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The Market Basket in Bedford is under construction. (courtesy)

Bedford Market Basket construction on schedule to open in 2013

BEDFORD - Construction of a new 78,500-square-foot Market Basket at the intersection of Donald Street and Route 114 is on schedule for a spring opening, despite two lawsuits from competitor Hannaford that are winding their way through the courts.

The foundation is 95 percent complete, and the building's steel frame is more than 50 percent complete, according to Herb Hancock, project superintendent for Pro Con of Manchester. 'The loading dock area is complete, and we are beginning work on the exterior framing,' he said. 'The building will be completely weather-tight by November.'

Pro Con began the Bedford project in June and has scheduled a late spring 2013 completion date. The company just completed a 100,000-square-foot Market Basket in March on Elm Street in downtown Manchester.

'They seem to be on a good schedule, and keeping up with their target dates,' Planning Director Rick Sawyer said. 'All the road work is going very well.'

Work on Donald Street and construction of a new roundabout near the site have been under way for about a month, Sawyer said, with no significant traffic delays. The town has been posting traffic alerts on the town website and announcements on BCTV as needed.

The new Market Basket will include a Market's Cafe, a Market's Kitchen and an in-store bakery. The store will add a major new player to the local grocery scene, with Hannaford, Stop & Shop and Harvest Market already operating in Bedford.

Hannaford has been trying to block the project through two separate lawsuits, basically crying 'foul' over variances granted by the zoning board and zoning changes approved by voters. The Maine-based grocery chain in 2010 appealed to Hillsborough County Superior Court a decision by the zoning board to grant a variance that allowed the 78,500-square-foot building on a site restricted to 40,000-square-foot buildings.

The town argued that Hannaford, which is not a direct abutter to the project, does not have standing to bring a lawsuit over the variance. That position prevailed in Superior Court, and Hannaford Bros. appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Attorneys for both sides have filed briefs as of Sept. 6, but no date has been set for oral arguments in the case, according to Laura Kiernan, state court system spokesman.

Mark Derby, an attorney for Hannaford Bros., told the Bedford Bulletin in August that the company is just seeking a level playing field. 'Hannaford has no objection whatsoever to another supermarket in town, as long as it's capped at 40,000-square-feet, just as the Hannaford supermarket was required to be when it built its store in 2006-2007,' he said.

Sawyer said the Route 101 Hannaford site and the new Market Basket site are entirely different. 'Obviously we see them as totally different sites,' he said. 'I don't believe Hannaford could have gotten a larger location on that site, at the corner of Jenkins Road.'

The second lawsuit, filed by Hannaford Bros. this year, seeks to overturn a March town meeting vote at which 70 percent of the voters approved a zoning change converting the Donald Street area at issue from mixed use to commercial 2, which has no footprint restrictions.

'That case was just filed recently,' Sawyer said. 'In essence, they claim it was some kind of illegal spot zoning, which of course we disagree with.'

Market Basket is likely to be open and operating before both lawsuits are settled, and has posted a bond of several hundred thousand dollars that would be used to tear down the building and restore the site should Hannaford prevail.

'Market Basket is moving forward at their own risk,' Sawyer said. 'They have bonded with Bedford to return the entire site to a cow field or a grass field, with everything above grade being removed, should it come to that.'

Market Basket is also covering most of the legal costs associated with both lawsuits, according to Bedford Finance Director Crystal Dionne, who said the town's combined expenditures in both cases to date has only been in the range of $4,200.

'When the issue first arose, the town made it clear that we were not going to incur legal bills to defend Market Basket,' she said. 'Market Basket stepped in and said they would.'

dsolomon@unionleader.com..

        

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