standing Charlestown Town Hall

CHARLESTOWN — The Planning Commission heard additional testimony at a public information meeting Wednesday on an application for a 30,000-square-foot self-storage facility on Route 1.

Testifying on behalf of the developer were several expert witnesses, including the project architect, landscape architect, and a hydrologist.

Storage Place LLC is proposing to build a two-unit facility on property purchased from Charlestown Willows Inc. The project, which would be built on 2.8 acres in a flood zone, calls for elevating the site by 1 foot at the road and by 6 feet at the rear of the lot where it slopes to the water. Fill would be trucked to the site.

The developer’s attorney, Steven Surdut, told the commission that the plan had been modified following the previous hearing, at which the project had been presented.

“The project that we’re coming before the board with tonight is very different than the project previously proposed to the board,” he said. “The layouts are different, the site  plan is different. We’ve taken great care and time to go back and review the recommendations of your staff as well as the commission.”

One of the concerns relates to the location of the site, which is entirely within the Groundwater Protection District and is therefore subject to additional regulations.

The revised plan will comprise two 15,000-square foot buildings rather than the five buildings in the first proposal, and all units will be entered from the inside. There will be no drains in the units. Hazardous materials will not be accepted and there will be no exterior or vehicle storage. A single, advanced septic system, for use only by employees working at the site, will not be available to the public.

Hydrologist Robert Ferrari, owner of Northeast Water Solutions Inc. of Exeter, described the geology and drainage of the site, which slopes down to Ninigret Pond. There is a low density, residential neighborhood down the hill from the proposed facility, which depends entirely on wells for its drinking water.

Ferrari concluded that the facility would have no impact on drinking water wells in the vicinity.

“The site itself is above the 100-year floodplain once the grade adjustments are made,” Ferrari said. “There’s no change to the existing regional or even local drainage patterns. The building design provides inherent containment. The building design and operation, as well as the prohibitions of use at the facility, will minimize any potential contaminant risk in terms of what materials can be brought to the site.”

Also testifying were project architect Julia Leeming and landscape architect Hali Beckman.

Leeming presented the commission with options for roof pitch and height, as well as a different siding material, which has been upgraded from standard metal to a neutral-colored clapboard. The color of the roof would be changed from the blue customarily used by the developer to a dark green. The objective, Leeming explained, is to render the facility as unobtrusive as possible.

“I think the overall takeaway from driving on Post Road is that the scenic highway is distinguished by buildings that are simple in form, deferential to the landscape and the view of the trees and the sky is really what you take away from the experience of driving on Post Road and the experience of Post Road is really an experience from the car,” she said. 

Members of the Route 1 Scenic Roadway Committee oppose the project and have sent a letter to Town Planner Jane Weidman stating that it was "not compatible with the goals and values of a Scenic Roadway and could even lead to the revocation of its designation, along with the additional protections and funding which that designation confers.”

Beckman presented the landscape plan, which includes the preservation of mature trees and the addition of vegetative buffers, consisting mainly of native plants.

“We meet and exceed the standards for the town and we have over 20 percent open space,” she said. “Our plantings exceed what the town requires in both numbers and height. We’ve taken into account with the plantings that they are truly drought-tolerant and salt tolerant.”

The council chamber was filled with residents who live near the proposed project, several of whom have written letters urging the commission to reject the proposal because of what they called its incompatibility with the neighborhood and its potential to pollute the aquifer and their wells. 

The hearing was continued to May 22.


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