HOOKSETT, N.H. – A study examining impacts of a proposed bus depot will be redone after confusion over its proposed scope.
In a 4-2 vote, the Hooksett Planning Board requested a revised third-party study after representatives of the bus depot applicant, Ridgeback LLC, expressed concerns over the scope of a third-party study requested last month. Specifically, representatives of the applicant felt the third-party study should be limited to just portions of the town’s ordinances relating to noise and emissions within the town’s performance zone, where the depot would be located.
Attorney Friedrich K. Moeckel speaking on behalf of the applicant felt that the limitation of the study was fair given information already provided by Ridgeback and that he felt little could be added from any additional study given the fairly straight-forward nature of the performance zone’s noise and emissions ordinances.
Still, he and fellow Ridgeback spokesperson Doug McGuire were met with derision and interruptions throughout the hearing, questioning the legitimacy and necessity of their claims and requests.
“You don’t need to hire someone to go out and reinvent the wheel,” said Moeckel. “I hear chuckles in the background, (but) I ask anyone to look at the statute, this is serious stuff.”
Hooksett Town Administrator Andre Garron requested guidance from the board on how to proceed given the applicant’s concerns, including what should be done if the cost of the study would change if redone with a different scope.
Planning Board Member Donald Winterton reiterated his belief that any cost was valid given the potential impact to nearby residents up to this point. Planning Board Member Paul Scarpetti and Vice Chair Michael Somers went further, believing that a broad study would include the applicant’s concerns and a third-party study was needed after not receiving enough information from the applicant. Somers went further by disagreeing with the representatives’ assertions that no third-party confirmation or assessment was possible given the objective nature of what they provided and the town’s ordinances.
Planning Board Member Sheena Gilbert also asked if a study was needed, but due to the emissions ordinance requirement that no emissions causing a “known health risk or danger” to abutters is allowed.
“This is going to blow into folks’ back yards and they are going to smell it. Do we have the information to move forward?” She asked. “I know if I start my car, I am going to smell it 20 yards away.”
Planning Board Member Denise Pichette-Volk also asked if further study was needed, citing a sign that has recently appeared on the property mentioning leasing, wondering if that meant the property was being sold. Moeckel indicated that sign referred to facilities not related to the buses already approved for construction on the site and the land was not being sold.
Pichette-Volk also expressed concern with methodology in the broader study that had been presented relating to emissions, believing that it should be focused on buses when they are stationary rather than moving given concerns over emissions impacting abutters while the buses idled on the property. Ultimately, she expressed concerns with any study done that did not simulate the conditions that would be faced upon approval and could provide “black-and-white” data.
Still, Pichette-Volk’s request to focus on stationary emissions rather than mobile emissions was added along with a broad look at noise impacts in the study, which is expected to be presented at the board’s October meeting.
Chair Christopher Stelmach and Pichette-Volk voted against the motion while Town Council representative James Sullivan abstained.