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School Board asking ZBA  to consider Dollar General

National retailer offers $200K for former Central Elementary

NEW IPSWICH — Representatives from Dollar General will once again go before the local Zoning Board of Adjustment on Thursday to request a variance to build a store in the downtown. While the ZBA has expressed doubts that the national retailer is a good fit for the character of the historical district, the Mascenic School Board is asking the ZBA to take into account that Dollar General’s offer may be the only one the district gets for the former Central Elementary School property.

The retailer is requesting a variance for the size of the proposed store. While Village District II allows retail businesses, their size is limited to 1,500 square feet. The proposed store is more than six times that at 9,100 square feet. Dollar General has been in the process of applying for use of the property since early 2012, but has withdrawn the plans twice to reach purchase agreements with abutting landowners, in effort to eliminate the need for various setback variances.

Dollar General is offering more than full price for the site of the proposed store, which is on the market for $179,000. The former school property has been for sale for more than two years since the construction of Highbridge Hill Elementary School, and school administrators argue this may be the board’s last chance of disposing of the site at a profit. Dollar General has offered the district $200,000 for the Turnpike Road site.

The school building has multiple problems that would have to be addressed for the building to be usable, and the costs outweigh the building’s worth, according a letter the School Board recently sent to the ZBA. The layout of the building is not conducive to an alternative use, such as offices or apartments, according to the School Board . To safely remove the building could cost upwards of $250,000 and as high as $500,000, the letter said . If the School Board cannot sell the property, the board has said it may end up asking New Ipswich and Greenville taxpayers to shoulder the cost of removing the building.

In their letter, school representatives wrote that selling the land as-is is a long shot: “We feel strongly that, with the Central School building’s life-safety issues and hazards, such as flooding and asbestos, a sale which would include continued use of the existing structure is highly unlikely. In light of that assessment, and considering the enormous investment committed by Dollar General for development of the site, we believe the purchase and sales agreement, which hinges upon the variance pending before t your board, is the best chance for the district to dispose of this property without significant cost to taxpayers.”

The School Board asked in its letter that the ZBA take into account the financial impact of the decision alongside other factors when they decide whether or not to support the pending variance for Dollar General.

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

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