Temple ZBA to hear opposition to sugar shack proposal

  • Plans for a new Ben's Sugar Shack building along Route 101 in Temple. Courtesy image—

  • Ben's Sugar Shack owner Ben Fisk plans to consolidate his operations to a new facility on a lot along Route 101 in Temple. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/14/2020 4:08:44 PM

The Temple Zoning Board of Adjustment’s site visit to the proposed space for a new sugar shack and market building at the corner of Route 101 and Webster Highway last week was canceled due to inclement weather. The site visit, which has yet to be rescheduled, is the next step in the Board’s process of deciding whether to grant a special exception for the endeavor.

The proposed 16,080-square-foot, barn-styled building is meant to replace and consolidate the Ben’s Sugar Shack operations, which currently span four buildings and several outdoor storage areas farther down Webster Highway.

The building needs a special exception from the ZBA since it would be a commercial building in the town’s rural agricultural district. The ZBA heard an overview of the project with the Planning Board on Sept. 15, and continued the hearing on Sept. 29.

“I would think the town of Temple would be immensely proud… to have this style of business in a New Hampshire rural town,” lawyer Tom Hanna said while introducing the project. By footage, the proposed operation is almost entirely agricultural, he said. Workers will be able to boil, bottle, and transport maple syrup out of the facility. The new building is meant to consolidate existing operations and make the whole process more aesthetically pleasing, he said, as well as keeping all traffic closer to the highway, a change that one resident said she’d be happy to see.

The building itself is a peaked-roof, light brown barn-style building with a roofed porch, dormers, and cupolas. The roof ridge is 32 feet high, consultant Jim Phippard said. Landscaping will include split rail fences, forsythias, and (of course) sugar maples. Visitors will be able to tour the syrup evaporating room during sugaring season and purchase maple products, as well as sandwiches and premade deli items, in the 3,000-square-foot retail area year round, he said, a considerable expansion from the small room currently serving as the operation’s year round store. The building will also include storage areas, an employee break room, public restrooms, and a candy processing room.

The proposed parking lot has 23 paved parking spaces, and there’s additional space on the gravel and grass for overflow crowds in the sugaring season, Phippard said. An infiltration area is designed to receive all stormwater from the roof and parking lot, as well as the water pulled from maple syrup during the boiling process, he said, describing the products from the reverse-osmosis process as “drinkable.” The water can replenish the small aquifer below the site, he said.

The proposal has already generated considerable attention and input from residents who aired both support and concern, and ZBA member John Kieley said the Board heard a number of comments right before the Sept. 29 meeting – emphasizing that Board members only consider signed comments from Temple residents in their eventual decision. The Planning Board will hear the proposal separately since they’re making substantially different considerations, Kieley said at the Sept. 29 meeting. The ZBA agreed to Hanna’s request that board member Gail Cromwell recuse herself as she opposed a proposal for the business to expand in 2016.

Ben’s Sugar Shack representatives and residents alike focused heavily on the traffic impacts of the new, larger retail area. It’s calculated to bring in 114 more vehicles over a typical 14-hour day, or three more per hour in the morning and 11 more per hour in the afternoon, Phippard said. Currently, between 10 and 25 customers frequent the store per day. Traffic control should be necessary on maple weekends, Phippard said, but there has only been one crash at the Webster Highway intersection with 101 and one at the Route 45 intersection a little up the road since the start of 2016, according to Temple’s Fire Department, he said. “Traffic has always been an issue and Ben shouldn’t be penalized for it,” resident Michael Dube said, speaking in favor of the development as “something real good for the town of Temple.” Resident Simon Le Comte recently moved to Webster Highway, and said he was initially concerned about the project, but now believes that the new plan will make his property safer on maple weekends. “It’s the perfect balance of economic development and maintaining history and creating jobs and tax revenue,” he said.

“This is one of those hero stories,” resident Tamora Andrews said, speaking to Fisk’s lifelong commitment to growing the enterprise.

The new building would end operations on the properties that currently house the operation, representatives for the Sugar Shack said. Kieley noted they said existing buildings might be used for some dry storage on Sept. 15.

The ZBA planned to hear comments against the proposal at a meeting on Oct. 20 as of their Sept. 29 meeting.


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