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New Ipswich

Dollar General denied variance

9,100 square feet deemed too big

  • The New Ipswich Zoning Board denied an application by Dollar General for a variance to open a 9,100 square foot store in the downtown Village District during its meeting Thursday. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The New Ipswich Zoning Board denied an application by Dollar General for a variance to open a 9,100 square foot store in the downtown Village District during its meeting Thursday.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The New Ipswich Zoning Board denied an application by Dollar General for a variance to open a 9,100 square foot store in the downtown Village District during its meeting Thursday. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The New Ipswich Zoning Board denied an application by Dollar General for a variance to open a 9,100 square foot store in the downtown Village District during its meeting Thursday.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The New Ipswich Zoning Board denied an application by Dollar General for a variance to open a 9,100 square foot store in the downtown Village District during its meeting Thursday. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The New Ipswich Zoning Board denied an application by Dollar General for a variance to open a 9,100 square foot store in the downtown Village District during its meeting Thursday.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The New Ipswich Zoning Board denied an application by Dollar General for a variance to open a 9,100 square foot store in the downtown Village District during its meeting Thursday. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The New Ipswich Zoning Board denied an application by Dollar General for a variance to open a 9,100 square foot store in the downtown Village District during its meeting Thursday.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The New Ipswich Zoning Board denied an application by Dollar General for a variance to open a 9,100 square foot store in the downtown Village District during its meeting Thursday. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The New Ipswich Zoning Board denied an application by Dollar General for a variance to open a 9,100 square foot store in the downtown Village District during its meeting Thursday. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The New Ipswich Zoning Board denied an application by Dollar General for a variance to open a 9,100 square foot store in the downtown Village District during its meeting Thursday. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The New Ipswich Zoning Board denied an application by Dollar General for a variance to open a 9,100 square foot store in the downtown Village District during its meeting Thursday. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

NEW IPSWICH — There will be no Dollar General in downtown New Ipswich, according to a ruling from the New Ipswich Zoning Board of Adjustment, which voted Thursday to deny the national retailer’s application for a variance to build a store on Turnpike Road.

On Thursday, the Zoning Board voted unanimously to deny Dollar General’s application for a variance for the size of the commercial building the national retail chain had proposed to build on Turnpike Road. The board voted that Dollar General did not clearly meet any of the five criteria required to obtain a variance. Dollar General has the option of requesting a rehearing of the case; if that fails, they can appeal to the Superior court.

Ray D’amante, the attorney representing Dollar General, said Monday that his client was disappointed with the ruling. They have not yet decided whether or not they will be appealing the decision, he said.

Dollar General had requested a variance of the permitted size of commercial business in the area of Village District II. While commercial businesses are allowed in the area, they are limited to 1,500 square feet. Dollar General’s proposed store is six times that, at 9,100 square feet. The store was proposed to be built next to the New Ipswich Market, where the former Central Elementary School sits. The school would have been razed by Dollar General, and the new store built in its place.

Protecting property values of homes in the village district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places , was high on the list of reasons the board cited as to why a Dollar General store is inappropriate for the downtown Village District II. The board also said that a large box store would work contrary to the town’s Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance, which seeks to improve the village district.

Wendy Freeman, chair of ZBA, said at Thursday’s meeting that although the business has offered to work with the town concerning the design of the building, to be more in keeping with architecture in the area, the sheer size of the proposed building was what made it untenable. “It doesn’t seem to fit in with the village character we’re trying to promote,” she said.

ZBA member Becky Doyle said she feared allowing such a large commercial business would open the door for other large businesses to start up in the Village District II, which is contrary to what the town’s Master Plan states the town would like to see in terms of growth in the Village District.

Of the five requirements to obtain a variance , the board agreed that Dollar General’s application came closest to fulfilling an argument on substantial justice. Additional commercial development would add to the town’s tax base, and provide for the removal of the school building, which is a burden that might otherwise fall upon taxpayers of Greenville and New Ipswich, but those benefits do not outweigh potential damage to the historic district, the board said.

“We all lose, if we lose that sense of historic downtown,” said ZBA member Marianne Graham.

The board also felt that property owners downtown would see property values go down. Representatives for Dollar General argued that adjacent properties in the area could become more valuable as commercial properties with a Dollar General in the area. But the board said adding additional commercial properties was not necessarily the right path for New Ipswich’s historic downtown.

“I have no doubt in my mind this is going to lower property values, unless you want to go commercial,” said Freeman.

Graham said if she were looking to purchase a historic home, she would not choose one in a neighborhood with a big box store in it.

The board argued that there is nothing unique about the Central School property that would prevent its use if a smaller business wanted to move in, with a square footage in line with the current zoning ordinance. Dollar General had argued that the unusable school building that will be costly to remove would eliminate the possibility of a small business moving in, citing unsuccessful attempts by the Mascenic School Board to sell the property with the building intact. But there is nothing inherent in the size or shape of the property that would prevent use of the property, the board decided.

Mark Tieger of Tieger Realty in Jaffrey said in an interview Monday that the property has continued to be shown throughout the time Dollar General’s application for a variance has been pending. However, aside from an initial offer in the first weeks the property was put up for sale that ultimately fell through, Dollar General’s was the only other offer for the property, he said.

The town was offered the right to purchase both Central Elementary School and Appleton Elementary School when the two were first abandoned for the newly constructed Highbridge Hill Elementary School, but at Town Meeting 2011 residents voted down warrant articles calling for the purchase of either property.

Currently the Select Board has no plans to put forward another warrant article seeking to purchase the property, according to Select Board Chair George Lawrence.

The School Board has expressed in letters to the Zoning Board on two occasions that if Dollar General does not purchase the property, the board will likely seek a warrant article asking residents of Greenville and New Ipswich for the funds to tear down Central Elementary School. School Board Vice-Chair Tara Sousa said by phone Monday that if the board is unable to sell the property using the property for green space may be an option.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

I agree with you...I think that perhaps that particular zoning ordinance should be repealed via warrant article at the next town meeting. I myself would support it and know MANY, MANY others who would as well.

The powers that be consistently deny anything that might supplement the tax base. With all due respect Historic value has a place but, not at the expense of commerce. Particularly, not after a period of historic economic decline. I do agree that the look of historic downtown New Ipswich has hardly been preserved.

With so much regard given to the historic nature of the village district, the board members must not have driven through the area in the past 10 years. The New Ipswich Market, which was opposed to the plan because they were opposed to competition, is a run down building that doesn't fit the "historic" nature unless you consider only that the building looks old and run down. Across the street you have a TD Bank which is by no means a "small town" bank. You also have a Texaco service station which does not have very much curb appeal. I am sure when the town's master plan was created, they officials never anticipated the need or opportunity a proposal like Dollar General's could create. So what we are left with in this town is an asbestos and mold filled building that will cost the taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars to dispose of to create a green space or a parking lot for the run down NI Market. Kudos (NOT) to our town officials for clearly seeking what is in the best interest of the taxpayers in this town.

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