Proposed car dealership draws criticism

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CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — The owner of a proposed used-car dealership still has some explaining to do if he wants to open up.

"The site management's of concern," said Planning Board Chairman James Cortliss.

The board met on Monday, discussing Mark Lanoue's proposal for 1763 Route 9 via an application for site development review. The 4.17 acres and building are located in the town's Office/Retail/Services Zone.

Ron Bell, of Bell Engineering, said the site has been filled and the building will mostly stay the same except for a new awning. Lanoue hopes to make a slope less steep and create a grass swale for stormwater management. That would bring the drainage to the rear of the property, Bell said.

"Once you get down off the site, it's really ledge-y," he told the board. "There's almost nowhere you can build a retention pond. You almost hate to disturb wildlife where it's already been disturbed."

Proposed paving plans also were presented to the board, in a total space of 9,300 square feet or 19.9 percent of the lot size. Altogether, 38 parking spots would be for display vehicles and 13 spaces would be for employees or customers.

Before Lanoue owned the building, Creative Woods Furniture had its business there. But historically, Bell said, the property was used for automotive purposes.

Under the new plan, Manny's Appliance will remain in the building.

"They get two or three customers at a time normally," Lanoue told the board. "Three is a lot because they turn out really quickly."

Lanoue was asked to return with better parking calculations and traffic counts. Cortliss also wanted more information on potential detention or retention pond options for stormwater, plus schematics for proposed lighting.

Lanoue said a sign would meet size requirements, and will not be digital but "illuminated from within."

"And it doesn't scroll," he said.

Although the plan calls for staying open until 7 p.m., Lanoue did not propose additional lighting for areas of the lot where display cars will be kept.

"When we went through zoning, I made it clear I would use the existing locations and I would replace them with downward facing LED lighting, and that would be sufficient," he said.

It was mostly new lighting that might raise concerns for Gordon Fuller, who lives across from the property. But he also wondered whether the garage, where automotive work is set to occur, would be closed to keep noise levels down.

Anticipating an increase in traffic, Fuller suggested a turning lane be added on Route 9. Resident Jeffrey Scott made a similar recommendation.

"Maybe DOT [the New Hampshire Department of Transportation] should be consulted and a traffic study should be done," said Scott.

Lanoue said most of his business will be "internet generated." He estimated an increase of four or five cars coming to the property to look at cars each day.

"It's not a retail store on Route 9 or Putney Road," he said. "Working on the internet, the people that show up are 90 percent sold before they get there, coming on a specific unit. They normally buy it on their first visit."

Lanoue said he does not plan to have any tractor trailers coming to drop off vehicles. He and other employees will be driving cars to the dealership.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Jon McKeon, who serves as the Selectmen's representative to the Planning Board, recused himself from the hearing. He called a variance that had been granted for the property "specific."

"It details what can and can't happen there," he said. "It's not commercial property. There is no outside storage allowed. None."

McKeon worried the board was not being given accurate details on the project.

"The owner, who refurbishes cars, gives the engineer elevations," he said, recalling an earlier part of the meeting. "You're supposed to take that as gospel?"

He also urged the board to "look hard" at the erosion and sediment-control plan.

"I think we all know what's been installed to date is woefully inadequate," he said, later adding that he felt the stormwater plan did not meet the town's regulations. "As a board, you've looked at it and asked very good questions. Your questions, in my mind, have stumped the engineer and I, as a resident of town, am concerned with that. And I would suggest a third party look at that to make sure what's being presented to you is accurate."

Questions came up regarding whether Lanoue had a building permit for a new holding tank. Lanoue said he had put it in himself at the direction of the town's Zoning Board of Adjustment.

"They shut down a meeting that we had three minutes into the meeting because they realized the state had to be involved," he said. "I thought that they wanted that tank installed before the next meeting."

McKeon called the episode into doubt, as did Cortliss.

Lanoue "must not be in New Hampshire," McKeon told the board. "There's a process that you go through. There's an application. The application gets sent back to the town. The town has to weigh in before any approval goes through. There's a site inspection by the local fire department and local code enforcer before you can back fill. This just doesn't ring true to what you're being told."

Cortliss asked, "Nobody's suggested that you do a building permit application in the meantime? Might I?"

"Yes," said Lanoue.

The hearing will be continued on Aug. 21.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.

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