Balise finds temporary home for Subaru dealership in Hadley

Hadley  04-19-2023

Hadley 04-19-2023

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 05-24-2024 3:57 PM

HADLEY — Two vacant Route 9 commercial buildings will be used on a temporary basis as the headquarters for Balise Subaru, as the dealership transitions from Steve Lewis Subaru and constructs a new showroom and service area at 315 Russell St.

The Planning Board Tuesday waived site plan review for Balise’s plans to use the properties at 299 Russell St., the former Rocky’s Ace Hardware, and 301 Russell St., previously TJ’s True Value Rental before that business consolidated in South Hadley two years ago. The waiver of site plan review will be in effect through Sept. 1, 2025.

Thomas Reidy, an attorney with Bacon Wilson, PC of Amherst, told planners that the use of the neighboring properties originated from a conversation between property owner Barry Roberts, an Amherst developer, and Jeb Balise, president of Balise Motor Sales.

“It made a lot of sense to have this site act as the auto dealership while Balise is going to be constructing their new site at 315 Russell St.,” Reidy said.

Balise’s offices, service and display vehicles will be at the adjacent site until the 31,568-square-foot showroom and service area are ready for occupancy.

Reidy said the two signs that are not compliant with town zoning at 299 and 301 Russell, which are internally illuminated and include a scrolling message board, will be removed, and a new sign will go up.

Planning Board Chairman James Maksimoski said the temporary site meets town zoning, as it is more than two miles from the only other new car dealership in town, Country Nissan, and is contiguous with the current dealership.

Maksimoski said if the site is retained for use by Balise after construction is complete, though, a full-site plan review would be needed. Earlier this spring, Roberts had proposed renovating the buildings for different tenants.

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“If something else is going to happen there, we’ll be back,” Reidy said, adding that it’s unclear what it will be used for after the year-long lease ends.

In other business, planners held off on discussing a traffic impact study provided by Richard Alcorn, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, for the building at 300 Venture Way.

The study is a requirement of seeking authorization to move a portion of the school’s campus from Route 9. Alcorn will return for the June 4 meeting.

The board approved an alteration for the Starbucks, 344 Russell St., that will see the menu board from the drive-thru relocate about 30 feet to the east.

Danielle Leonor, a civil engineer with Kimley-Horn engineers of Waltham, said the change to the drive-thru will help with vehicle queuing and the speed of getting customers their orders.

Finally, the board OK’d some changes for 379 Russell St., the former Moe’s restaurant space, for use by a different restaurant, Skinny Pancake. This includes installation of a walk-in freezer at the rear of the building, eliminating three parking spaces and changes to the outdoor seating area.

But planners advised Tim Coon of J.R. Russo and Associates of East Windsor, Connecticut, that a plan to place a large storage container within an existing dumpster enclosure is not permitted under town zoning.

Signe Powers, a representative from Phase Zero Design in Simsbury, Connecticut, told the Planning Board that Skinny Pancake may eventually need a larger freezer that could affect more parking and vehicular access, and also might change the exterior color of the building. Should those changes happen, the business will have to come back for those approvals, as well as for the sign.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.