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Proposed Hess gas station draws questions

BEDFORD — A Hess gas station and convenience store is proposed for the intersection of Route 101 and Hardy Road, but concerns about town ordinances and access lanes along Route 101 need to be addressed.

Although the applicant, Amerada Hess Corp., has to seek several variance approvals from the Zoning Board of Adjustment, its representatives met with the Planning Board on Dec. 16 to gather input on a conceptual plan.

Phil Tucker, a Manchester attorney, and Lou Destefano, of Bohler Engineering in Massachusetts, presented the proposed 2,480-square-foot convenience store and 16 self-service fueling stations — eight bays serving two vehicles each — that would be located diagonally across from Hannaford supermarket on Route 101 and Jenkins Road. The station would provide left- and right-turn access from Hardy Road, and a right-turn only entrance and a right-turn only exit along Route 101. Single-family homes abut the site to the north and northwest behind the wooded wetlands off Hardy Road.

The original building was redesigned after discussions with the town's planning staff, said Destefano. The convenience store would have clapboard siding, architectural asphalt shingles, and a cupola on the roof giving the building a height of 39 feet. The fueling station canopy would mimic the style of the store.

"The more modern look was not in character with the area," said Destefano.If approved, the Hess station will join other gas stations within several miles of each other, including the RPM Mobil in town center, the Worthen's Irving station at 470 Route 101, the Circle K Irving station on White Avenue off Route 114, the food mart and gas station at 381 Boynton St., and the Mobil station on Technology Drive.

Planning Board member Deb Sklar voiced concerns about town ordinances for gas stations and automobile usage on Route 101. She said the neighborhood near the proposed Hess station has always tried to retain a bit of character and distinguish itself from the Route 3 performance zone. She pointed out zoning ordinances that have been in place for several years along that section of Route 101 restricting fast food restaurants and limiting automobile services.

"I don't think we need another gas station there, and I don't think it helps the character of 101," she said. "Those ordinances were very thought out."

Chairman Paul Goldberg asked why the entrance and exit lanes were 24 feet wide, to which Destefano responded the curb cuts would accommodate fast-moving traffic. But Goldberg questioned whether it was wiser to reduce lane widths to make drivers slow down before entering the station.

Steve Worthen, owner of the 470 Route 101 Irving station, said his family has been in business in Bedford for more than 40 years, and financed a $10 million project about 10 years ago to rebuild the facility to fit the community. He said granting Hess approval will create hardship for his family, and will add more traffic accidents at Hardy Road and Route 101.

"We made this commitment on the basis of the zoning ordinance that states gas stations cannot be located within a two-mile radius of an existing gas station," Worthen said. The Hess station would be in the commercial zone and has several features that need approval from the ZBA, including a variance for a fueling station at the location; allowing retaining walls, propane tank, sign, canopy, and store within the 50-foot wetlands setback; the canopy within the 60-foot front setback to Route 101; a gas-pricing changeable sign; a rooftop sign on the canopy; more than one building sign; and a waiver for a Dumpster within 30 feet of a property line at Route 101.

A ZBA hearing has not been set as the applicant will first go before the Conservation Commission because of the wetland mitigation.

The Planning Board granted a time extension to Diane L. Riley Revocable Trust to obtain a building permit for a bank at Route 101 and Nashua Road. The project was approved with conditions in September 2008, reapproved in June 2009 and in September 2012, and plans were modified in December 2012.

Planning Board member Jon Levenstein, who spoke on behalf of the applicant, said the project has been delayed because of ledge removal, and an illegal wire placed on a pole by PSNH, which is being corrected.

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