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Hess seeks OK for store, gas station in Bedford

BEDFORD — Hess Corp. representatives will go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment tonight for approval of three variances to build a 1,660-square-foot convenience store and 12 self-service gas pumps at Route 101 and Hardy Road.

The company is seeking variances for prohibited uses at 2 Hardy Road, including a permit to build a gasoline service station within the commercial zoning district; to permit a retaining wall, gas pump canopy and monument sign within the 50-foot wetland setback area; and to permit a changeable readerboard sign.

The project has gone before the ZBA twice, and also to the Planning Board for a conceptual review and to the Conservation Commission for environmental concerns. At the last ZBA meeting on March 18, many residents spoke against the project, and two spoke in favor.

Many residents, and owners of two existing gas stations in the area, have been critical of the project, saying the gas station would increase traffic, create a potential for increased vehicle accidents and crime, and decrease property values. Many also said the project is contrary to the town’s zoning ordinance prohibiting gasoline filling stations, which has been in effect since 1967. In addition, the town conducted a Route 101 corridor study in 2002 and stressed the exclusion of automotive-oriented uses in the commercial zone.

Those in favor have said the project would increase the town’s tax base and it would create more competitive gas prices in the area.

The company has said the station is not contrary to public interest, would not alter the safety of the community, would not devalue surrounding properties, would not impact adjacent wetlands, and traffic flow will not be impacted.

Bill Tucker, of Wadleigh, Starr and Peters law firm in Manchester, said the station is within the spirit of the town ordinance because it is not a gasoline service station, it is a “fueling facility.”

“Your ordinance prohibits in this zone gasoline service stations. I think it’s important to look at the definition of what a gasoline service station is,” said Tucker on behalf of the company. “The key here is supplying goods and services. Everything sold here is at retail. No service is provided. Nobody will change or check your oil. Nobody’s going to check the pressure of your tires. I think the facility should be called a fueling facility. Retail is specifically permitted in this zone. We feel it is consistent with the commercial zone.”

Jeffrey Dirk, of Vanesse and Associates, said Route 101 is posted at 40 mph, and the traffic volume on a daily basis is about 22,000 vehicles. The project is expected to generate about 562 new vehicle trips on an average weekday, or 281 vehicles entering and 281 exiting, with about 13 vehicles entering and 13 exiting during the weekday morning peak-hour and 33 new vehicle trips, of which 17 vehicles entering and 16 exiting expected during the weekday evening peak-hour.

According to the traffic study, access to the gas station would be via three driveways — a full access area intersecting the west side of Hardy Road, approximately 100 feet north of Route 101; a right-turn entrance-only at the north side of Route 101 and about 120 feet west of Hardy Road; and a right-turn exit-only driveway at the north side of Route 101, about 250 feet west of Hardy Road. In addition, a 30-foot wide easement would allow for a future connection between the site and the abutting property to the west. The project would require a driveway permit from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

The meeting takes place tonight at 7 p.m., at the Bedford Meeting Room, 10 Meetinghouse Road.

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