, Derry, New Hampshire

November 21, 2013

Town councilors wants to clean up downtown

Some residents want Derry to clean up its act

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — A vacant property on West Broadway was once eyed by some as a potential parking lot for the adjacent Derry Opera House.

Now, the only things growing there are the weeds.

Resident Claire Hayes said she is disturbed by the condition of 27 West Broadway, next to the Adams Memorial Building.

She wants the town to take action.

“The weeds are waist high,” she told town councilors last week. “It’s overgrown on the sidewalk and it’s an eyesore.”

Complaints about how the downtown looks generated discussion of implementing a blight ordinance as a way for the town to act when local property owners don’t keep their property in shape.

Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau said the topic has come up before.

“It’s been before the council in prior years,” he said. “I would be happy to resurrect that.”

For Hayes, driving into Derry is disturbing when she sees how bad some areas look.

“There are apartment buildings in the downtown, (27 West Broadway) is an introduction to the town,” she said. “It doesn’t say much very good. It speaks volumes about who we are and I don’t like what it’s saying.”

She’s not the only one.

Resident Richard Tripp said the vacant KFC building at 10 Crystal Ave. needs to be cleaned up.

The fast-food restaurant has been empty since 2012 and, until recently, was overgrown with weeds and brush. Last week, crews were on site to mow and trim the property as a new restaurant is slated to move there.

“If that didn’t count as an eyesore or blight, I don’t know what does,” Tripp said.

Planning Board member John O’Connor said there is already a blight document on record that the town could tap into for enforcement issues.

That information is found under the International Building Code.

“It does exist,” he said. “It can be used.”

But finding rules that Derry can apply to its local landscape might be a bit daunting, Town Councilor Mark Osborne said.

“We could take it out of the international code and put it into a more pronounced ordinance,” he said. “It’s difficult for regular folks to find.”

Budreau said there are always two sides to the coin.

“There are pros and cons,” he said. “But it certainly makes sense to understand what those are.”

Councilor Tom Cardon said a majority of the downtown looks good, but some lots are deteriorating.

“It’s time to do something,” he said.

Councilor Neil Wetherbee said a blight ordinance can be difficult to enforce.

“And if we’re going to ask that property owners keep things neatly landscaped, will we then start getting complaints to code enforcement when private citizens don’t mow their lawns?” he said. “It’s easy to look at certain properties and see a problem, but the solutions aren’t always necessarily easy and definitely not always black and white.”

Councilors and Planning Board members will host a joint workshop the first week of December and the blight ordinance may be on the agenda.

“It’s definitely a discussion to renew,” Osborne said.