Sand and gravel company moves forward with plans for land across from veterans cemetery
A sand and gravel company that purchased property across from the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen is moving forward with opening storage units and selling gravel, sand and other products, despite repeated attempts by a nonprofit to negotiate ownership of the land.
The company, Piontkowski Enterprises, purchased the 7.7-acre plot off of Daniel Webster Highway in June, in a move that surprised the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery Association, the nonprofit that was also bidding for the land. Over a period of several months, the Veterans Cemetery Association tried to purchase the land from the developers to no avail. In early October, the group appeared before the state Veterans Advisory Council to say it had not reached a negotiation.
“I was there to say we have exhausted all of our options and we have tried everything we can and the landowner is just not interested in selling the land to us,” said Pat Bernard, president of the Veterans Cemetery Association.
The back of the site will house individual storage units and the front will sell landscape materials, such as mulch, sand and crushed stone to residential homeowners, which will be ready by spring. Storage units will be available starting next week, and signs will go up with information for renting. The site will not feature large gravel pits like Piontkowski’s other two sites in town, and operations will be “low key” in terms of noise and other tasks that could disturb cemetery visitors, said Brian Piontkowski, son of the owner.
In contrast, the Veterans Cemetery Association wanted to use the facility to build an education center, which could double as a space for families to gather after funeral services, Bernard said. The property, previously owned by a private citizen and rarely used, went up for auction this summer. The Veterans Cemetery Association put up a $200,000 bid, and did not appropriate any other money for bidding because it did not know there was another bidder, Bernard said. Piontkowski Enterprises put up $250,000, and purchased the land.
The Veterans Cemetery Association did gain a 3-acre piece of land near the cemetery in the bidding process, but still wanted the 7-acre plot of land. The group made an offer to Piontkowski for $400,000, which the company turned down.
At that point, Piontkowski had already done $100,000 worth of maintenance on the site and purchased two storage buildings on the facility, meaning the company would have not made a profit, Piontkowski said.
Rumors swirled that the company threatened during negotiations to put a Hooters on the land, but Piontkowski said that was never considered.
Bruce Crawford, chairman of the Boscawen Planning Board, said Piontkowski Enterprises has been reasonable and promises to be respectful of the cemetery. The land is zoned for industrial use, and in the grand scheme of possible land-use scenarios, what Piontkowski Enterprises plans to do with the land is not very disruptive, he said.
It will be “probably the least possible impact that you could find on an industrial zone,” Crawford said.
The planning board approved Piontkowski’s application in July that allowed for adding two additional storage facilities, an office building and bins to store the sand, gravel and materials it will sell, according to a notice of decision.
The board also placed several restrictions on the site, including limiting the hours of the earth product sale from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.
The final condition states, “The Planning Board requests that Piontkowski Enterprises, LLC work in cooperation with the management of the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery to resolved any issues that may arise.”
Bernard, of the Veterans Cemetery Association, is disappointed that her group was not able to come to a negotiation with Piontkowski Enterprises but acknowledged that the company has every legal right to own the land.
Members of her group were so intent on owning the land because they felt it would help further their mission of protecting and preserving the cemetery, as well as expanding educational opportunities.
“That land is important for two reasons,” she said. “It does allow us to support our first mission – protection – but also to help us expand.”
Piontkowski Enterprises offered the group a half-acre plot near the front of the land for $295,000, but the association turned it down. The group is now exploring building the education center on the 3-acre plot of land, but has not made any decisions.
*A previously version of this story misnamed the Veterans Cemetery Association.