Council Denies Former Rep's Request to Change Zoning; Residents Applaud [VIDEO]
The Portsmouth Town Council heard a request to change zoning at the former Briggs' farm Monday night at Town Hall.
A fully-packed Town Council chamber erupted in applause Monday night after the council denied a change in zoning for the Briggs' property on West Main Road.
Former state Rep. Vincent Mesolella, a well-known developer, petitioned the council to change the Briggs' property at 905 West Main Road from "light industrial" to "commercial."
After hearing from nearly a half dozen Portsmouth residents and Mesolella, the council voted 6-0 to deny the petition for a zoning change. Councilor Jim Seveney was absent.
Nearly an hour and a half earlier, the hearing seemed like it might not be held at all.
Council President Joe Robicheau questioned whether the council would consider continuing since the Planning Board did not provide all the necessary documentation.
"Apparently, the Planning Board has not submitted all the documents required. I'm a little uncomfortable proceeding," he said. "One thing they are supposed to submit is their findings."
The hearing eventually continued with council members first questioning Mesolella about the zoning change.
Council sharply questions former state rep
Councilor Michael Buddemeyer was the first to question the use of the land, when he asked, "What's the value to the town if we make this change?"
Mesolella said tax revenue from retail or mixed-use could exceed $1 million for the town.
Buddemeyer further questioned the property's use, bringing up the Clock Tower Square development just down the road.
"People don't go where they ain't. They ain't gonna go where there's no activity," Mesolella said. "...Where you find a McDonalds, you find a Burger King, you find a Wendy's; that's what attracts people."
Councilors further questioned the use of this development and potential future tenants. Mesolella said there were no tenants in mind.
"There's a misconception that a Target will be built there, or a Lowe's or a K-Mart. I'm here to tell you, none of that is true," said the former state representative.
However, he later said the site could very well be used for "petroleum distribution," or in other words, a gas station.
Residents ask council to deny request
One after another, several residents of Kings Grant and neighboring streets asked the council to deny the request.
"To change this beautiful dairy and farm into Helter Skelter is not what's good for Portsmouth," said resident Claudette Weissinger.
At one point, a resident recommended the council ask how many in the audience were in support of the change.
Robicheau asked those in favor to raise their hands. Not one single hand was seen.
He then asked those against the change to raise their hands. More than 50 arms shot up throughout the chamber.
Bill Clark, business director for the town of Portsmouth, spoke in favor of commercial development. Councilor Paul Kesson also said there was a need for business growth.
"This town has to move forward with commercial development, but it has to be consistent with the town," Kesson said.