The developer of Gilbert Crossing in Merrimack is seeking permission to construct nearly 100 more apartments on the property next to Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics.
To date, 240 apartments in five buildings have been constructed on the 149-acre parcel along the Daniel Webster Highway.
A conditional use permit for the mixed-use project was approved in 2015 by town planners, who are now being asked to amend the permit to allow for two additional apartment buildings.
“A total of 96 units are proposed,” said Chad Branon of Fieldstone Land Consultants.
The planning board delayed voting on the proposed amendment to the permit. One town planner pointed out that none of the industrial, commercial, retail and restaurant components in the original conditional use permit have been built.
“This is my term, and it is probably not the right term to use, but to me, I am seeing a little bit of a mission creep with your proposal …,” said Bill Boyd, town councilor and planning board member. “The spirit of the (permit) is being diminished by your proposal.”
To accommodate the two newly proposed apartment buildings, a 20,000-square-foot commercial and retail building was eliminated from the plans. The developers said there is likely space elsewhere on the property where that building could be constructed.
“Nothing underhanded is being done,” said Kevin Walker of the John J. Flatley Co., the developer of Gilbert Crossing.
There are still plans to incorporate retail space into the project, and a site plan for 100,000 square feet of industrial flex space is currently under consideration by the local planning board and will begin being built before the two additional apartment buildings, said Walker.
“These buildings filled up almost immediately, including the last building,” Walker said of the existing five apartment structures at Gilbert Crossing.
Branon said the request to incorporate more residential units is reasonable considering the demand for housing in the region.
“I don’t think that it is necessarily creep, but I do understand that it is more density,” he acknowledged.
“It just feels like you are squeezing it in there,” Boyd said.
Mark Grosseilliers of Lantern Lane expressed concern about traffic congestion along the Daniel Webster Highway if 100 more apartments are built.
“We are going to have a massive problem in the north end of town,”
What was supposed to be a mixed-use complex has turned into a massive apartment development, he said.
Other neighbors asked about possible PFOA groundwater contamination related to the project’s location next to the Saint-Gobain plant. Walker said the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is finalizing a testing plan for the site, and he is hopeful that groundwater testing will be scheduled in a week or two.