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Derry

June 5, 2014

Derry officials mull height restrictions

DERRY — Town councilors and Planning Board members are asking how high.

Some officials said it might be time to reconsider the town’s building height restrictions, particularly downtown.

A joint workshop focused on new development. Town-owned property in the downtown area, specifically land that was once the site for oil companies in town, was the key focus.

“I just don’t want to see it sitting there too much longer,” Council Chairman Mark Osborne said.

Osborne said with a renewed interest in the downtown and future economic development hopes, it was time to get some sort of plan moving for the long vacant property known to many as the Sawyer Court/Abbot Court area.

The downtown allows many uses right now, from stores to residential buildings, with some reaching the current allowed height limit of 60 feet.

Many people want to see the traditional style of downtown landscape continue, according to Planning Director George Sioras.

“Many people are walking that area, shopping downtown on a daily basis,” he said.

That is good news for Broadway and the new businesses that are sprouting up, including the new Rail Trail Grind Cafe on Manning Street that is getting a lot of foot traffic from the nearby municipal center and district court building.

Sioras said most buildings on Broadway are built right up to the sidewalk. That’s the traditional downtown style many people prefer.

Several downtown buildings are already at the three-story limit, including the building at 6 West Broadway.

Other buildings changed use over the years, but the town kept control over what could be changed, including the old Depot building that is now Sabatino’s Italian restaurant.

It may be time for taller buildings with more progressive designs, some officials said.

“If we want economic development downtown, why would we confine ourselves to yesterday’s designs?” Osborne asked. “We’re not a prairie city.”

Osborne said the town needs to attract more business and needs to have the infrastructure in place.

He said the council will ask the Planning Board to consider raising height restrictions on buildings from 60 feet up to 100 feet.

Any changes would have to go through all the proper zoning channels, Sioras said.

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