Not so fast, Home Depot! The Planning Board in Merrimack, NH was not ready to pave the way for a 134,000 s.f. Depot on Route 101A. In fact, the Board sent the company away with a list of 20 items of homework, ranging from noise impact to environmental problems. Home Depot has apparently come to Merrimack as a second choice after failing in a 2 year battle to build a second store in neighboring Nashua, NH. The Depot already has one store on the southside of Nashua, but couldn’t overcome opposition to a store slated for the Nashua Mall. The Merrimack site is only a few miles away from the failed Nashua site. But neighbors in Merrimack were ready for the Depot’s pitch. They came to the hearing armed with case history about Home Depot in other towns. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Chair of the Planning Board said: “They (residents) certainly opened the board’s eyes on the possibility that this particular landlord hasn’t always been a good neighbor.” The land in question borders residential property to the north and west, and neighbors raised the issue of noise and groundwater pollution, since the site is located near a town well. Residents also claimed they had found cases of 15 hazardous spills at Home Depot in state and federal data bases, as well as numerous town battles with Home Depot over local ordinance violations. At the hearing, the former manager of Home Depot in south Nashua testified that he would not believe Home Depot’s assurances that no chemically treated lumber would be stored outside the building. The manager produced photographs of pressure-treated lumber stored outside the Nashua store.The Planning Board voted unanimously to table indefinitely the Home Depot project, leaving the Home Depot homeless — for now. The Board listed hours of operation, limiting truck deliveries, limiting lighting, a spill retention system for the garden center, indoor storage of pressure-treated lumber, a post-construction noise evaluation, restrictions on outdoor speakers, and road improvement plans as some of the concerns of the Board. But such “obstacles” are not unusual in Home Depot cases, and the company is expected to come back and respond to each of their homework questions. It will be at that point that residents learn whether or not their Planning Board has really had its “eyes opened” on the impact of a Home Depot on their community.
For further information on the Merrimack, NH battle against Home Depot, contact Carolee Dalton, 22 Joey Road, Merrimack, NH 03054, or sprawl-busters.