The Derry Planning Board has approved the first project since a portion of Lenox Road was rezoned last month.
The board approved the expansion of Sal’s Pizza at 2 Lenox Road.
Phil McCabe, a staff member of the Lupoli Co., representing owner Salvatore Lupoli, and Peter Ellison, an engineer with TEC Inc., appeared before the board at the July 6 meeting.
The property is PID 32032 and is zoned General Commercial. The two properties at 4 and 6 Lenox Road were rezoned General Commercial last month, but the change will have no impact on this project, which will be done in the current footprint.
The proposal is to demolish the current two-story building and erect a one-story building of 2,230 square feet. While it will have the same number of seats, the floor plan will be less congested and there will be a larger kitchen, McCabe said.
The Sal’s property abuts a parking lot owned by St. Thomas Aquinas Church, fronting on Crystal Avenue, and also abuts Jim Derderian’s property, the former Merrimack Valley Wood Products, which is on the market and slated for redevelopment.
Chairman David Granese read a letter from the Manchester Diocese representing St. Thomas Aquinas Church, which stated that the diocese has no objection to the Sal’s project, with one exception: pizza customers tend to park in the church’s lot. The church asked for a natural or artificial barrier between its lot and Sal’s, to discourage foot traffic. The church lot is needed for Masses and funerals, the letter said.
The church requested a line of arborvitae trees rather than a manmade fence, according to the letter.
Attorney Gary M. Burke, who wrote the letter, stated that “natural fences have been required by the Planning Board on numerous occasions” and a line of trees would not provide an “undue burden” to the church.
Town engineer Mark L’Heureux said there were no major issues from a staff perspective. However, he said, he wants to see a test pit done and ensure the drainage will go to the catch basin. Right now, he said, all the water flows across Lenox Road, and he wants to see that mitigated.
“I’ve got nothing against Sal’s,” board vice-chair John O’Connor said. But as a communicant of St. Thomas Aquinas, he noted that the church was always busy and frequently used its parking lot.
O’Connor said there is already a paved walkway from Sal’s to the church lot. “We can’t control his patrons,” he said, adding that he would still like to see some kind of buffer.
O’Connor also mentioned that Lupoli has been “great to the community,” contributing to causes and letting church youth groups use his water for car washes.
“Whatever you want us to do, we’ll do,” Ellison said. “We can place arborvitae so it’s more difficult to walk through.”
Alternate member Mark Connors said a fence would most likely get knocked down and that there were already bushes between the two entities. He pleaded guilty to using the church parking lot, noting, “The pizza at Sal’s is too good not to.”
Member Jim MacEachern at first said he would not support the buffer request. “We’re not talking about people parking there two or three hours,” he said. “At most, it’s two to three minutes to pick up a pizza.” The church doesn’t operate 24-7, he said. “It would be a different situation if it was all activity, all the time. We don’t require barriers in other situations.
“This is a contiguous commercial development,” MacEachern said. “It doesn’t rise to the level of these guys having to put up a fence.”
But O’Connor contended that the church is frequently busy with more than Mass, funerals and weddings. “I would support a fence or the arborvitae,” he said.
“A fence is too permanent and arborvitae would be trampled,” MacEachern responded.
“We like the openness,” McCabe said. “But whatever the board wants us to do, we’ll do.”
MacEachern said, “We still don’t know what’s going to be done with the Derderian property. We may open a Pandora’s Box later. If we do a little thing here, it may affect that later.”
MacEachern added, “I almost prefer putting a condition on it that when the Derderian property is developed, they should talk to Sal at that time. It doesn’t make sense now.”
Alternate member Elizabeth Carver asked McCabe why they were tearing down the building and not remodeling it. McCabe said due to the aging plumbing and fixtures, it made more sense to “start from the ground up and do it the right way.
“Derry has been good to us,” McCabe said. “We are excited about the expansion.” Sal’s has been in Derry 20 years, he noted.
The board voted unanimously to take jurisdiction of the project and to approve waivers including Dumpster location, parking setback, number of parking spaces, green spaces and residential buffer. In a straw poll, the board voted 7-2 against adding a condition to plant arborvitae. They voted 6-3 to add a condition to have Sal’s negotiate with Derderian when that property is developed. But Planning Director George Sioras pointed out that when that happens, both Sal’s and the church will receive notice as abutters.
The board voted 8-1 to approve the site plan.