CONWAY — The Conway Planning Board on March 24 conditionally approved plans to redevelop the former Friendly’s property at 3465 White Mountain Highway, as well as plans to build a new TD Bank at the corner of Eastman Road and White Mountain Highway, both in North Conway.
Plans for the former Friendly’s property, presented by GREP WMH II, call for demolishing the former restaurant and constructing a 2,400-square-foot Meredith Village Savings Bank, a 5,450-square-foot Evviva Trattoria Italian restaurant and a yet-to-be rented 5,148-square-foot retail building.
Chris Meier of Cooper Cargill Chant, representing the developers, said he and Settlers Green associates had been able to resolve a connecting driveway easement issue by moving a driveway that was planned to be further east on the north side of the property abutting Settlers Streetside further west toward the front of the property.
The developers also own the abutting Airport Square south of the 2.5-acre Friendly’s site.
At a prior appearance before the board in February, Grant and Porter had asked developers to consider adding affordable housing by adding a second floor to the yet-to-be-rented retail store.
Their request came after Kaela Tavares of the North Country Council had encouraged that idea in its review of the project.
Asked about that proposal at last Thursday’s meeting, Meier, representing the developers, and project engineer Randy Miron of Bohler Engineering of Southborough, Mass., said they were open to adding housing at other potential sites but deemed it was not appropriate for this location.
Chris Needham of GREP WMH II (Gaspee Real Estate Partners of East Greenwich, R.I.) had told the Sun last June that he and Gaspee partner Steve Hardy had purchased the Friendly’s property in March for $1.9 million.
Meanwhile, the TD Bank plans call for razing the existing 2,305-square-foot building at the corner of Eastman Road and White Mountain Highway in North Conway and replacing it with a new 2,873-square-foot TD Bank with a three-lane drive-thru (replacing the current two bays) and 31 parking spaces.
After sending owners back to the drawing board at a previous meeting, the Conway Planning Board conditionally approved the new TD Bank design.
The board voted 5-2 to grant bank representatives a waiver to depart from the adherence to New England architecture styles called for by zoning regulations.
Voting in favor were chair Ben Colbath, vice chair Ailie Byers, selectmen’s representative Steve Porter and members Bill Barbin and Erik Corbett; voting against were Eliza Grant and Sarah Frechette. Grant had raised issues with the design at the Feb. 10 meeting.
Returning to make their revised presentation were civil engineer Nicole Duquette of Greenman-Pedersen Inc. of Portland, Maine, and architect Jason Cohen of Burgmeyer Associates of Boston. They first appeared before the board for conceptual review before the board on Dec. 9, 2021.
Colbath had noted at the previous meeting that the town’s New England architecture regulations are vague.
Duquette and Cohen pointed out that the new design ties in with the look of nearby structures such as the L.L. Bean outlet and the REI Co-op store at Settlers Crossing.
They said the new building would be “reminiscent of a modern ski chalet lodge” with timber-type architecture.
Colbath and Porter have said at past meetings while the look of the building would not be welcomed in North Conway Village, it fit that section of town near Settlers Crossing.
Colbath and Porter reiterated the new layout would be a vast improvement to the one-story modular structure that was put up in the mid-1970s.
Cohen said as requested by the planning board, they had added an additional window on the drive-thru window side of the building.
Duquette said they received an OK from the state Department of Transportation for the driveway which will be moved further east toward the southern edge of the property to improve vehicle safety near the busy Route 16/Eastman Road intersection.
The board by a 6-1 vote granted a waiver for lighting, with Frechette casting the lone dissenting vote as she had explained she is a stickler on lighting.
Town zoning regulations call for commercial developments to “complement the overall New England-style ambiance,” but Porter has noted that although the town has had those regulations, they have not always been enforced as evidenced by many structures that have been approved over the years by the board.
Colbath has said that with the hiring of new Town Planning Director Jamel Torres this past October, better defining those architectural guideline regulations is one of many tasks the board needs to address, including updating the town’s master plan.