CONWAY — Settlers Green developer Robert Barsamian’s proposed 20-unit apartment complex and adjacent 45-seat fast-food restaurant fronting Route 16 received a variance and special exception from the Zoning Board of Adjustment last Wednesday.

That clears the way for the project located at 549 White Mountain Highway in North Conway to go before the Conway Planning Board on Dec. 12 for site-plan review.

The board — John Colbath (chair), Richard Pierce, Steve Steiner, Luigi Bartolomeo and Vice Chair Andrew Chalmers — voted 4-1 (Bartolomeo opposed) to OK a variance to allow increased density on the 1.6-acre lot from 12 units per acre to 18.2 units.

Barsamian also sought and received a special exception by a vote of 5-0 to build 20 residential dwelling units.

Mark Lucy of White Mountain Survey and Engineering of Ossipee in his presentation to the board last week said that under Conway zoning, “density is allowed by a variance and use is allowed by special exception.”

On Tuesday, Barsamian (who did not attend last Wednesday's meeting) told the Sun that if all goes well, construction would start next spring. He said 25 percent of the units would be set aside for long-term rentals for not less than 20 years.

The property is served by municipal sewer and water.

Lucy said the three-story building would be located just south of DQ Grill and Chil. It would consist of one-, two-and three-bedroom units ranging from 300 to 1,000 square feet.

Lucy said common areas will enable those living in the units to share work spaces. The lower level would be devoted to storage for things like bicycles and skis, Barsamian told the Sun last week.

Lucy said the proposed units would not be affordable rental housing per se.

“This will be on the higher end,” he said.

Asked by board members about rental rates, Lucy said they would be market value but had yet to be determined.

He affirmed what Barsamian had said last week that although within walking distance of Settlers Green, the units would not just be rented to managers and other employees of the shopping outlet.

By a 3-2 vote (Bartolomeo and Chalmers opposed), the board also granted a variance to allow an interactive menu board with speakers and drive-up window within 600 feet of a residential property and the Residential Agricultural District.

“So,” said Colbath, “there you have it. On to the planning board!”

During the public comment period, abutter Brian Diehling, co-owner of DQ Grill and Chill, said he was not worried about competition in the fast-food marketplace but did question putting a restaurant on the same lot as the apartment building.

Lucy said, “It has to do with economic matrixes in this day and age.”

“God bless America,” said Steiner, a Realtor and property rights advocate, adding, “Maximizing profits is allowed.”

In other business before the board at the Oct. 16 meeting, a request from CMR Properties LLC to allow construction of a resort hotel at Cranmore Mountain Resort on the site of the Cranmore Fitness Center was rescheduled to Nov. 20.

In a prepared statement, Ben Wilcox, president and general manager of Cranmore Mountain Resort, said that under Conway zoning, resort hotels are allowed under a special exception in the Recreational Resort District in Conway.

“As we work with town planning officials to best incorporate the proposed hotel into the larger resort, Cranmore will be required to present its plans to both the zoning board and the planning board,” said Wilcox.

He said they were postponing meeting that night with the zoning board to amend the application to meet anticipated planning requirements. "We look forward to unveiling further details of the project soon,” he said.

The zoning board also:

• Approved a request from Scott and Trisha Doyle for a special exception to allow for an accessory dwelling unit at 252 Ash St. in North Conway.

• OK'd a request for a variance by McDonald’s Corp. to allow a digital main menu board and a digital secondary menu board at 1750 White Mountain Highway.

• Approved a request for a variance by Deborah Kelly to allow the cutting of between five and and 10 small saplings within the wetland and Watershed Protection Overlay District at 32 Lee Lane, Conway (PID 262-37). The board also approved a request by Kelly for a special exception to allow filling and smoothing of a sloughing slope within the Floodplain Conservation Overlay District at the same location.

The board also heard from Shawn Bergeron of Bergeron Technical Consultants of Conway about a request by Mountain Top Music Center in the newly renovated Majestic Block to appeal an administrative decision of the Conway Building Construction Code by Town Building Inspector David Pandora, who issued a building permit to an abutter to renovate an apartment building that suffered a fire a year and a half ago.

Mountain Top through Bergeron disputed that the abutter was not complying with town regulations concerning the retrofitting of his building into two dwelling units, alleging he was not using fire-retardant materials and they were concerned, given the close proximity to their recently renovated building.

Pandora, who was present, answered he had met with building owner Matthew Donarumo since the time of his discussion in September with Bergeron at Town Hall. He said Donarumo agreed to the required regulations. He admitted he had not communicated that fact to Bergeron.

That led Colbath, the board’s chair, to say that “tonight there may have been a hearing that was not necessary, so I feel in general there needs to be better communication.”

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