EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 7, 2013

Neighbors continue to fight proposed Hampstead gas station

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — HAMPSTEAD — A group of Hampstead residents is still unhappy with a proposal for a new gas station/convenience store.

“It just doesn’t belong here,” said resident Gary Cyr, whose property abuts the proposed site. “There was no reason this plan should have even been discussed.”

Depot Crossing, a project proposed by Depot Development LLC, is a gas station, convenience store and Dunkin’ Donuts at the corner of Derry Road and Main Street (Route 121).

The Planning Board approved the project, 4-2, in November. That was after the Planning Board had denied a similar proposal in 2002.

“This shouldn’t have even been talked about since it was denied,” resident Chad Bennett said. “The only things that were changed was getting rid of an office space and changing some of the siding.”

Bennett holds a unique position, having been elected to the Planning Board in March. When the case is brought up at meetings, he recuses himself.

In response to the Planning Board vote, the 11 residents appealed the decision to Rockingham Superior Court. But the decision was upheld in June and the court denied reconsideration last month. Now, residents are considering taking it to the state Supreme Court.

“It would be nice to bring it there,” Bennett said. “But it costs a lot of money and lawyers to do that.”

Bruce Worthen, who co-owns Depot Development, said they are in wait-and-see mode.

“We feel the court made the right decision,” he said. “But for now we’re just waiting to see what they want to do.”

He maintains the plan is significantly different than the one proposed a decade ago.

“The design of the building and the square footage is different,” he said.

The proposal originally called for a 6,400-square-foot building. The new plan is for a 4,800-square-foot building.

Selectman Rick Hartung said he hopes the legal battles will end.

“I hope this has finally come to a conclusion,” he said. “I think the town needs to be in a progressive mode.”

But Bennett said one concern he still has is the safety of the intersection.

“They said there was less traffic going through the intersection than there was 10 years ago, which I just can’t believe,” he said.

Bennett said the residents wanted to conduct their own traffic study of the intersection, but did not have the $10,000 it would take to do so.

“I just know it’s going to be outrageous,” he said. “There’s going to be cars here from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.”

But Cyr’s biggest concern is the value of his property.

“Who’s going to buy my property now with that next door?” he said. “When I moved here, this was a residential neighborhood.”

Worthen said it didn’t surprise him that residents would go to court to fight the proposal.

“We knew there would be some people against it,” he said. “But it’s in a good location and a lot of people have been asking for it.”

The residents have until Aug. 12 to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. Worthen hopes to begin construction soon after that.

“We’d like to get most of our above-ground stuff done before winter,” he said.