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Castleberry Fairs

Developers preview Wal-Mart expansion plans


April 25, 2012
LACONIA — Representatives for WS Development went before the Gilford and Laconia Conservation Commissions last week to address concerns surrounding the potential impact the expansion of the Gilford Wal-Mart could have on nearby wetlands.

Caleb Perrin, project manager for WS Development, the Massachusetts-based firm which owns the property, said they plan to demolish 22,000-square-feet of the existing plaza, and add about 60,000-square feet for the new 130,000-square-foot Super Center.

According to Perrin, the new Gilford Super Center would be 20,000-square-feet smaller that the average Super Center, which he said usually measure around 150,000-square-feet.

According to Bill Stack, Vice President of Engineering for Steven J. Smith and Associates, Inc., the addition would be on the Northwest side of the plaza, and would extend into a designated wetlands area.

According to Stack, the new construction would impact about 31,000-square-feet of wetlands in Laconia and 211-square-feet of wetlands in Gilford.

Tom Sokoloski, a wetlands and soil scientist with Schauer Environmental Consultants, said the wetlands area is a wooded section that slopes into a wetlands. According to Sokolski, there were many large trees typically found in up-land areas and not in wetlands, and on his visits during different seasons, he found no surface water or vernal pools typical of wetlands.

As far as soil, Sokolski said it was a dense, hard-pan, and, though it was designated as wetlands, it was very dry.

"It's about as dry a wetland as you can find," said Sokolski.

According to Sokolski, there were no other practical alternatives to disturbing the wetlands that would meet their project goals.

According to Stack, they planned to upgrade the water drainage and runoff pools, constructed 22 years ago during the initial construction of the plaza, to accommodate any increase volume and further protect the wetlands below.

According to Attorney Rod Dyer, representing WS Development, they met with the Gilford Conservation Commission during their meeting Tuesday, April 17 to discuss any concerns.

Their meeting with the Laconia Conservation Commission last Thursday, April 19 was fairly informal, as the Commission did not have enough members present for a quorum.

According to Dyer, the representatives for the project had not filed any forms or a site plan and wanted to informally discuss any potential concerns from town officials prior to filing any formal paperwork.

According to Perrin, WS Development would eventually hand the project over to Walmart. During construction, Perrin said Walmart would remain open and merge with the new construction upon its completion. Perrin said existing stores in the plaza would relocate to other open space in the plaza.

Laconia Conservation Commission members said they would like to accompany the representatives on a walk of the premiss to get a first-hand look at the area to be impacted by new construction.

According to Dyer, WS Development will be filing a formal site plan some time in early May.

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