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New Ipswich

ZBA denies rehearing on Dollar General

NEW IPSWICH — The Zoning Board of Adjustment will not be rehearing the case for Dollar General Stores.

Last month, the Zoning Board denied a variance request to allow the national retailer to build a 9,100 square-foot Dollar General on the current site of the abandoned Central Elementary School. On Thursday, the board members considered rehearing the case, after the Zaremba Group, a developer for Dollar General, submitted a request for rehearing, the first step in the appeals process. After discussing the issue, the board unanimously voted not to rehear the case on the grounds that no new evidence has been offered, and the requirements for a variance remain unmet.

In a 29-page motion for rehearing, Ray D’Amante, the lawyer for Dollar General, alleged that the Zoning Board had not voted on any specific findings of fact outlining the basis for its decision, and did not prepare a statement of its reasons. The board agreed it did not present a finding of fact, but stated that the applicant had access to both the minutes of the deliberations and an audio recording of the deliberations, where its findings of fact were outlined. Board member Becky Doyle asked to clarify the legal requirements for the board’s presentation of findings of fact for future discussions.

D’Amante argued that in taking down Central Elementary School, Dollar General would bring the site into compliance with a wetlands setback ordinance. The new building, he said, would also contribute to several goals of the zoning ordinance, including concentrating residential and service business to the town center to maintain water quality and supply, and it would relieve the pressure of growth on the rural district. The board noted that the elimination of the current Central School setback non-conformity would be a positive effect, but the deterioration of the historic small-village downtown would outweigh those benefits.

During its Thursday meeting, the board said it had taken these considerations into account, but the first purpose of the town’s Village District II is to preserve the character of the small village in New Ipswich. D’Amante argued that the board had treated the district as a historic zoning district, which the town’s ordinance does not have. The board answered that the district is not zoned as a historic district, but is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the historic nature contributes to the character of the district.

The board also noted that D’Amante’s motion makes reference to a traffic study provided by the applicant that showed no adverse impacts to the area. The traffic study had inconsistent information that was pointed out to the applicant and never corrected, the board noted.

In his filing, D’Amante alleged the board did not give proper weight to the unusual hourglass shape of the property, the high cost of demolition and remediation of the building on the site, or the presence of stream and wetlands in the area, which create building hardships. Again, the board said they had considered these arguments, but did not feel they created unnecessary hardship. Many properties in New Ipswich are affected by wetland buffers, the board noted, and the shape does not make it impossible to construct a building that conforms to the zoning ordinance.

“We didn’t disregard it,” said ZBA member Marianne Graham. “We just disagree.”

Should Dollar General wish to continue the appeals process, the next step is to file for an appeal through the state Superior Court.

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

Have any members of the ZBA been through this "historic" district lately? Perhaps someone should send them pictures of the "historic" houses in the area of the proposed store. They will see that many are run down and in disrepair. Additionally, the NI Market which right there is not the most appealing looking building and probably takes more away from property values in that area than a new DG store ever would. These ZBA members need to be voted out for not truly looking out for the best interest of our town.

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