By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — A former school will get new life as an apartment complex.
Planning Board officials gave conditional approval last week to a plan to convert the former Charles M. Floyd Elementary School into a complex with studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments.
Property owners Extended Realty LLC came before the board April 3.
Eric Spofford is half owner of Extended Realty LLC and also owns the Granite House sober living facility on West Broadway in Derry. Although some neighbors believed Spofford may want to extend his sober living program into the Floyd School, Spofford denied having any interest in doing that.
“This is not part of that,” Spofford said. “This is a separate entity, a separate project with no ties to the Granite House.”
The school building has stood empty at 37 Highland Ave. since 2005. The eight-classroom school was named for New Hampshire’s 59th governor.
Several plans to convert the school into apartments came before officials through the years, including a previously approved 18-unit plan. Those proposals never came to fruition.
Planning officials, developers and residents took a site walk of the property on March 23. Since that walk, more details were put into place on the apartment plan.
TF Moran architect Nicole Duquette said the latest plan includes expanding pavement areas for parking and other work to make sure the building’s safety features are up to date.
Other changes include creating 19 units instead of the 20 originally planned.
Some residents still think the plan would cast a shadow over the small neighborhood.
Neighbors said while they would like to see the old school used for something new, the plan includes too many units for that part of town. They claim it would negatively affect property values and add too much traffic.
Craig Busteed lives on Highland Avenue and said the number of apartments is too much.
“It just seems to make the neighborhood a little more transient,” he said.
But the number of apartment units falls within the town’s zoning ordinance for that area, Planning Director George Sioras said.
Danielle Steen lives close to the school building on Highland Avenue and worries about added traffic.
“There are way too many apartments and there will be too much traffic,” she said. “There are so many kids on that street, so many people have dogs. We don’t need more traffic.”
No tenants of the new complex will be allowed to park on Highland Avenue. Spofford agreed to write that condition into tenants’ agreements.
Town Administrator John Anderson urged Spofford to continue a relationship with neighbors and make sure information about the plans is forthcoming to those living nearby.
“The best neighbors talk to each other,” Anderson said. “I would encourage the dialogue to continue.”