Henniker: Plans for Dollar General move forward despite public opposition

  • A Henniker resident looks over the design plans for a Dollar General during a June 8, 2016, planning board meeting. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Dave Connors, an abutter that lives next door to the proposed Dollar General site in Henniker, speaks during a public hearing before the planning board on June 8, 2016. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • From left: Henniker planning board members Jonathan Lapointe, Scott Dias and Selectwoman Tia Hooper look over Dollar General’s site plan application on June 8, 2016. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Signs are posted around town expressing opposition to Dollar General building a store in Henniker. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Updated design plans as of June 8, 2016, for a Dollar General in Henniker that would be built on Route 114 north of the Route 202 overpass.  NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/9/2016 12:24:24 AM

The clock is ticking for the Henniker planning board.

After Wednesday’s public hearing on the plan for a 9,100-square-foot Dollar General to be built on Route 114, the board has 65 days to make a decision on the project that prompted 1,200 petitioners to object.

Once the deadline is up, the development company, Lisciotti Development, can either grant the board an extension, or the board will make a decision that night.

In the meantime, the board has more work to do, balancing the residents’ objections with its duty to execute the master plan for the commercial district. After a 2½-hour meeting, attended by roughly 50 people, the board asked the developers to deliver a detailed landscape design, including buffers to abutting properties and a septic design.

The public hearing was continued to June 22 at 7 p.m. at the Henniker Community Center.

Austin Turner, an engineer for the developers, revealed updated plans to the public Wednesday based on feedback from an April 27 public hearing on the conceptual design.

The new design features a “New England kind of feel,” Turner said, reflecting the wishes of the board. This includes a pitched roof look on the front of the building. The rest of the roof will be flat. The siding will be made with a cement-based material.

While residents previously expressed concerns about aesthetics, Wednesday’s hearing had calls for a clear look at how the building will sit on its lot across from the Henniker Farm and Country Store on Bradford Road. Residents asked what the building will look like from the road and from abutting properties.

The board asked for a three-dimensional design that could be projected on a wall for the public to see at the next meeting. Turner said this can be done, but it will be a “rough” portrayal of how it may look in reality.

Aside from design critiques, several minutes of the meeting were spent with residents expressing disapproval for Dollar General building a store in Henniker.

Planning board Chairman Ron Taylor stressed it is not the board’s prerogative to decide what businesses can and can’t come to town.

“It’s called free enterprise,” he said.

Some residents said they felt the planning board was doing a disservice to the community by “allowing” Dollar General to build a store in town.

Chris Bremer, an abutter to the site who has led a local charge in opposition of Dollar General, said he has a petition with 1,200 signatures gathered in the last week of residents pledging to boycott the store. Henniker has a population of about 4,900.

“Right now, 20 percent of the community is not interested,” he said.

Resident John Kjellman said the town is in a conflict with itself as residents want to keep chain businesses out while also wanting businesses to come in and pay into the tax base.

“We hear over and over that we want businesses in town, businesses to pay taxes,” he said. “I don’t particularly like Dollar General, but it is within the rules of our master plan.”

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