Old plans show Walmart wetlands are man-made

Planning Board still reviewing $20M proposed expansion plan

RINDGE — At least one contentious issue — impacts on nearby wetlands — may be a moot point, Planning Board members said at a continued public hearing of Walmart’s proposed $20 million expansion.

Walmart representatives appeared before the Planning Board on Tuesday to present its 43,000-square-foot expansion to the Rindge Walmart that would include a full-service grocery store. At the last public hearing of the site plan on Aug. 6, the board discussed possible issues associated with two detention ponds in the area. The expansion would be closer than 500 feet to the ponds, which some said is a violation of Rindge’s wetlands protection ordinance.

However, Planning Board Chair Kirk Stenersen told the board Tuesday that the ponds may not be an issue after all. After doing some research, Stenersen found the plans Walmart submitted in the 1990s , which showed that the detention ponds are man-made and are, therefore, not valuable wetlands. So they would be exempt from the wetlands ordinance, according to Stenersen.

Planning Board member Hank Whitney agreed to review the archives and meeting minutes related to those plans to see if any determination was made at the time relating to whether or not the detention ponds should be treated as wetlands.

Project Manager Heather of Monticup with Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., an engineering and construction service in Wilmington, Mass., attended the hearing and informed the board that Walmart’s proposed addition would increase traffic in the area, but even if the anticipated volume of increased traffic is double the predicted amount there would still be no need for additional traffic-calming measures.

When Walmart explored expansion at the Rindge site in the past, the N.H. Department of Transportation expressed concerns about the merging lane on Route 202 North, which was short and had drivers competing to merge. However, the state has already addressed the issues at that intersection, since Walmart last brought forward a proposed addition, she said.

Planning Board members noted that the raised traffic island at the entrance to the Walmart has been a concern. They pointed out that there have been issues, both with vehicles hitting the island and entering through the exit lane. Some said they would like to see the island painted and the entrance better delineated.

Board members also questioned the existing outdoor sales area at Walmart, which Peter Imse, the lawyer representing Walmart, said carries garden center supplies. Roberta Oeser, who is the Select Board’s representative to the Planning Board, asked if the store sells materials which might be possible contaminants, such as salt, manure or pesticides. The board asked Imse to return at a future meeting with clarification about what is sold in that area now, and what would be sold there after the expansion.

David Raymant, an attorney representing Hannaford Supermarket, which abuts the Walmart site, said Walmart does not have a case for requesting, as it has done, a waiver of a variance for exceeding the town’s impervious surface ordinance . “We don’t think they can show hardship. There’s nothing unique about the land,” he said. Raymant added he would like to see more in-depth plans for stormwater and wastewater treatment, before the plan is approved.

Robert Duval, president of Bedford engineering company TF Moran, said as a representative of Hannaford that the proposed stormwater treatment plan may not disperse water quickly enough to deal with a torrential storm. He also said traffic study was too conservative, as the Rindge Walmart is a higher-than-average traffic generator.

Monticup responded that even if the numbers were doubled, it still would not require any further traffic mitigation.

The board continued the hearing on the site plan review until its next meeting on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. in the town offices.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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