Looks like our little town is getting a lot of press lately
By MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent
Union Leader Correspondent
Published Dec 26, 2011 at 3:00 am (Updated Dec 25, 2011)
In October the zoning board approved the demolition of the 200-year-old Wheaton-Alexander Home at 71 Main St. to make way for the construction of the 9,100-square-foot store.
Approval of the Dollar General flew in the face of a decision made by the Historic Commission during the summer that denied the applicant permission to demolish the home that sits in the town historic district. The 1810 home was once a residence for prominent doctors in the community.
The project was proposed by the Zaremba Group, a Lakewood, Ohio, company for the Tennessee-based Dollar General chain of stores.
The project required a special exception to town zoning regulations which forbids a 5,000-square-foot or greater footprint of commercial buildings, petitioners say in the lawsuit.
In its special exception decision, zoning board members agreed with property owners, Margaret Sharra, current town land use clerk, and her two brothers, James S. Shannon and Michael P. Shannon, that rehabilitation of the old home was cost-prohibitive.
This reasoning undermines the work of historic building preservation, the petition says. “The Wheaton-Alexander House is part of a cluster of Federalist houses that were part of the original Winchester Village. It is also on the border of the historic district. Tearing it down permanently impairs the historic and cultural value of the entire historic district. … Given that many of the structures in the historic district are dilapidated, this decision creates a precedent that undermines the integrity of the entire district.”
In its approval the zoning board also referred design plans for the new store to the Historic Commission for approval.
“The Zoning Board of Adjustment has no legal authority to partially remand the decision to the Historic District Commission, and erred in remanding the matter back to the Historic Commission,” the petition says.
Petitioners also said the zoning board violated the right-to-know law by holding a secret site walk of the property the day before it met to deliberate on the matter.
The petition asks the court to vacate the special exception approval. The lawsuit was filed by four residents and Kulick’s Inc., a market located about 2,100 feet from the proposed project on Warwick Road.
The court requires the town to file a plea by March 8.
Zaremba has proposed other Dollar General stores in the area recently. The Marlborough zoning board unanimously denied a special exception to Zaremba Group on Dec. 7 that would have permitted a Dollar General store on Main Street/Route 101.
The project had included the demolition of a 150-year-old farmhouse. And Zaremba recently made preliminary inquiries about building a Dollar General in Swanzey, said Sara Carbonneau, Swanzey town planner.