Dollar General sign variance hearing postponed 

  • Zoning Board of Adjustment member Sam Cohen and alternative Rick Reed sit during a regular meeting on Monday, July 17, 2017. During the meeting, the board voted to postpone a hearing regarding a sign variance for a proposed Dollar General store that could be built along Route 202. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, July 20, 2017 6:26AM

An application regarding a sign variance for a proposed Dollar General store along Route 202 in Bennington has been postponed until September.

The town’s zoning board of adjustment made the decision because it was unclear who owned the parcel of land at the time the application was submitted.

“We are going to continue the hearing under the premise that we don’t know who owns the property,” ZBA chair Chris Clough said during a regular meeting on Monday. “If it should come out that they didn’t own the property (on the day the application was filed) than I’m not going to accept that application and they’ll have to refile and this will start all over again.”

Deputy Town Administrator Kristie LaPlante said as of Wednesday, the property has not changed ownership. An individual named Carol Rymes — who is affiliated with the heating-oil company — still owns the property, according to town documentation.

Carolyn Parker, who is a consultant representing the developer of the property, told the board she was angry that she had traveled all the way from Massachusetts to attend the meeting, only to be told it had been postponed.

“I really wanted to drive an hour and a half,” Parker said sarcastically.

She said she was angry because she had called the town earlier in the day and asked if everything was good to go for the meeting, and the response was “yup.” 

But Parker didn’t receive any sympathy from the board.

“It’s your fault for living in Massachusetts,” ZBA member Sam Cohen said during the meeting.

The comment was met with some surprise, and at one point Parker asked Cohen why he was being rude. He answered with another quip about how he was actually a nice guy.

“I’m nice, ask all my wives,” Cohen said.

Not long after, Cohen took out two bullets, pushed them to the center of the table and mumbled something inaudible.

Reed laughed and said, “you’re breathing fire.”

LaPlante said when Parker asked if everything was all set for the meeting, she checked to make sure the notices had been sent out and that the meeting was still being held. Legally, everything was good to go, she said. She wasn’t aware the ownership aspect would come into play during the meeting.

“I’m not a land-use specialist so I didn’t know that was going to come up,” LaPlante said.

LaPlante said Parker never inquired about the ownership component either.

The Bennington Planning Board approved the site plan for a Dollar General store at its April 24 meeting. During that meeting, the board took a tour of the site where they located the four corners of the proposed store. Planning board chair David McKenzie said members of the conservation commission attended the site walk and subsequent hearing and brought up some concerns about a wetland area on the property. He said those concerns were assuaged because the building won’t be developed in that area.

There was some confusion at the beginning of the process about what type of business would go into the building once constructed. Initially, the developer, Lisciotti Development, didn’t disclose what store would move into the building once it was complete. They said it would likely be an auto parts store. But by the April 24 meeting, McKenzie said the board knew it was a Dollar General.

He said they approved the project because it complied with town regulations.

“We approved the site plan but we understood they were going to comply with the sign ordinance,” McKenzie said.

He said the company must have changed course since that time and decided to apply for a sign variance, a process that is now stalled. If the variance is approved, the company would then have to file for a building permit before construction begins.

The process of approving the building up until this point has been relatively quiet.

A post on Facebook raised some concern from people who commented, “that’s going to look weird in that old rustic town,” and “a chain store in our little town? Yuck, yuck, yuck.”

Officials said they haven’t heard much buzz otherwise.

A call to an abutting property owner was not returned by deadline on Wednesday.

The ZBA will pick the topic back up at its Sept. 18 meeting.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.