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Boscawen planning board punts on Dollar General decision



Monitor staff
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The almost hourlong testimony from attorney David LeFevre at the Boscawen planning board meeting made it clear that a decision about whether Dollar General will be allowed build a store on King Street would not be made Tuesday night.

LeFevre, who represents two residents living next to the proposed build site, questioned the board’s thoroughness in the past year of reviewing Dollar General’s proposals, and pointed to several alleged “due process violations.”

One example, LeFevre alleged, had to do with a zoning board ruling on the “non-conforming lot” made in June 2016. He claimed his clients had not been notified that a decision would be made about that variance at the zoning board meeting, so they were not properly prepared to respond to those changes. When the decision was made to eliminate that variance, that decision was communicated to Bohler Engineering – the company submitting proposals to the planning board on Dollar General’s behalf – via a letter but not to LeFevre’s clients, he said. He also urged that a traffic impact study be completed on the area, a request that was shared by multiple speakers opposed to the project Tuesday night.

“When you sign up for this job, when you volunteer, you’re taking on an obligation,” he said, addressing the board. You guys individually and collectively as a group have to do your due diligence and participate in that process and deliberate in that process. From what I’ve heard and read in meeting notes and minutes, you haven’t been doing that.”

Some of LeFevre’s other criticisms centered around claims made by Bohler Engineering about the soundness of their proposed driveway and parking space measurements, along with snow removal plans and fire-code regulations. He requested that a representative of Dollar General come to a meeting to address some of these discrepancies.

Bohler Engineering representative Austin Turner responded to LeFevre by saying that Dollar General’s proposal is legitimate under regulations set by the Boscawen zoning and planning boards, as well as the state Department of Transportation.

Residents had other arguments for why the board should be in favor or opposed to Dollar General’s proposal – and none of them simple.

Bruce Crawford, the planning board chairman who recused himself from proceedings due to being a direct abutter to the project, said that Dollar General would not fit well into the town’s atmosphere.

“We want businesses that are going to enhance our community and become part of it,” he said. “Do you think Dollar General would contribute anything to the sports teams or old home day?”

Stan Balch, on the other hand, said he’s concerned that other businesses that might be good for the town could be discouraged from building in Boscawen because of all the trouble that Dollar General has gone through to get their proposal passed.

“If we don’t approve this, I don’t see any business that is going to take a chance to try to come into this town,” he said.

Bohler engineering first submitted plans on Dollar General’s behalf in May 2016 when the company applied for five zoning variances for a 9,100-square-foot store. After two rounds with the zoning board, each including several continued hearings and multiple variances denied, the store made adjustments to their plan and resubmitted their application. Bohler engineering representatives went back before the Boscawen planning board in January to propose a 7,500-square-foot store.

The planning board issued a conditional approval for the site plan in April, a decision that was contested by LeFevre’s clients Andy Newcomb and Elaine Clow, who brought a lawsuit in Merrimack County Superior Court saying that the town violated townspeople’s rights when they didn’t give residents an opportunity to voice their opinions when Dollar General submitted plans for a smaller store.

The lawsuit was dropped when the board agreed to hold Tuesday’s public forum. That night’s public comments made were in addition to an hour of comments made Aug 29., after the board agreed to accept the Dollar General’s application as complete.

If allowed to build in Boscawen, Dollar General plans for 10 transactions an hour between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. seven days a week.

The store is an estimated $1.2 million construction project which would take up what is currently vacant, wooded land, and add nearly $31,000 in additional property tax revenue, according to a report contracted by Dollar General and completed by Massachusetts consultant RKG Associates.

It would provide an average of 10 jobs and boost other businesses nearby, according to the report. Boscawen’s Dollar General would be the 29th to be built in New Hampshire in the last five years.

The planning board will reconvene to deliberate on Dollar General on Oct. 3 at 6:30 p.m.