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Claremont Convenience Store May Have to Keep Footprint

Claremont — Responding to concerns from an abutting property owner, the Planning Board has agreed that if Cumberland Farms goes forward with plans to build a new, larger convenience store at the corner of Pleasant and Summer streets, it should be built on essentially the same footprint as the existing store.

On Monday night, an attorney and a civil engineer representing Cumberland Farms presented two conceptual plans for a 4,500-square foot store with gas pumps.

One proposal would have the store located perpendicular to Pleasant Street on an abutting parcel where the NAPA auto parts store is located. That plan adheres to the city’s new zoning regulations that seek to have buildings a uniform distance from the street.

One end of the store, where there would be a few tables and chairs for outdoor seating, would be close to the sidewalk and the store entrance would face Summer Street with gas pumps and parking in front of the building. However, the board did not like that plan because it not only removes the sound barrier that the current store provides for an abutting property, but motorists and others driving on Pleasant Street from Opera House Square would see the back of the store.

Donna and Ernest Montenegro, who live on Summer Street behind the store, told the board they don’t oppose the renovation, but if the store is built in a different location on this site, they will be subject to a lot more noise, especially during the night. Cumberland Farms is open 24 hours.

“We hope you can convince Cumberland Farms to have the same footprint and extend it toward NAPA,” Ernest Montenegro said. “We have no buffer except for the building.”

Donna Montenegro said shifting the orientation of the building (closer to Pleasant Street) would give it an “awkward” appearance. Although she did not like the idea of outdoor seating near her property line under the plan that keeps the building where it is, she saw it as a better option.

“Both plans have disadvantages but if we had a choice, the original footprint and extending it to the left, that would be most amenable to us,” she said.

Dover, N.H., attorney F.X. Bruton told the board that Cumberland Farms plans to raze the existing store and the NAPA auto parts store on an abutting lot and build a new store with three gas pumps. He told the board either plan will work for his client, though the plan to keep the store where it is was not fully developed by Christopher Tymula, a civil engineer with MHF Design Consultant, who presented the conceptual plans to the board.

City Planner Mike McCory said a plan with the store perpendicular to Pleasant Street was recommended by the city to meet new zoning regulations, adopted last year, that seek to have a “consistent street wall” of buildings in the mixed used zone downtown.

“Instead of a setback from the property line, there is a build-to-line,” McCory said.

If Cumberland Farms agrees to locate the building on approximately the same site as the existing store, it will need a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment because of the distance from the Pleasant Street sidewalk. McCory said after the meeting that in this case a variance seems logical.

Board member James Shortz favored modifications to the present location. He said it is the board’s responsibility to not only work with the property owner but also to consider the concerns of the abutters. It will provide a noise buffer and keep the light away, Shortz said. Another board member, Marilyn Harris, agreed.

“It will protect the residential nature of Summer Street,” Harris said.

If Cumberland Farms obtains a variance it would then submit a site plan for the Planning Board. Tymula said after the meeting that construction won’t happen until next year. Bruton said he believes Cumberland Farms is negotiating purchase of the NAPA store property.

The company is also proposing to raze its store on Washington Street, called Sam’s, along with a rear building with seven storefronts, and build a new, 4,500 square foot convenience store with gas pumps. Those conceptual plans raised no concerns with the board.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com .