Hinsdale Planning Board accepts land donation

Wednesday December 5, 2012

HINSDALE, N.H. -- The process of building a new police station can now move forward after the town's planning board voted to accept a donated piece of Main Street property following much deliberation at Tuesday's meeting.

The meeting, held during an adjournment of the Board of Selectmen meeting at the town hall, consisted of numerous questions and comments from the public as well as each board. Though a few planning board members expressed concern over the motion to accept the donation, the vote was unanimous.

Lewis Major owns the building at 8 Main St. and rented out the store space to Nafiz Alkhatib, who ran a convenience store out of the first floor until August, when a two-alarm fire broke out in an uninhabited apartment on the second floor. No one was harmed in the blaze but Hinsdale Fire Chief Jay Matuszewski said the building suffered some water damage after firefighters from various departments extinguished the flames and the store has not reopened.

Major and his wife have since decided to donate the land to Hinsdale.

Town Administrator Jill Collins has previously said the town would like to purchase the former veterinary clinic next door to Major's building for $38,000 to $39,000 so the police station would have more space to expand. She said the demolition of the two current buildings should cost about $55,000 to $57,000 and the Hinsdale Highway Department would do the ground work and set up the site. She also said demolition of a small building behind the property would likely cost $3,000. She said on Tuesday that Major's property is about a half-acre.

The land and the ensuing development of a new police station was a hotly-debated topic at Tuesday's meeting, which at times began to turn into a public hearing. Two public hearings were scheduled so citizens could have their voices heard on the whole matter. The first was last week and the second is slated for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 10, in the town hall.

Hinsdale residents had plenty to say at Tuesday's meeting and several were worried about spending town money.

When someone asked how much money was available in the Capital Reserve Fund, Collins said there is $300,000. Collins and the selectmen also stressed to concerned residents that accepting Major's donation will have no effect on taxpayers.

Before the planning board's vote, Major said he would have the building demolished by Friday, Jan. 1, if his donation was not accepted.

A few members of the planning board, including Morris "Mo" Klein, said they did not feel comfortable making the decision yet and would have liked the public to vote on whether to accept the gift at Town Meeting Day. All were told, however, this would not be done. Selectmen seemed eager to expedite the process.

When Klein asked Hinsdale Police Chief Todd Faulkner for the police department's opinion on the design crafted by architect Peter Tennant, he said an agreement was reached on the design. At the first public meeting, Tennant said the building would be 119 feet long and 31 feet wide.

"Growth is something we have to plan for," Faulkner said at Tuesday's meeting. "I think we'd be better able to serve the town on Main Street (as opposed to other possible locations)."

The town's police force has been working out of the temporary facility, on River Road, that it moved into in the 1980s.

Planning Board member Dwight Smith made the motion to accept Major's gift and Mike Darcy -- the Board of Selectmen's liaison to the planning board -- decided to second it after no one else would.

Despite everyone's hesitation, the motion passed. The planning board meeting was then adjourned so the selectmen could resume their meeting.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.


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