Letters: City Planning Board Demonstrates Bias

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The Planning Board for the City of Manchester does not represent the taxpaying residents of the city, and favors big business. There is an approximately 7-acre parcel of land in my neighborhood Zoned B1, which specifically prohibits gas stations, and an applicant has submitted a conditional use permit request to open an 8-pump 16 fueling station convenience store, restaurant-combination business. The site sits near the intersection of Wellington Road and Edward J Roy Drive, and the intended entrance and exit to the business would be on Edward J Roy Drive, a dead end road, from which we have no other egress, and to which we have no other ingress.

The project does not meet the conditions required according to Article 12 of the Zoning Ordinance, and public testimony has proven such. I myself counted over 1,600 cars passing thru our intersection during rush hour on Friday, February 9, and shared my findings during public testimony before the Planning Board on February 15th. Specifically, sufficient testimony has been provided by the public regarding

(1) its incompatibility with the neighborhood, which violates Article 12, Condition E

(2) legitimate concerns regarding pedestrian safety, which violates Article 12, Condition C

(3) devaluation of abutting condominiums in Stone Terrace, which violates Article 12, Condition D

(4) and concerns regarding the safety of Wellingwood Estates driveway, already too close to the intersection of Edward J Roy Drive and Wellington Roadd, with insufficient sight lines for safe entry and exit, which violates Article 12, Condition C. Any additional traffic would exacerbate the situation.

The traffic study submitted on the behalf of the applicant and the testimony from the traffic engineer contradicts itself. The study states that

  • 55-65 percent of gas station traffic is pass-by in nature, yet purports that this 16 fueling station facility will generate no additional traffic in the neighborhood.

The traffic engineer also stated, on record, that the business would benefit the neighborhood, yet when questioned regarding its effect on school bus stops, insisted it may only impact one bus stop in the neighborhood, which proves

  • the applicant intends to draw traffic into the neighborhood from neighboring I-93, and the thoroughfare Wellington Road and does not expect the bulk of the business to come from my neighborhood. Also,
  • there are not enough residents living off Edward J Roy Drive to sustain 16 fueling stations.

I do not understand why the chairman of the planning board cannot see the inconsistencies and fallacies presented in the traffic study. This is not high science. Somehow basic logic has evaded three members of the board, and in casting their votes in favor of issuance of the conditional use permit, have demonstrated that the hundreds of residents who testified and hours of testimony we delivered fell on deaf ears. I can only surmise that they are willfully ignoring us and favoring big business.

Somehow, the board is in a stalemate; as a final insult to the citizen taxpayers of the city, the Planning Board seems to have violated their own bylaws in order to push this issue to another vote. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, a motion needs a majority to pass, and the motion to approve the conditional use permit failed on Thursday, March 1, when it resulted in a tie. Yet we must return to hear more deliberation of the board and monitor their vote this coming Thursday, march 15.

My neighbors and I have spent countless hours studying bylaws and comparing notes via Facebook, email, and conference calls. We’ve held face to face meetings and met with a consultant from Maryland. We are taking this time out of our lives because we care about our neighborhood. The developer has deep pockets, and has traffic engineers, civil engineers, and a law firm working on his behalf. We are not being compensated for the hours upon hours of time we spend together working on this issue, hanging flyers in the neighborhood, calling the DPW, contacting Alderman Stewart, attending Mayor Craig’s community office hours, and sitting in Planning Board meetings. We are united in this effort to preserve our community, and we must ensure the Planning Board upholds their duty to us. I encourage any and all interested parties to join us Thursday night, at 6 p.m., in the Aldermanic Chambers on the 3rd floor of City Hall.

Jessica DeBurro

Manchester, NH