July 22, 2010

Resident Debbie Soucy, center, who lives near the site, gets a look at the new Wal-Mart on paper.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Second time could be the charm for Wal-Mart, which last night presented a preliminary site plan to the Planning Board and the public.
There was no angry mob or battery of pointed questions directed at company reps, there in force and well prepared with no less than a dozen full-color renderings of the proposed building, from various angles in both daylight and as it would look at night.
By all accounts, the proposed building is aesthetically pleasing and got points for interesting use “dark-sky lighting,” although a few Planning Board members said they'd like to see more of a New England flavor to the modern design, which has a “curvy” silhouette.
Because the board has been down this road before, the questions were cordial and well constructed, often followed by, “You don't have to answer these now; just something to consider.”
Concerns ranged from whether palettes of fertilizer would be sold from the parking lot and whether storage trailers would be kept on site, as with the current store. Also questions over drainage, parking and stop signs were raised.
The retail giant wants to build a superstore – which includes a grocery store – along Ashleigh Drive, a slightly scaled back version of a similar plan that was abruptly abandoned in 2007.
About a dozen residents whose properties back up to the proposed site attended the meeting, getting a private showing of the plan prior to the formal presentation.
Scott Lavoie and his wife, Michelle, leaned in close to one of the illustrations, to see how close a rear safety road would come to their property.
Scott Lavoie said his concern was that currently his property is somewhat protected from neighborhood riff-raff because of the tick-invested wetlands.
“You're gonna clear a path right to my yard for every drunk teenager who wants to break in, basically,” said Lavoie.
Debbie Soucy said she wanted to know how to fight the project, which she feels comes too close to to properties. She was also concerned large trucks making deliveries to a 24-hour superstore at all hours.
Wal-Mart attorney Peter Imse said the main thrust of the revised site plan is to present consumers with a more streamlined shopping experience from a retailer that is concerned with “being green.”
He assured the board that, once relocated from its current location across Manchester Road, the retailer would not only tend to upkeep of the empty building and property, but work to get a new tenant in as soon as possible.
“Wal-Mart is not in the business of owning vacant buildings,” Imse said.
Town Planning Director George Sioras said this is the first of what will be at least three or four presentations made before a final plan is developed that satisfies any lingering concerns.
Bringing Wal-Mart into the town's business district would provide a strong anchor for the current TIF district development, Town Administrator Gary Stenhouse has said.

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