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New Ipswich

Store raises concerns

ZBA in deliberations on a variance for Dollar General

  • Zoning Board members David Lage, left, Marianne Graham and Clark Baldwin began their deliberations of Dollar General's request for a variance to build a 9,100 square foot building downtown at a meeting Thursday.<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Zoning Board members David Lage, left, Marianne Graham and Clark Baldwin began their deliberations of Dollar General's request for a variance to build a 9,100 square foot building downtown at a meeting Thursday.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Dollar General completed their application for a variance in front of the Zoning Board on Thursday. The board began deliberations, but have yet to come to a decision. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Dollar General completed their application for a variance in front of the Zoning Board on Thursday. The board began deliberations, but have yet to come to a decision.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Dollar General completed their application for a variance in front of the Zoning Board on Thursday. The board began deliberations, but have yet to come to a decision. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Dollar General completed their application for a variance in front of the Zoning Board on Thursday. The board began deliberations, but have yet to come to a decision.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Dollar General completed their application for a variance in front of the Zoning Board on Thursday. The board began deliberations, but have yet to come to a decision. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Dollar General completed their application for a variance in front of the Zoning Board on Thursday. The board began deliberations, but have yet to come to a decision.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Zoning Board members David Lage, left, Marianne Graham and Clark Baldwin began their deliberations of Dollar General's request for a variance to build a 9,100 square foot building downtown at a meeting Thursday.<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Dollar General completed their application for a variance in front of the Zoning Board on Thursday. The board began deliberations, but have yet to come to a decision. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Dollar General completed their application for a variance in front of the Zoning Board on Thursday. The board began deliberations, but have yet to come to a decision. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Dollar General completed their application for a variance in front of the Zoning Board on Thursday. The board began deliberations, but have yet to come to a decision. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

NEW IPSWICH — During a public hearing Thursday, representatives from Dollar General completed its presentation requesting a variance for a proposed store on Turnpike Road, and the Zoning Board of Adjustment officially began deliberating the issue, but continued the hearing before reaching a verdict.

Dollar General has proposed to build a 9,100 square foot country-style store in the downtown area, next to the New Ipswich Market, where the abandoned Central Elementary School currently sits. After several revisions of the plans, and reaching a purchase agreement with an abutting resident, the store has reduced it’s request to a single variance, dealing with the size of the structure. In Village District II, where the proposed store would be located, only small retail is allowed, with a limit of 1,500 square footage. The proposed Dollar General would be six times that.

Ray D’Amante, the attorney representing Dollar General argued that the store would be making significant improvements to the wetland buffers, and eliminating multiple non-conformities that the existing building creates. He also pointed out that Dollar General’s offer may be the only opportunity the Mascenic School Board has to sell the property as-is, as the school building has multiple health and safety issues and will likely have to be razed. In a letter to the Zoning Board, the School Board stated that should the Zoning Board deny Dollar General’s variance request, they would likely have to petition voters for funds to tear down the school, which could cost the district upwards of $250,000 due to hazards in the building like asbestos.

Concerns about the historic nature of the downtown New Ipswich area and property values were chief among the concerns residents who attended the public hearing voiced. ZBA Chair Wendy Freeman told D’Amante and other Dollar General representatives that the company had adequately addressed the issue of what impact building a large retail store in the district would have on property values in their argument.

“I am concerned about my property value,” said resident Margaret Lee, whose property would abut the Dollar General. She urged the board to weigh the value of maintaining the historic character of the old village district when making its decision.

In a letter to the Zoning Board read at Thursday’s hearing, resident Judy Spring also said that property values were a concern the board should take into account. “As a realtor for 20 years, I strongly believe that if a huge box store is placed in the historic district, the values of New Ipswich properties in general, especially some of the lovely antique homes in the area, will decline. Losing value means losing revenue. The building as it exists now is not near the eyesore that the Dollar General would be,” the letter read.

Jeff Salmonson, chair of the School Board, pointed out that the site where Dollar General would be put up is near several other non-historical sites, and didn’t feel it would destroy the character of the district. “I look in that area, and I see a bank across the street, retail space with apartment units next door, and a gas station,” he said.

Resident Ruth Bernier agreed. “Looking at the buildings that are already there, I don’t think it’s a negative impact,” she said.

Patricia Lage, who lives downtown, said she had multiple concerns related to approving a Dollar General in the area, including the potential for increased traffic and delivery trucks, and people gathering in the parking lot after hours. She disagreed that a Dollar General wouldn’t affect the character of the area. “Approving the Dollar General will impact the aesthetics of the historic center, lowering our property values as well as impacting our enjoyment of living in a quaint neighborhood. If one large ugly brick elephant should be taken down, it should not be replaced by another huge yellow elephant,” she told the board at Thursday’s meeting.

The Zoning Board will continue deliberations on Dollar General’s variance request on July 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room.

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