Hess’ proposed project is prohibited in Bedford’s commercial zone – zoning restrictions were developed for a reason and should be upheld

To the Editor:

On Tuesday, March 18 at 7 p.m. at BCTV on Meetinghouse Road, the Bedford Zoning Board of Adjustment will conduct a public hearing on applications filed by the Amerada Hess Corporation to grant variances for 1. The erection of a fueling station and convenience store consisting of 12 dispensers and the placement of two 20,000 -gallon underground fuel storage tanks on land at 2 Hardy Road where such uses are expressly prohibited by town ordinance; 2. Encroachment into the property’s 50-foot wetland setback area for the erection of structures, including gas station canopy and monument sign; and 3. The erection of changeable signage on land where such signage is expressly prohibited by town ordinance.

Hess’s plans provide for access to the property via an access driveway that will intersect Hardy Road and a right-turn entrance-only driveway directly off of NH Route 101 – a mere 120 feet from the signalized intersection at Route 101/Hardy Road. There will not be a separate right-hand turn lane for vehicles wishing to enter the property from Route 101. Instead, patrons will need to slow down and make a right-hand turn directly from Route 101 shortly after the traffic light.

The meeting minutes from Hess’s conceptual plan meeting with the Planning Board on Dec. 16, indicate that with respect to hours of operation “ideally [Hess] would go for 24 hours, but if they can’t, traditionally they look for something along 5 a.m. to midnight.”

In light of the increased criminal activity resulting from the exploding drug problem in Manchester and surrounding areas, adding a late night cash business like a gas station/convenience store in a densely populated residential area borders on the absurd. Google “NH convenience store robbery” and see what you find. Add terms like “armed assailant” and “burglary” for more. Of equal concern is that granting these variances would make it easier for other businesses not permitted in Bedford’s commercial zone like fast food drive-thru restaurants to come in and argue for similar variances along the Route 101 Corridor, which Bedford’s Master plan had intended to remain “village” in nature. Changing the “use” to a gas station is effectively changing the commercial zone which is something that should be up to voters to decide.

Please join the growing number of Bedford residents opposing this project by attending the March 18 ZBA hearing. Thank you for your support.