Poised for expansion

Jeffrey M. Kevan, an engineer working on the Belletetes expansion project, describes aspects of the plans during Tuesday’s meeting in Jaffrey.

JAFFREY — The town’s planning board on Tuesday conditionally approved a building-supply retailer’s plans to expand its Route 202 headquarters, after a lengthy process that involved opposition from some abutters.

Belletetes first brought its plans before a town board in mid-2017, with a request for variances from the zoning board of adjustment.

“I’m relieved that they were able to come to a comfortable decision for us,” Belletetes President Michael J. Shea said after Tuesday night’s meeting.

Shea said he expects construction on the project — which involves razing a maintenance building and constructing a 7,200-square-foot maintenance building and a 13,440-square-foot storage space — to begin in the spring and wrap up this year. With the expansion, the site will have a footprint of about 10 acres.

The company originally hoped to move forward with construction last year, Shea said.

Based in Jaffrey, Belletetes operates seven other locations in New Hampshire and one in Winchendon, Mass.

The proposed project took this long to get through the regulatory process because of concerns from abutters. Starting with the zoning board of adjustment process, abutters questioned whether the expansion would increase runoff onto nearby properties, lead to more noise or otherwise affect the residential area behind Belletetes.

That pushback led to a hearing and rehearing in front of the zoning board, and an appeal of that board’s approval of variances for the project. A Cheshire County Superior Court judge dismissed the appeal on a technicality a year ago.

As part of the site-plan review process, Jaffrey Planning Board held a hearing on the plans in November and decided to request a third-party review of Belletetes’ proposed stormwater management system. Last month, the board granted Belletetes an extension so it could address the review’s findings and develop landscaping options.

For a moment on Tuesday, it seemed that Belletetes might face another delay. Belletetes has responded to the third-party review, said Jeffrey M. Kevan, an engineer working on the project. But the consultant conducting the review has not yet sent back an evaluation of those responses and of some changes Belletetes made to its designs.

Kevan asked the board to approve the project, on the condition that Belletetes address any further issues raised by the third-party review. But Jo Anne Carr, the town’s planning and economic development director, said that would force town staff to make a subjective judgment about whether Belletetes has met that condition. Staff are not authorized to do so, she said.

Tim Gordon, the chairman of the planning board, said he’d feel more comfortable holding off until he saw the final results.

But Belletetes representatives expressed some frustration at the possibility of further delay.

“We’re doing the best we can to be accommodating to everybody, and we’re getting penalized for that reason,” said Jack Belletete, an owner of the company and the chairman of its board.

Planning board member Laurel McKenzie moved to approve the plans, with the conditions that Belletetes obtain an alteration of terrain permit from the state; that the third-party review is completed; and that Belletetes return to the planning board for a compliance hearing in November, after construction is done.

The motion passed near-unanimously, with Gordon the only dissenting vote.

During the meeting, Kevan touched on the stormwater management improvements the company plans to make as part of the expansion. Due to those improvements, he said, stormwater from much of the property will be discharged at a slower rate than today.

One of the abutters who filed the 2017 court appeal, Robert Aho, attended Tuesday’s meeting and seemed on decent terms with the Belletetes crew. Shea said he and Aho had come to an agreement on when to turn off the lights on a proposed new building near the Aho property. As they left after the meeting, Aho told Shea and Belletete he hoped to keep communicating about such issues.

Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or pbooth@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @PCunoBoothKS