Chevy dealer expansion approved

NASHUA – The Planning Board approved MacMulkin Chevrolet’s proposal to build a 22,497-square-foot, two-story addition to its dealership at 3 Marmon Drive, but at least a dozen people who live nearby aren’t happy about the decision.

In approving the project Thursday night, the board set down 14 stipulations that members said would help alleviate the impact of the expansion on nearby residential areas.

But homeowners in the south Nashua neighborhood are concerned by what they said was the “encroachment’’ of MacMulkin and other dealerships in the New England Automotive Village.

Ward 7 Alderman Lori Cardin, who represents the area, told the board she had been “bombarded by phone calls” from constituents worried about the effect the MacMulkin plan would have on the quality of life in their neighborhoods and the impact it would have on residential property values.

Several residents said Mac Thompson Realty, the real estate arm of the dealership owned by the Thompson family, has been buying up property throughout the south end. They told the board they were worried about the area – which is split-zoned between business and residential – being swallowed up by car dealerships.

Jeff Thompson, a principal of the company, said that won’t happen. He said his firm has bought about 25 homes in south Nashua, but has done so simply to generate income from renting them.

“We’re also in the real estate business,’’ he said, adding, “I’m a friendly neighbor. I want to be.’’Prior to Thompson’s comments, Chairwoman Bette Lasky tried to reassure residents, saying MacMulkin or other dealerships could not expand into residential neighborhoods unless the area was rezoned. The likelihood of gaining city approval for such a proposal would be extremely remote, she said.

“Anything is possible, the sky could fall tomorrow,’’ she said. “I’m not going to lie to you and say it’s not possible. It is. But it is not at all likely.’’

The board voted 6-1 to approve a lot line consolidation, with member Mike Lowe dissenting. That merges a residentially zoned lot at 3 Superior Drive with the business lot at 3 Marmon Drive to create a parcel that totals 7.8 acres. The residential lot is occupied by one single-family home, and under the consolidation the parcel will be reduced from 15,368 square feet to 9,540 square feet, officials said.

According to project manager Glen Wills, the residential property will be used only for landscaping and storm water management. The expansion will add a second floor to the dealership, but no part of the building or its parking area will be on the Superior Drive land, Wills said. A six-foot fence will separate the business from nearby homes on the east side of the dealership’s property, under one of the stipulations set down by the board.

Moreover, the addition will not increase the height of the building because, in essence, the existing floor will be lowered during construction, he said.

But residents said the MacMulkin plan will only cause headaches for them and is likely to bring down property values in their neighborhoods.

Joseph Waweru of 8 Superior Drive said the project “would be tantamount to encroachment of our property. It would make us feel like we are about to be consumed by our giant neighbor.”

At least a dozen other neighbors shared his concerns.

The topography of the area is such that it slopes downward toward Superior Drive and South Main Street, so residents are worried about runoff from the MacMulkin site flooding their yards and basements.

But Wills and the planning staff said an elaborate storm water management system has been developed to treat and infiltrate runoff. After treatment, the runoff will enter a detention area before being discharged into an infiltration chamber system that will be located under the parking area, Wills said.

The plan will decrease the level of runoff and provide recharge into the ground, he said.

Wills said a line of tall pine tress that creates a buffer between the business and nearby homes would be cut because the trees are old and dying. They will be selectively replaced over time by Austrian pines that will be at least 8 feet tall, he said.

The board stipulated that the planning staff must work with the developer on the replacement plan for the trees, and required that outdoor speakers be removed to cut down on noise. The board further stipulated that a Dumpster be moved away from homes, and said trash couldn’t be hauled from the site earlier than 7 a.m.

Also, the board ordered an old vent to be removed from the building to reduce odors from the body shop, and said late-night deliveries of auto parts have to be made at the entrance to the service area, as far away as possible from homes.