Others, including Cleary, suggested that conditional approval was necessary because the city is another governmental entity with its own processes that don’t affect Plaistow.
“I realize Haverhill is a difficult city to deal with. That’s why I think it should be conditional approval,” Cleary said. “The Planning Board is going to find itself in difficulty with the set of issues in Haverhill and other state agencies. This is just going to get mired down because we don’t know how they act. We don’t know what they require. We’ll address them as the applicant. If we don’t get those various approvals, we can’t proceed — and we’re prepared for that.”
Another heavy topic of discussion was parking requirements. Attorney Geoffrey Dowd, representing nearby Heav’nly Donuts, argued that the plans would place too great a burden on the plaza’s parking needs.
“Would we allow an 88-seat cafe or restaurant in the parking lot at Wal-Mart or allow Sovereign (Bank) to be turned into an 88-seat restaurant?” he said. “This is going to create, I do firmly believe, one of the most overburdened lots in town.”
Dowd also suggested that the site could become an example of what to avoid in future planning projects.
“I also don’t want this to be a project that, five or 10 years down the road, the Planning Board sitting at the time looks back on a future project that comes along and says, ‘This looks like another Panera. We don’t want to do that again,’” he said.
Komornick responded by saying portions of the parking lot near the proposed Panera Bread location are frequently empty and serve as “a free for all” parking space for multiple businesses in the plaza.
“It’s not being used for anything. It’s a free for all,” she said. “It isn’t like that parking lot has been full out there.”