ZBA denies variance for Hanover Street electronic message board

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John Cronin testifies to the ZBA on April 11, 2024. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, N.H. – The site of a former gas station at 801 Hanover St. has been vacant since 1994 and it will continue to remain vacant following a decision by Manchester Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) on Thursday night.

A variance request for a 22 foot by nine-foot electronic message board on the 801 Hanover St. lot, located at the corner of Hanover Street and Lake Avenue, was denied by the ZBA in a 4-1 vote.

Attorney John Cronin represented The Sign Gallery, a Manchester-based company applying for the sign on behalf of property owner Aaronasian Oil Company.

Cronin told the ZBA about attempts to place a new business on the quarter-acre triangular lot after a gas station left the lot in the early 1990s. The first proposed replacement use for the lot was a barber shop, followed by a paint shop, a home base for a mobile glass repair business and then a car wheel rim repair business, all of which did not come to fruition.

Ultimately, the only reason why The Sign Gallery needed to come before the ZBA was that stand-alone signs are not allowed by right lots zoned as B-2 (“General Business”) such as 801 Hanover St. Cronin noted to the ZBA that if The Sign Gallery renovated the abandoned building on the lot, placed a desk and a chair inside and used it as an office, the sign would be allowed by right as an accessory use.

In testimony to the board, Cronin said the applicant would have the sign brighter during the day to ensure it could be seen and could accept a condition of the sign not being in operation from the hours of midnight to 6 a.m. However, Cronin indicated that the applicant was not eager to demolish the building on the lot given its grandfathered status would make building a possible new building difficult.

Several residents living near the proposed sign testified in opposition to granting the variance, with some others testifying on behalf of those who live in the area. One of those individuals was Marcia Smid of Candia Road, who said that members of her family lived in that neighborhood going back five generations and her sister lives next door.

“It’s April, I thought that maybe it’s an April fool’s joke. You’re at the (traffic) light, you stop for two seconds and then there’s this obnoxious sign,” she said.

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A depiction of what the Lake/Hanover sign would look like if the variance was approved next to how it looks now. Screenshot/City of Manchester

Over 20 emails from concerned residents were read into the record opposing the sign as well as comments from Ward 4 Alderwoman Christine Fajardo and Ward 5 Alderman Anthony Sapienza, who testified in person on behalf of constituents living near the lot who told them about their concerns.

Those concerns included distrust of Aaronasian’s claims to clean up the property given a lack of upkeep over recent years, light pollution lowering the property values of nearby residential properties, possible hazards to motorists on Hanover Street and statements that the city should purchase the property and convert it into a park or another use like a food truck pad.

Cronin indicated to the ZBA that many of those testifying were not abutters and did not have legal standing as interested parties in the case. He also said that the Manchester Planning Board would likely not allow a food truck business on the property and that landscape and photometric data could be provided.

The only vote in favor of the request came from Ray Herbert, with Anne Ketterer, Greg Powers, Max Latona and Nick Taylor in opposition.



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About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.