Convenience store gets preliminary approval

NASHUA – The Planning Board has given conditional approval to a proposal to build a convenience store at 523 Broad St. next to the new Majestic Heights subdivision, but that approval may be short-lived.

Final approval of the plan hinges on the condition that the developers and the city Traffic Department can agree on a suitable pedestrian safety plan for the site at the board’s next meeting Dec. 11, members said last week.

If an agreement on the safety plan isn’t reached then, the board’s conditional approval will be rescinded and any final endorsement of the proposal will have to wait until a satisfactory safety plan is developed, board members said.

The project is proposed for the site of the old Tamposi farmhouse and barn just west of the new housing development and not far from the north campus of Nashua High School.

Under the plan, the former barn, now an antique shop, would be converted into a convenience store called The Red Barn Store. The farmhouse would be converted into office space, according to project engineer Richard Maynard.

Maynard said neighbors clearly have stated they want the farmhouse and barn preserved to retain some of the rural character of the area. The developer, Mile High Real Estate, has done its best to comply with the wishes of residents, he said.

“We’re trying 100 percent to preserve the character of the barn,’’ Maynard told the board.

But traffic on busy Broad Street is a thorny issue that the developer attempted to bypass by agreeing to contribute $5,000 to the Traffic Department and let its engineers design the appropriate safety plan for the site. The Traffic Department has accepted that proposal, Maynard said.

But Chairwoman Bette Lasky and other members were not sure $5,000 would be enough for the development of a safety plan, which planning officials said could incorporate a raised median island in front of the store.

Other options include painted crosswalks in front of the store or a signalized intersection, which resident Cynthia Overby advocated along with Ward 1 Alderman Kevin McAfee.

If the $5,000 that Mile High is willing to contribute isn’t enough to cover the needed improvements, Lasky said, then the work could be delayed by budget constraints, and the board is worried about “exposing everybody in that part of the city to a safety problem.’’

Maynard said the median island would be dangerous and his clients wanted no part of it.

“We’re not trying to avoid responsibility. We’re trying to avoid liability from an island in the middle of the road. That’s dangerous,’’ he said. Board member Hugh Moran suggested that Traffic Department officials attend the next meeting to discuss the best course of action. Other members of the panel agreed.

Under the plan, there would be entrances from both Broad Street and Majestic Heights, and sidewalks would be extended from the store site to Normandy Way, officials said.

Overby wanted the store hours to be limited to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day, but Gerald Prunier, a lawyer for the developers, said that was unacceptable to his clients.

Prunier said the store should be able to stay open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., the same hours allowed for Dugas’ Market before it burned down in an arson fire a few years ago.

As a compromise, Prunier agreed that the store would be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., except for Fridays and Saturdays, when it would close at 11 p.m. The board agreed to those hours.

Overby and another resident also wanted the store to be prohibited from selling alcoholic beverages, but the board said it was beyond its purview to dictate what the store sells as long as all merchandise is legal.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the project Sept. 9.