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Controversial gas station proposal defeated by Manchester Planning Board

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 15. 2018 11:13PM

MANCHESTER — A controversial development to build a gas station, retail business and car wash on Manchester’s East Side went down on a 4-3 vote by the city Planning Board Thursday night.

The project — proposed for 55 Edward J. Roy Drive, north of Wellington Road near Exit 8 off Interstate 93 — includes a building to house a convenience store, doughnut shop, deli and fueling area to include 16 pumps. The site could be accessed across from the Carlton Place residential complex.

This vote came two weeks after the board had deadlocked, 3-3, on this request.

Manchester Economic Development Director Melanie Sanuth, abstained on March 4 but chose to vote Thursday and was the deciding vote against it.

She did not explain at the meeting why she took part Thursday other than to say she watched the video and read documents about one of the previous meetings on this project that she had missed.

The vote Thursday denied a conditional use permit the project needed for an automotive service station.

The panel decided, 5-2, to table the application for a site plan and that permits the developer, Z1 Express in Bedford, to return to the board with a different plan as long as it has no gas station.

Once it became clear the project was rejected, a loud cheer broke out among the roughly two dozen residents who turned out to oppose it at this meeting in the Manchester aldermanic chambers.

Manchester Alderman-at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur, a board member, said it was possible this development even if it got approval Thursday might also have needed support from the Board of Aldermen to take down “No trucks” and “No outlets” signs at the entrance to Edward J. Roy Drive.

“I don’t know if that is going to be a hang up at some point for this project,” Levasseur said.

But city planners told the board the “No trucks” sign was only a warning to those driving tractor-trailers that they could not drive through this residential neighborhood and the signs were not an obstacle to this application.

Planning Board Chairman Michael Harrington supported the project.

“My decision has not been changed. I think it is a development that could go here and the applicants have proven their case,” Harrington said.

Voting to turn down the permit were former Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long, board member Dan LeClerc, Levasseur and Sanuth.

The trio supportive of the project Thursday who were the same two weeks ago were board members Michael O’Donoghue, Guy Guerra and Harrington.

The conditional use permit required satisfying a list of conditions, including that the project not materially endanger public health and safety, and not substantially devalue abutting property.

The lawyer representing the developer had asked Levasseur and Ward 6 Alderman Elizabeth Moreau to disqualify themselves because they were followers of a Facebook page called “Wellington Hill Area Residents,” which formed late in 2017.

Lawyer Greg Michael maintained the sole purpose of this Facebook group was to oppose this project.

Alderman Moreau, a member of the planning board, did not take part in the two votes on this project.

Levasseur insisted he had been open-minded about the application and had “every right” to vote on it.

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