Dollar General gets approval
Town planners ask for better facade for proposed building at gateway to downtown
Scott Holman of Zaremba Program Development shows members of the Jaffrey Planning Board where the proposed site for a new Dollar General in Jaffrey is located in relation to other retailers in town during Tuesday's meeting.
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Acting Planning Board Chair Sue Smith and Jeff Rose, the Select Board's representative on the Planning Board, deliberate whether to accept or reject site plans for a proposed Dollar General Store in Bennington. The Planning Board ultimately voted to reject the plans, requiring Dollar General representatives to apply for several variances from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
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JAFFREY — Dollar General, a national retailer and general merchandise store, received near unanimous approval from the Planning Board on Tuesday night to construct a 9,100-square-foot store at 95 Peterborough St.
But the board’s approval requires Dollar General to make minor modifications to an architectural design plan for the exterior of the store before the retailer can move forward with construction. An updated plan could be ready for the town’s review as earlier as the end of this week, according to Scott Holman, a developer with the Zaremba Group, which is representing Dollar General.
Dollar General applied to the Planning Board in September for a major site plan review to construct a retail building, accessory parking and storm water treatment facilities at the Peterborough Street site, near Pelletier’s Sports and McDonald’s. Dollar General is proposing to construct 30 parking spaces total for shoppers and approximately 10 employees.
At the heart of the discussion during Tuesday night’s public hearing was town officials’ concern about how the facade of the Dollar General store could enhance downtown Jaffrey and not just look like another box store.
“To look at the structure, it is very bare bones,” Planning Board Chairman Edward Merrell told representatives from the retailer about their proposal. “I would love to see foundation planting and perhaps brick halfway up.”
Holman told Merrell the Rite Aid building on the corner of Peterborough Street and Turnpike Road was an example of an exterior store design that town officials encouraged Dollar General architects to reference. “That’s the direction we took,” Holman said, referring to the vinyl siding and window awnings similar to other stores in Jaffrey.
But some members of the board and Jaffrey residents questioned whether or not Dollar General could do more to make the new building more inviting and aesthetically pleasing to residents and visitors of the town.
Resident Bill Raymond told the board that Dollar General’s proposal adds nothing to the town’s architectural landscape and fits better in a big city. “A little brick and vinyl siding is hodgepodge at best,” he said.
While resident Brenda Bhatti said the general merchandise store would certainly be popular among local shoppers, she agreed with Raymond that the building should add character to the town and not be a diversion. “I see that you’ve tried to make it look similar to the Rite Aid and I’m wondering if you can take it a step further,” Bhatti said.
In a letter to the Jaffrey Planning Board, resident Dawn Oswalt said the section of Peterborough Street where Dollar General is proposing to build is a gateway to downtown Jaffrey for residents coming from Peterborough and that it should be treated as such.
“This corner they plan to build on is the gateway to Jaffrey from the north, whether we like the looks that are currently there or not. The plaza, courthouse and McDonald’s have set the standard. Please do not allow this new business or any new business in the area to dress down their building,” Oswalt wrote.
One of the guiding principles of Jaffrey’s master plan is that merchants and town officials work together to help retain the rural character of the town. But Planning Board member Tom Doane and Select Board representative to the board Don MacIsaac said Dollar General’s proposal falls short of accomplishing that aim. “How are you going to reconcile that?” Doane asked Holman.
Holman said he had already modified the architectural design a handful of times after receiving input from town officials and that he was frustrated the latest proposal still didn’t satisfy their wishes. While Holman agreed to make modifications to the plan one last time, he said the board needed to be very specific about what he should change.
A combination of brick and vinyl, more windows, the addition of shutters and vegetation around the foundation were improvements agreed upon by the board. At the conclusion of the public hearing, Doane was the only board member to reject the application.
“I think a facade similar to the courthouse would be a lot better,” Doane said, adding that the board had a chance to act and set a higher standard for businesses interested in opening in Jaffrey.
In addition to the facade of the building, some members of the board questioned what the impact to traffic on Peterborough Street would be with the addition of a new business. On a weekday between 3 and 4 p.m., Dollar General representatives said, the store is expected to generate 35 trips per hour. During peak hours on Saturday, Dollar General estimates increase to 60 trips per hour.
In order to address concerns about pedestrian safety for those walking to and from the store, Dollar General plans to extend an existing sidewalk, which now ends at McDonald’s, to the new retail location.
Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.