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October 03. 2012 10:05PM

Boscawen construction business: We respect veterans

The construction materials company that owns a 7.7-acre industrial parcel across the street from the state Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen says it has no plans to operate a large commercial sand and gravel facility at the site.

After the purchase of the land by Piontkowski Enterprises last June, veterans became worried that the business could create noise and truck traffic that would disturb the dignity of funerals and memorial remembrances.

Piontkowski, which already operates two commercial gravel pits in Boscawen, won approval from the town planning Board in July to sell gravel and bark mulch from the site on Daniel Webster Highway. The company also won approval to expand an existing self-storage facility.

The head of Piontkowski's operations said the company is planning to offer only crushed stone and products such as mulch on a retail basis.

“We have a sand and gravel operation in the area; we're not looking for another one,” said Brian Piontkowski of the firm founded by his father.

The cemetery is on state property that was the Merrimack State Forest before 1997. The cemetery property is zoned for residential use, although as state-owned land, it is exempt from the zoning code.

When the state forest was designated for use as a veteran's cemetery, the property across the street was already in an industrial zone. A landowner in such a district has a right to sell gravel or operate a self-storage warehouse, according to Bruce Crawford, chairman of the planning board.

Even when a use is allowed in a zoning district, the planning board still has the power to review site plans and set conditions. In Piontkowski's case, the board restricted the hours of retail rock-selling.

“It's more designed for the local homeowner,” Piontkowski said. “We're catering to a whole different extension of the existing market, people who come to the (gravel) pit and need a half-yard in a pick-up truck or have a trailer behind an SUV, but our insurance won't allow us to load them.”

Crawford said the town has heard few complaints about two Piontkowski gravel pits elsewhere in town, but notes they are in remote areas.

At a June 27 foreclosure auction, the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery Association was prepared to pay $225,000, or about $16,000 more than the value Boscawen assessors put on the property. Piontkowski Enterprises LLC, bought it for $250,000.

The day before that sale, the association, which supports operations of the cemetery, bought the three-acre parcel next to the Piontkowski site for $24,000 from the same owner.

Leaders of the veterans association have talked of building an Education Center on the land it now owns across the street from the cemetery. But a variance would be needed from the Zoning Board of Adjustment, since the association does not have the zoning exemption that the state has for the cemetery site.

The veterans association offered to pay Piontkowski a $150,000 profit on the land, but the company refused to sell. Brian Piontkowski said his family has already invested more than that sum.

“It wouldn't cover what we have already put in,” he said.

Piontkowski said the company's refusal to take the veterans association offer does not mean his family doesn't appreciate the state's veterans.

“My dad is the head; he is 81 years old, a Korean War vet,” Piontkowski said. “He was drafted and he served on the front lines in Korea.”

wsmith@unionleader.com

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