Support for Market Basket leaves board members on the sidelines
PLYMOUTH - Two planning board members took seats in the audience at their monthly meeting Thursday night, removing themselves from the board as a commercial developer detailed plans to build a Market Basket and other stores on 71 acres along Tenney Mountain Highway.
Board Chairman Mike Ahern and Vice Chairman John Randlett volunteered to recuse themselves from the presentation as official board members at the request of resident Gunnar Baldwin, despite the fact that the presentation by engineer Steven Smith of Gilford was a brief update on the plans that didn't require any board action.
At the beginning of the meeting, Baldwin made a request that town officials who had publicly voiced their support for the proposed development at Riverside Landing remove themselves from any town proceedings on the proposals.
Town Planner Sharon Penney accepted Baldwin's request and agreed that town officials will consider it. In case it is accepted, Ahern and Randlett stepped out of the presentation without discussion.
"They have both been very vocal in favor of the project," Baldwin said later. Neither board member disputed Baldwin's contention.
Town boards have not officially taken positions on the proposed 86,380-square-foot shopping center. McDonald's and Bank of New Hampshire have already received all but their final permits from the town to build in the two front lots of the property.
Gilford developer Mike McGinley, who is representing businesses who may want to build in Riverside Landing, said Market Basket has expressed strong interest in building a 60,000-square-foot store. At this point, there are two other retail spaces open in the development's plan, a 12,000-square-foot space and a 6,880-square-foot space.
McGinley said he has had conversations with several potential tenants for the other two spaces. He would not divulge the potential tenants' identities. "I will say I have had discussions with the state Liquor Commission," he said. There is already a liquor store on Tenney Mountain Highway at the end of a small mall.
There are no construction dates yet established for stores at Riverside Landing, as the plans are still preliminary, McGinley said.
Baldwin later said he is one of many in town against the development, in part because it is so near the Baker River, an "environmentally sensitive" part of town, he said. He and others sponsored warrant articles at town elections this year that might have slowed or stopped the development, but residents voted the articles down.
"I also don't think there's enough business here for two supermarkets there. There's already a Hannaford across the street," he said. "And I don't think we should be moving forward by taking business away from stores down the highway in Tilton."