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Jehovah’s Witnesses church to move forward in Merrimack after zoning board ruling

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Jehovah’s Witnesses church to move forward in Merrimack after zoning board ruling

MERRIMACK – Plans for a Jehovah’s Witnesses church will move forward after a Merrimack board voted this week to uphold its support of the controversial project.

The Merrimack Zoning Board of Adjustments re-stated its support for the Kingdom Hall, proposed to be built on Wire Road, with a unanimous vote Wednesday to deny a rehearing of the project.

After initially denying approval in 2010, the board reversed its stance this fall in the face of a lawsuit waged by congregation elders. But, Bob and Donna Walles, who live directly across the street from the 63 Wire Road property, requested the board reconsider the matter, charging that members based their decision more on the lawsuit than on the merits of the project.

“Since ‘cost to the Town’ is not one of the specified criteria (for zoning board approval), it therefor should not be sufficient reason to overturn the previous decision,” the Walles wrote in a December letter to the zoning board.

But, at Wednesday’s meeting, the board members denied the couple’s request without discussion in a 5-0 vote.

“Obviously, the board didn’t feel like we’d made a mistake or that the decision was unreasonable,” Phil Straight, the board’s vice-chairman, said Thursday. “We didn’t think their request met the standards of (state law).”

Moving forward, the Walles could appeal the board’s decision to Superior Court.

“The last thing I want to do is sue my town, but the thing is, I didn’t start this,” Bob Walles said Thursday. “We’ll have to see what our options are.”

Meanwhile, congregation elders will move forward with their planning. They recently completed the purchase of the property, north of Mallard Point Road, and they’re scheduled to appear Feb. 7 before the town planning board to continue the site plan review process.

Once they gain planning board approval, construction work could begin within months, and the church could open within a year, according to Ralph Randall, the congregation’s project development director.

“We’re looking forward to getting started,” Randall said earlier this week.

The congregation, which consists of 100 members, has met for years without a stable place of worship, hosting meetings instead at homes and neighboring churches.


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