The planning board voted Thursday night to deny Zaremba Group LLC’s application to build a Dollar General store at the corner of Cobble Hill Road and Route 10. Only Chairman Glenn W. Page supported the application.
The crucial issue was the proposed sprinkler system for the 9,100-square-foot building. The system called for relying on West Swanzey Water Co. Inc. to provide the water, but the company has refused, saying its system could not take the strain.
Although Zaremba Group attorney Silas B. Little 3rd argued West Swanzey Water was legally required to provide the property with fire protection, planning board Vice Chairman Scott Self replied that had yet to be determined. In the meantime, he said, Zaremba had failed to find an alternate plan.
“You’re in a position where you think you can force a private water company to hook up to your building, and maybe you can. I don’t know,” Self told Little. “But that sounds like it’s going to be a court battle and in the meantime you’re going to go ahead with your plans, but you should have an alternate in place providing that case does not go the way you plan.”
Board members referenced a letter dated May 8 from West Swanzey Water President Sally Brown that stated the water system could not support any more emergency fire protection systems. Based on this and a wariness over the system’s capabilities, Zaremba was told at the July 26 planning board meeting to provide another fire protection plan that did not rely on West Swanzey Water, such as a cistern.
Instead, Zaremba stuck with the sprinkler plan.
During Thursday night’s meeting, Michael J. Joanis, a fire protection engineer from Covenant Fire Protection, testified on behalf of Zaremba Group that when he tested the water pressure for the site it met all of the requirements for the sprinkler system.
Little argued under West Swanzey Water’s public utilities commission tariff, anyone in the company’s service area is entitled to water service and therefore the fire protection plan was valid.
Nothing beyond “anecdotal evidence” had been produced to prove adding Dollar General would be a burden to the system, he said.
“We have relied on both field data and filings with the public utilities commission, and I think they are entitled to a dignity and deference that far surpasses anecdotal or possible qualifications as to the ability of this West Swanzey Water Company to provide fire protection,” Little told the board.
Reached Thursday night, West Swanzey Water Co.’s Brown said adding Dollar General to the system would stress the system’s machinery too much since one of the pumps is more than 60 years old and does not work well.
Little said Brown had refused to meet with Dollar General or its engineers. Brown declined to answer when asked about Little’s comment.
Water supply was not the only thing board members knocked the plan for.
Several members continued to voice concerns about traffic safety issues they believed would arise by adding another driveway to the area.
Little said there was no basis for concern and that Zaremba’s traffic study showed no problems with the plan. An independent review of the traffic study requested by the board had also agreed on “all fundamental points,” he said.
Little also protested the suggestion that Zaremba pay for a sidewalk between Cobble Hill Road and Gomarlo’s Food and Circus.
The board’s selectmen’s representative, Nancy Carlson, disagreed with Little on all points and their exchanges became increasingly terse as the meeting drew on.
At one point, Little accused Carlson of having pre-judged the application because Carlson and the other selectmen had opposed the project’s driveway permit.
Although it denied Zaremba’s application, the planning board approved the subdivision of Stephen and Joan Pappas’ lot, where the project was to be located.
Little and other project representatives declined to comment on the decision.
Zaremba, a Cleveland-based land development company, has proposed several Dollar General projects in the area. One such proposal in Winchester was blocked three weeks ago when it failed to get a key variance from the town’s zoning board.
Garrett Brnger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436, or firstname.lastname@example.org.