HOOKSETT — Town planning officials say they were caught off guard on Tuesday when Shipyard Brewing launched a social media frenzy with a trade publication piece announcing the Portland-based brewer’s proposal to build a multimillion dollar facility in Hooksett by 2020.
In an article published by Brewbound, the Portland-based brewery detailed their plans to construct a $36 million contract brewing and co-packing facility that would take up 100,000 square feet of a 50-acre site at 39 Hackett Hill Road that sits beside the Everett Turnpike and the Merrimack River.
Although Shipyard founder Fred Forsley described the plan as “moving full speed ahead,” Hooksett town planner Nicholas Williams detailed a lengthy list of concerns that may take the wind out of Shipyard’s sails.
“We really don’t know much about it,” said Williams of the proposed project. “Quite honestly, it’s a little alarming to me that they’re advertising it the way that they are.”
While Williams made clear that Hooksett welcomes new businesses like Shipyard, he emphasized that the brewer’s proposed facility was still a long way off.
“While town staff are aware of the proposal, no formal plans have been submitted,” Williams said. “The proposal is, indeed, in the extreme preliminary stages of development. There are potential obstacles in terms of necessary water and sewer infrastructure which still need to be addressed, along with zoning issues specific to the site.”
Williams says he’s had just one conversation with the construction engineer hired by Shipyard, and neither the town’s code enforcement officer or the community development office have heard from Shipyard.
Noting several other businesses that have sought and received Planning Board approval to build on the 50-acre parcel, Williams described the property as “perhaps some of the most commercially valuable land in town.” But he went on to say that stalled talks between land owner Jeff Larabee and the sewer commission over the cost of running sewer line to the property have brought further progress of all of the approved business plans to a virtual standstill.
In addition to infrastructure concerns, Williams says Shipyard’s brewing plans for the facility may run into trouble with zoning rules governing use of the groundwater in the aquifer located beneath the proposed site.
“They are looking to draw an awful lot of water out of the aquifer,” said Williams of Shipyard. “Because it is located in the groundwater protection district, there are limitations to what you can pull out of the water on a daily basis. They’re looking to perhaps draw out four times as much as the zoning ordinance allows them to.”
In light of all of the potential roadblocks, Williams says he’s skeptical of the brewer’s plans to open the facility by 2020.
“It’s interesting to me that they would be shooting for a late 2020 opening date. As of right now, that’s a lot to happen in two years, and we haven’t even seen a plan,” he said.
When reached for comment, a representative from Shipyard said they had no further information beyond what was in the Brewbound article.
Valencia Realty Capital and State Street Realty Advisors, who Shipyard is partnering with on the project, could not be reached for comment.