Portsmouth zoners approve building for pool construction business

9,000-square-foot barn-like structure for storage, office will be located south of Portsmouth Plaza

By Jim McGaw
Posted 8/28/23

PORTSMOUTH — A 9,000-square-foot building to house trucks and office space for a local pool contractor on a commercially zoned lot at 2951 East Main Road has been unanimously approved by the …

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Portsmouth zoners approve building for pool construction business

9,000-square-foot barn-like structure for storage, office will be located south of Portsmouth Plaza


PORTSMOUTH — A 9,000-square-foot building to house trucks and office space for a local pool contractor on a commercially zoned lot at 2951 East Main Road has been unanimously approved by the Zoning Board of Review.

Gairard Decastro, the owner, received a special-use permit and a dimensional variance in a 5-0 vote on Aug. 17. The special-use permit was needed because the building is over 4,500 square feet in size, and the variance was required because the building would be placed 16 feet from the southern boundary, rather than the 25-foot setback that’s required in the zoning ordinance.

The 42,910-square-foot lot is located on Borden Farm, between Portsmouth Plaza to the north and another commercial plaza owned by Robert Edenbach on Potomac Road to the south.

Decastro, “born and bred in Portsmouth,” told the board he operated Decastro Landscaping before it evolved into Premier Landscape across from St. Barnabas Church further south. The business, which has since undergone another transformation, is now known as Premier Gunite Pools. 

“At the moment, we are 100 percent a pool-builder,” Decastro said.

He made it clear there will be no exterior storage of materials or work going on outside the building at the new location. The wood-frame, barn-like building, which will have cedar shingles and feature stone work on the bottom and black windows, is in keeping with the aesthetics of the surrounding area, he said. The 50-foot-wide structure would be used for the indoor storage of trucks, equipment, supplies and inventory, with about 1,000 square feet of office space for “onsite consultation.”

“Architecturally I wanted it to fit the look of Borden Farm. We do not need any exterior storage. I’d like to keep it clean and neat,” said Decastro. Because he also owns the large apartment building nearby, he has no interest in devaluing that property, he said.

Added Cort Chappell, Decastro’s attorney, “This is not where you process gunite, this is not where you mix cement, this is not where there’s any manufacturing whatsoever. That is all done offsite in other places.” (Gunite is a mixture of cement, sand, and water applied through a pressure hose that produces a dense and hard layer of concrete.)

Chappell also pointed out the sizes of some of the surrounding commercial businesses, compared to this 9,000-square-foot building. The Edenbach building is the closest and is 9,550 square feet in size. Portsmouth Plaza is 32,000 square feet, and ACE Hardware across the street is 9,750 square feet, he said.

There were concerns raised over whether the proposal included enough parking in case the property fell into different hands over the years, Chappell said. To address this, the proposal calls for 30 spaces, even though the business will not need that many. “We wanted an area so trucks could safely back around and not back into East Main Road,” he added.

The proposal calls for minimal exterior lighting and signage, an underground stormwater retention system, and a landscape plan that will create a buffer between the business and nearby homes on Borden Farm, Chappell said. Experts testifying for Decastro said the proposal will not have a detrimental impact on the surrounding neighborhood and is keeping with the Comprehensive  Community Plan.

Abutters request to delay denied

Jill Talacci, an abutter who lives behind the proposed building site at 10 Borden Farm Road, requested the hearing be delayed to give Borden Farm residents more time to review the plans.

“We just got knowledge of this plan maybe a week ago,” Talacci told the board. “As aesthetically pleasing as the renderings are, we are just asking for a continuance so we can make ourselves more familiar with it and more knowledgeable on what may be going in our neighborhood and our backyard. We’re looking for representation to ... help us through that process.”

Zoning Board Chairman Jim Nott, however, said the hearing was properly advertised and it wouldn’t be fair to the applicant if it were put off for at least another month.

“That is generally an abnormal request. It’s been advertised publicly, and all abutters have received notification of it. That should have given everybody ample time to come to Town Hall and go through the records, etcetera,” Nott said.

He added that both the applicant and abutters have the right to challenge whatever decision is made in Superior Court. “You’ve had a week’s time. It would have been different if everyone was notified today,” he said.

Before voting, Nott said he was “pleasantly pleased” by the architectural design of the building. “What could go there, being commercial, could be exactly like the plaza next door,” he said, referring to Portsmouth Plaza.

Nott said the building seems to blend in well with the surrounding neighborhood, is compatible to nearby land uses, and that the nine-foot setback variance request is minimal.

Conditions set

While the board voted unanimously to approve the petition, members also agreed to impose a number of conditions, among them:

• There can be no exterior mechanical equipment, including but not limited to HV/AC condensing units, exhaust fans, air compressors and the like.

• There must be 30 parking spaces, including three handicap spots.

• The infrastructure must be able to withstand a 100-year storm.

• No more than three business units can utilize the building unless revisiting the board in future. 

• The north property line will have a line of evergreen trees. 

• Any exterior lighting must be of the gooseneck type and pointed 90 degrees downward.

• Any change from a single- to a multi-use for building must come back to the zoning board for a modification to the special-use permit.

Portsmouth Zoning Board, Premier Gunite Pools

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.