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Zoning board officially votes down Exit 41 development

June 18, 2014
LITTLETON—Last week, the zoning board formally rejected an applicant's request to withdraw the proposed retail development in a residential area near I-93 Exit 41. Board members then unanimously agreed to deny the application itself.

At a four-hour hearing in late May, the applicant asked for the withdrawal after sensing opposition from board members and hearing much dissent from abutters. A 90,000 square foot commercial facility was proposed for the spot. The applicant was Rhode Island-based Noble Development.

The board's discussion last week centered on information received from the town's attorney after the May hearing. Member Sean Sweeney said the board should take an up or down vote on the application, or "a never ending process" would ensue.

Continuing a discussion of the application, chairman Eddy Moore noted that a diminution of property value could be expected if the large commercial building was constructed in a residential zone. Member Art Tighe agreed with Moore.

Sweeney added that the applicant had not hired a certified appraiser to demonstrate that home values in the neighborhood would not be affected. Although realtor Andy Smith provided data to the board at the May hearing, members doubted Smith's conclusion that the development would not negatively impact the nearby homeowners.

Additionally, Sweeney said the proposed site, which includes some wetlands, could still be used for residential development. As at the May hearing, board members stressed their interest in protecting the residential nature of the area, including a new housing development in Bethlehem that overlooks the site.

As the discussion wrapped up, Sweeney made the motion to deny the application. After Tighe's second, the five board members unanimously approved the application's denial.

Also at the meeting, the board quickly approved a setback variance at 304 South Street. William Little presented the board his plans to build a two-car garage that would slightly expand on the footprint of an existing shed. The board was informed that site's slope prevented placing the garage in another location, prompting the need for the variance. In response to Moore's question, Little said the slope would ensure runoff would not impact a neighbor.

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