Plainfield board declines to extend truck loading times at Frito-Lay facility

  • 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.

Valley News Correspondent
Thursday, March 14, 2019

PLAINFIELD — Plainfield already may be pumping the brakes on enforcing a decision Thursday night to deny zoning changes for the trucking operation at the Frito-Lay distribution center on Route 12A.

After complaints from neighbors about noise helped drive the Zoning Board of Adjustment to nix a plan to allow truck deliveries at any time, Town Administrator Steve Halleran said the town will monitor the site but noted that it could be a while before any action is taken to enforce rule violations.

“We will monitor the operation and note any infractions,” Halleran said. “We will be diligent.”

Halleran said the first step after the board’s 4-0 vote is to draft the decision and send it to the property owner Bart Industries, which has the option of an appeal or new application.

If the company continues to operate outside the original approved hours of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Halleran said the town could seek a court injunction and subsequent violations could result in fines.

The board spent more than two hours discussing Bart Industries’ request to extend the hours in which trucks could come to the warehouse, delving at times into the science of sound frequencies and decibel levels. Eventually, because Bart Industries could not guarantee a specific time of the daily delivery by a tractor-trailer, the board concluded it could not approve a 24-hour operation.

“We have worked really hard to find a rationale to accommodate the property owners’ interest, but they seem incompatible,” Zoning Board member Brad Atwater said when he made the motion to deny the application.

The board said allowing trucks to come at all hours of the night, regardless of how infrequent, would impact the character of the neighborhood and the applicant had not demonstrated that a proposed wall would reduce the noise to an acceptable level.

The owner of the distribution warehouse, Bart Industries of Bellows Falls, Vt., wanted to extend the hours for the six small delivery trucks, allowing them to arrive as early as 4 a.m., two hours earlier than the original window.

Neither the board nor a few abutters in attendance voiced strong objections to that request.

Instead, the disagreement was over the unpredictable arrival of one tractor-trailer a day, six days a week.

Bart Industries’ attorney, Brad Atwood, of Lebanon, said those trucks are under the control of the distribution center in Connecticut, and while most arrive in midafternoon, he acknowledged that they also could come at any time of night.

The beeping the truck makes when it backs up to the loading dock upset some of the abutters, including Amy Franklin.

Franklin said she hears late-night deliveries and loud beeping roughly twice a week, and it is worse in the summer with windows open.

“Twice a week, for me, is unacceptable to me,” Franklin said.

Atwood said his client would build a sound barrier, which, according to a report from RSG of White River Junction, would reduce the decibel level to below what is caused by traffic on Route 12A or trains on the nearby rail line.

“We believe it will be below decibels levels of what is there now,” Atwood said.

Franklin and her father, Paul Franklin, said really what the board was being asked to approve was a 24-hour trucking operation in a rural residential area, even though the trucks, large and small, are there only a few hours of the day.

Eventually, the board decided there was no way to determine whether a large fence would block enough noise during late night deliveries.

“This is about 24 hours, seven days a week,” said Paul Franklin, Plainfield’s town moderator. “It is not being requested, but that is what is happening. I’m not sure it is a good fit for the town.”

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