Plainfield board delays decision on snack food warehouse that has drawn ire of neighbors

  • John Phillips returns to his truck after performing regular maintenance on a Frito-Lay delivery truck at the snack destributor's Plainfield, N.H., warehouse, that opened earlier this year, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Neighbors, including Amy Franklin, who lives in the house beyond a screen of pine trees, have complained about noise from trucks arriving at the warehouse early in the morning. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • John Phillips, a mobile mechanic for Frito-Lay pauses while doing regular maintenance on a truck at the snack distributor's warehouse in Plainfield, N.H., Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2018. Residential neighbors have complained about noise and activity in the early mornings as delivery trucks come and go on their routes. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Correspondent
Monday, February 11, 2019

PLAINFIELD — The Zoning Board and Planning Board worked to reach a compromise on Monday night between a warehouse operation on Route 12A and neighbors who have complained of noise at all hours of the night.

But after more than two hours of discussion, the boards agreed to delay for another month a decision on a request for an amended application to alter the Frito-Lay distributing facility’s operating hours.

Last year, residents living in the vicinity of the Frito-Lay distribution center complained that the warehouse was operating in violation of conditions that were made part of the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s 2017 approval of a variance for the 3.5-acre parcel. Specifically, neighbors said trucks were making deliveries throughout the night instead of between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., as required by the Zoning Board.

The property owner, Bart Industries of Bellows Falls, Vt., submitted an application last month seeking to extend the hours for five small trucks from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. and for large trucks — no more than two a day — from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

But the discussion became bogged down when company officials and their attorney, Brad Atwood, could not guarantee the big delivery trucks would not arrive outside those hours due to weather, driver schedules or other variables they said the company had no control over. Frito-Lay uses contracted drivers, and the current variance says the facility must operate only from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Board members concluded that the company essentially was asking to operate and allow trucks to come at any time. That unpredictability concerned the boards because it means the problems raised by abutters would continue even if the hours were established at 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“It is a 24-hour operation, that is the reality. There is no other way to look at it,” Town Administrator Steve Halleran said.

Atwood told the board that his client has gone “above and beyond” trying to address the issues regarding noise and lighting, such as increasing landscaping and changing the lighting by installing several motion-detecting lights, among other improvements.

“We are trying to take other measures to soften the impact that will have,” Atwood said of the request to increase the hours.

Atwood recommended they continue to work on developing a plant acceptable to all parties.

ZBA Chairman Richard Colburn said that is what the board is trying do, but perhaps it will take on a greater sense of urgency. The company and abutters can talk about it and then we will have to make a decision, he added.

“We still have a pretty good gap we are trying to navigate,” Colburn said.

Abutter Amy Franklin said she analyzed the date on the deliveries submitted by Frito-Lay and concluded that trucks arrive outside the approved hours.

She also said that although it might occur just once a week, there still will still be noise — beeping, rumbling and slamming doors — generated by the large delivery trucks. Even if trucks were to arrive between 4 a.m. to 9 p.m., quiet time for neighbors would be at a premium.

“This creates a 17-hour window of truck activity and only a seven-hour window where neighbors could expect quiet time,” Franklin wrote in a filing to the town analyzing the truck schedule.

Franklin said she had listened to Atwood, who visited her home, and she said her advice was that Bart find another tenant. Others thought a meeting with the applicant and abutters would yield no new compromise.

Bart is promising landscaping that would include planting of 3- to 5-foot-tall hemlock trees along property lines of two abutters, Franklin and Troy Hall, and along Route 12A. Also, a 2-foot-tall berm about 180 feet long would be constructed between Franklin’s property and the existing mature pines, Atwood said in the company’s amended application.

Bart built the 3,500-square-foot building in 2018 on the property that was considered an eyesore for years after a fire destroyed a trucking company that operated there in the 1990s. The contaminated property was cleaned up in 2004.

The board’s next meeting will take place on March 14.

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