Testimony against variance still valid

To the Editor:

In 2014, Bedford’s Zoning Board of Adjustment denied an application for a variance from the Zoning Ordinance to permit a gas station on property located in the commercial zone at 2 Hardy Road. Gas stations are not permitted uses in the commercial zone.

In a letter dated April 21, 2014, from the Town of Bedford to the property owner denying its application for a variance, it was noted that with regards to "whether granting the variance would threaten public health, safety and welfare" the ZBA "determined that the potential ramifications were enormous with the project area having a high value wetland and an aquifer." On the issue of whether the "spirit of the ordinance is observed" the ZBA agreed the "application is for an automotive use and the corridor study expressly excluded those and the ordinance did as well." The ZBA agreed there were other uses for which the property could be developed. Having failed to obtain a variance, the property owner has now requested the Planning Board to consider (at its upcoming workshop at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, BCTV) whether to recommend amending the Zoning Ordinance to permit gas stations in the commercial zone, paving the way for development of a gas station on the property.

The wealth of testimony and evidence presented at the 2014 ZBA hearings against use of the property as a gas station remain valid today. Article I of the Zoning Ordinance notes that its purpose "is to promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the inhabitants of Bedford…" Both the Zoning Ordinance and the Rt. 101 Corridor Study stress the exclusion of automotive uses in the commercial zone. Against the backdrop of (1) the Saint-Gobain water crises affecting hundreds of households in southern New Hampshire (including in the Town of Bedford); (2) contamination from the former Bedford Town landfill affecting the water quality of yet another segment of households in Bedford; and (3) evidence that even the "new tanks" at the former Stop & Shop gas station location (Kilton Road, Bedford) had leaks – the pursuit of an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to allow gas stations on property noted for its "high value wetland and aquifer" for which potentially enormous ramifications exist with respect to the health, safety and welfare of Bedford residents, would be unreasonable. I encourage you to attend the workshop to learn more. Thank you.

Jason Cole