MERRIMAC — More than 70 residents filled the Sweetsir School auditorium last week to object to the construction of the Dollar General Store slated for the corner of Bear Hill Road and East Main Street.
Although the Tuesday night crowd was considerably smaller than the May meeting on the issue, they came with their homework done and ready to present a few surprises to both the developer and the Planning Board.
A third meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 16, at 7:30 at the Merrimac Senior Center.
Planning Board Chairman Sandy Venner reminded residents that a special permit is not required because the store is an allowed use and, in fact, is “in the area along 110 where there can potentially be commercial development on a larger scale than can be accommodated in the village square, where we also want to see thriving commercial development.”
This debate over the extent of commercial development in the town forms part of the crux of the controversy, with some in town against this type of business establishment.
“The purpose of the site plan review is to make sure that the development is in the best interest of the town and to promote functional and aesthetic design, to mitigate any harmful effects on surrounding areas. It is the purpose of the committee to regulate rather than to prohibit,” she said.
Venner also explained that a special permit had been required by the developer from the Zoning Board of Appeals because the site falls within the Water Resource Protection District (WRPD). The ZBA granted the special permit at their May 8 meeting.
Two abutters recently filed an appeal of the special permit with Superior Court, stating that the permit process did not meet a rigorous enough review.
Traffic and travel safety questions were handled first. The traffic study provided by the applicant counted vehicles on Wednesday, May 15, from 4 to 6 p.m. and Saturday, May 18, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Counts arrived at were one vehicle every minute for weekdays and two vehicles every minute on Saturdays. Traffic engineer Jason Adams reported that “for retail sites, this as low as you can get.”