Zoning Board Relaxes Landscape Buffer For Proposed Retail Development

Everything Essential Salon, a business looking to move from their location at 18 Orchard View Drive to a proposed new retail and office space on Mohawk Drive made their pitch to be allowed to have less of a landscape buffer than is required by town ordinance.

When a commercial building or parking lot is within 200 feet of a residential property, the commercial property is required to have at least a 50-foot landscape buffer to help shield it from the residential area.

Maillet & Associates, LLC is the property owner and would be developing the property. Matt Routhier of Bedford Design Consultants led the presentation to the ZBA. He was joined by Laura Maillet, owner of Everything Essential.

The proposed building would have a 2,920 square foot footprint with the salon/spa occupying the first floor and office space on the second floor which would be offered as leased office space.  The project would use an existing driveway at the parcel and would also leverage an existing detention pond.

Several features of the proposed development would infringe on the 50-foot landscape buffer.   The largest impact would be from the parking lot which would encroach 34 feet into the buffer.  The building itself including a patio/farmer’s porch and roof overhang that would protrude just over 19 feet into the buffer. A rear walkway, bulkhead and stairs that serve as a service entrance and emergency exit would have smaller buffer impacts.  The farmer’s porch would be used in good weather months to provide an area for wedding parties to relax while waiting to get their pre-wedding services done.

Routhier shared that they plan to orient the new building and parking lot so that the rear of the building faces Kendallwood Condominiums with the parking lot on the front side of the building to shield the residential area from noise related to cars going in and out of the lot.

Addressing the specific requirements that must be met to grant a variance, the application stated that they planned to build a six-foot-high privacy fence and maintain as many trees as possible to obscure the view of the development from residents in Kendallwood.

The application went on the contend that the proposed use would have less impact on the neighborhood than other projects that might want to use that site. Further, the lot is in a transition area between residential and commercial, so building this type of project provides a reasonable transition between the two areas.

Lastly, the application pointed out that the features of the property make it a challenge to develop. The proposed use is one that can largely fit within the constraints imposed by zoning and site plan regulations if the variance were granted.

The board had questions about the number of parking spaces the business needed.  After some back and forth with Routhier and the applicant, the board arrived at a need of 20 parking spaces for the salon/spa customers alone. The plan calls for 26 parking spaces.  Londonderry regulations require 23 spaces based solely on the building size.

The board wondered if that would be enough spots when taking into account the needs of the leased offices.  Routhier stated that they would have an easement for the adjacent lot for six more spaces. Vice Chair Jacqueline Benard clarified that this is possible as long as one owner owns both lots, but if the second lot were sold, then they may not have access to those six spots.

During public comment abutter Sharon Reed described a drainage problem that exists today, wondering if anything would be done about it as part of this project.  Routhier, said that nothing was planned, but that they would be sure not to make the issue any worse. Reed also thanked the developer for trying to take into account the concerns of the abutters. Nobody from the public spoke in opposition to the variance.

In 2015, the Planning Board approved plans on this site for Cabonnay, a restaurant and wine house that was ultimately built in Manchester after the owner decided to locate their business there instead.

Vice Chair Jacqueline Benard asked what the business would do for the wedding parties if the patio area were not allowed. Maillet stated that they would host them indoors in a more cramped space as they do now, but that her preference was to offer a better experience.

Ultimately, the variance was approved 3-2 with Benard and Chair Neil Dunn voting against and members Brunelle, Beradino and Tirabassi voting in favor.  Those voting against expressed concern with the size of the building relative to the lot size, as well as the size of the parking lot.

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