The Zaremba Group returned to the Chester Development Review Board Monday night, Oct. 10, with altered plans for a proposed Dollar General Store for the Zachary's Pizza House site that it claims are in line with the town plan and its zoning regulations.
Before those issues could be addressed, however, the DRB approved the subdivision proposal for the Main Street property pending receipt from the developer of corrections on the site plan.
Matt Casey of Zaremba Group, which is the developer, and Chris Ponessi of Speath Engineering then presented the altered plans to attempt to get the necessary conditional use permit. Those alterations include using wood siding as opposed to vinyl and adding a cupola and a faux hayloft door to give the 9,100-square-foot space a “barn look.” In addition to the faux windows flanking the glass front door, faux windows would run down both sides of the building. Plans are to add shutters to the front faux windows as well as the side windows.
Board member Scott Wunderle questioned the use of faux windows, saying that a barn look doesn't necessarily call for any windows. And member Bruce McEnaney asked why the developers weren't taking advantage of the solar gain from real windows. Member Dan Ferguson remarked that shutters “should look like they actually cover windows.”
Board members also questioned the building's ability to handle snow. Ponessi responded that they've moved the building 4 feet to the south – away from the current Zachary's parking lot – to accommodate snow sliding off the standing seam roof and into what would be Dollar General's side parking lot, as well as added snow breaks on the roof.
But McEnaney said that “stock buildings” such as these – with no internal columns where the load is borne by outside walls via trusses – cause him to be concerned “no matter what the builders say.” McEnaney said later that, last year, buildings collapsed in Central New England that were designed by competent architects and constructed by competent companies.
Ponessi also said that changes have been made to the landscape plans including adding a stockade fence and an arborvitae along the utility pad and around the dumpster. Plantings around the front and along the side would also include rhododendron, apple service berry and maple trees. He added that these plans compare favorably to other businesses such as Country Girl Diner, Jack's Diner, the American Legion, Stone House Antiques Center, Chester Hardware and the gas stations, which have no screening. Bartlett Tree Service, Ponessi said, examined the large silver maple at the front of the property and recommended that it be taken down since the company believes it won't live another five years even with trimming, pruning and cabling.
David Saladino, of the consulting firm RSG Inc., said he did a “cursory” traffic analysis and thinks that traffic will increase 2% to 3% during peak hours, including restaurant traffic.
DRB chief Peter Hudkins asked if Saladino had made comparisons with other ski areas, to which Saladino replied that the numbers “are a bit conservative.” At that point Michael Normyle, Chester's zoning administrator, suggested that Saladino add foliage season to the study. And board member Wunderle added that foliage season is busier, but the concentration of traffic is greater during ski season. There are “two-hour blocks when you can't get through town,'' he said.
The floor was then opened for public comment. Shawn Cunningham, of Smart Growth Chester, said one of the concerns of his group was 6” of running water that flooded Zachary's parking lot during Tropical Storm Irene and flowed into the proposed building site. He said he would bring video to the next meeting.
DRB members then began to discuss the effects of “box retailers” upon a small community. McEnaney said, “Every dollar that is spent (at a box store) is taken from somewhere else.” He then asked what percentage of products by category Dollar General sold. Matt Casey of Zaremba said that while he did not have sales figures, 40% to 50% of a Dollar General's floor space is dedicated to food. The remainder is dedicated to “everyday items:” paper products, detergents, toiletries and clothing such as socks and underwear.
Resident Kathy Pellett stood to express concern about the money that would be going “out of the community to a national chain.” Tom Hildreth, who sits on the Planning Board, said box stores are “in fierce competition” with one another. “Letting one in means another is going to be knocking on the door,” he said.
Referring to the zoning requirement that a building fit in with the character of the community, Cunningham said that Chester's character isn't just what it looks like. “The economic character,” he said, “is local ownership of business,” with only five or so businesses on Main Street being owned by an outside entity.
And Carrie King asked about the lifespan of a Dollar General and why officials with the Dollar General aren't in Chester to answer questions, but instead send representatives who cannot. Cunningham agreed.
The next DRB meeting that will continue to discuss the conditional use application for the Dollar General will begin at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14 at Town Hall on Elm Street.
--- Cynthia Prairie
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