CHESTERFIELD, N.H. - The state hopes to break ground on a new Route 9 development within the next couple of weeks.
Plans to build a welcome center in the spot across from the Fleming Shell Station were scrapped about a year ago and now the piece of land less than a mile from the Vermont border will host only a liquor store.
The New Hampshire Department of Transportation had for more than three years explored the possibility of constructing a new welcome center, even going as far as drafting preliminary designs in 2008 for an 8,000square-foot facility, which would have included a liquor store.
But according to Liquor Commissioner Joseph Mollica, the state decided last year to downsize its number of welcome centers and withdrew management of the facilities from the NHDOT and handed it to the Department of Resources and Economic Development.
Bill Boynton, with the Transportation Department's public information office, said plans for a new welcome center were aborted because it does not make sense to build one while others are being closed throughout the Granite State. Mollica said welcome centers are owned by the NHDOT and controlled by NHDRED.
The commissioner said the planned liquor store will still have an area that acts as a welcome center of sorts, though it will not be official. He said there will be public restrooms as well as plenty of brochures to advertise ski areas, restaurants and nearby attractions.
Any store that sells spirits, or distilled alcoholic beverages, is owned by the state. The state is one of 18 in which the government directly controls the distribution and regulation of alcohol and Mollica said there are currently 77 such establishments in New Hampshire. Supermarkets and grocery stores are allowed to sell beer and wine.
He said the liquor store will likely employ four or five people in a full-time capacity and five to nine on a part-time basis.
The Reformer previously reported that Boynton said the transportation department has invested nearly $1 million for land acquisition and feasibility studies at the Route 9 site, just across the street from the Fleming Shell Station and Perkins Home Center. The state's Liquor Commission may get back some of that funding, he said.
"We have put a fair amount of money into this for the land purchase and for architectural engineering. A certain amount of the preliminary work that's been done at that site can be applied to that," Boynton said in August 2011. "We've been in discussions with (the liquor commission) to basically be compensated for that, they will pay us for at least the land."
The plans for the now-scrapped welcome center included 55 parking spaces and a 8,000- to 9,000-square-foot facility that would have held an informational booth for New Hampshire attractions, the state police and possible retail space, as well as the liquor outlet.
Chesterfield's Planning Board approved the center in 2008 and it was slated for completion the following year.
Concerns at a public hearing in August 2008 slowed down the process, and residents feared for vehicle safety at the center's intersection with Route 9.
Costs for the project were estimated at about $3 million.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-2542311, ext. 277.