine said, later adding, “It took a lawsuit for the board to say, ‘Okay, let’s have another public hearing.’ ”

Others, like Mike Cunningham, a nonabutter, were concerned that allowing Dollar General would open the door for other chain stores to make their way to King Street.

“Do we want Loudon Road 2 on King Street?” he said, referring to a stretch in Concord populated with chain restaurants and big-box stores.

And abutters were worried about how the store could affect their way of life.

“I’ve been given a choice of three options for fencing between my property and the store,” Elaine Clow said. “Those fences, with the potential of pressure-treated wood, next to my mature fruit trees and my garden, won’t do me a lot of good.

“I’m 71 years old,” she continued. “I don’t want to lose my lifestyle, my garden.”

There was concern, too, about whether the trucks going in and out of the store would cause traffic problems. Austin Turner of Bohler Engineering said the store has committed to using a WB 50, a smaller truck than a WB 67 truck, which he said is about 70 feet long. That smaller truck would allow the driver to make deliveries without blocking parking spaces.

That truck wouldn’t be around often, either, he said. If approved, the store would see one delivery per week on off-peak hours, which are between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., although Turner noted that other vendors may occasionally make deliveries.

But planning board member Jeff Reardon said he wasn’t so sure that would help the situation.

“It looks like even the smaller truck will be blocking the right of way,” he said. “The picture in my mind is the truck trying to get in, but it can’t go because it needs three lanes, and traffic is coming in and out. ... All of a sudden, everyone has to stop, and everyone knows this is 35 mph road that everyone goes 50 mph on.”

Discussion on whether Dollar General should be allowed in the town has been ongoing for more than a year. Bohler Engineering originally submitted plans on Dollar General’s behalf for a 9,100-square-foot store in the beginning of May 2016, which was later changed to 7,500 square feet. After two rounds with the zoning board – each included several continued hearings and multiple variances denied – and after resubmitting their application, store representatives went back before the Boscawen planning board in January.

The planning board issued a conditional approval for the site plan in April, a decision that was quickly contested by abutting residents Andy Newcomb and Clow in Merrimack County Superior Court.

Newcomb, in particular, said more work needs to be done, expressing frustration that the town had not asked for a traffic study to be done for the King Street location.

“They say they’re only expecting 10 transactions per hour, but no one at this table believes that,” he said. “They don’t want to be in that corridor for 10 transactions an hour.”

The public hearing is scheduled to resume at 7 p.m. on Sept. 12.