February 15, 2011

Walmart offers $100,000 in exchange for wetlands easement

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- The Walmart proposal moved one step closer to final approval Monday night, earning a necessary easement from the Derry Conservation Commission in exchange for a $100,000 payout.
The easement amendment will allow a roadway to be constructed on 2.5 acres of existing conservation land leading up to the site off Ashleigh Drive.
Peter Imse of the law firm Sulloway & Hollis, which represents the Walmart proposal, had earlier offered the conservation commission a 14.5-acre parcel of undeveloped land at the rear of the property as mitigation for the easement. But commissioners
 at earlier meetings said they would prefer a cash payout.
At Monday’s meeting, Imse put a $100,000 mitigation offer on the table, which conservation commissioners accepted with a 6-0-1 vote. Member Paul Doolittle abstained.
The money will be put into a mitigation fund to be used only for the future acquisition of conservation land or easements, the easement document says.
But the agreement is not without conditions.
Walmart staff will be required to remove all litter from the easement area daily, with as-needed efforts for the rest of the property.
The agreement calls for Walmart to fund quarterly independent inspections of the easement area for the first three years after construction, according to the document.
If no breaches are found, those
 inspections will be limited to a semi-annual basis for the following two years. After five years with no issues, independent inspections would be required on an annual basis. 

Dolittle said he was more concerned with winter maintenance than litter. 
“One of the things that should be monitored would be the handling of salt and things that are easily plowed into that area,” he said. “In terms of protecting the quality of that wetland, that’s the most dangerous.” 
Imse assured the commission that it was in Walmart’s best interest to keep the area clean. 
“There is absolutely nothing to be gained for Walmart to have a dirty front yard,” he said. “It’s the first thing that the customers see as they drive into the property. 
And while Imse said the project has secured approval through the state Division of Charitable Trusts, the commission action is subject to approval from the state Department of Environmental Services. 
He said that a representative from the Attorney General’s Office had signed off on the earlier mitigation proposal on behalf of DES, but that he had yet to receive written approval for the new arrangement. 
“We hoped to come here with all loose ends tied up and everything taken care of, but when you deal with third parties, that doesn’t always happen,” Imse told the commission. 
Resident Scott Lavoie, who lives on Thames Road at the back of the undeveloped 14.5 acres, asked for assurances to protect that area. 
“My big concern would be what happens with that land,” Lavoie said during Monday’s public hearing. “Do we have the guarantee that that’s going to stay our buffer and stay the way it is if we lose the easement? That’s very important to the neighborhood.” 
Imse said the existing wetlands make future development of that area unlikely, but said there was no language excluding the possibility. 
Pending planning board approval next month, Imse said the final sale of the property — and the transfer of the $100,000 shortly thereafter — should be completed by the end of May. 

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