, Derry, New Hampshire

September 19, 2013

Londonderry Planning Board give Woodmont OK

Developer promises something the town can be proud of

By Julie Huss

---- — LONDONDERRY — It’s been a long journey, but the vote finally came.

Last week, Planning Board members voted unanimously to grant conditional approval to the Woodmont Commons project. After months and months of hearing scores of details and pondering piles of documents, the Planning Board granted unanimous conditional approval.

The massive, 600-plus-acre multi-use development plan has been before town boards for more than a year, drawing some criticism from some residents and making for some very long meetings and sessions.

Woodmont Commons is proposed by Michael Kettenbach and Pillsbury Realty Development.

The project, as proposed, would be completed in phases over 20 years.

Woodmont would combine business, streetscapes, residences, hotels, gardens and open space.

Many details were put in place prior to the final approval, including making sure Woodmont’s proposed development for residential, business and future parks, and other community spots all kept in line with town zoning ordinances and rules.

With the potential 20-year buildout time frame for the billion-dollar project, future subdivisions and other plans will come before town boards for consideration and approvals.

“Site plan and subdivision (town control) will still be in place,” town attorney Mike Ramsdell said. “They will still have to come before the Planning Board with each and every site plan and subdivision application, just like any other developer.”

Woodmont Commons proponents have always maintained the project would be a good fit for Londonderry.

The vote Sept. 11 didn’t please everyone. Some residents still see trouble ahead.

Doug Hatem is associated with the Londonderry Square Association at the corner of Gilcreast Road and Route 102.

He said traffic is already a problem.

“We have serious traffic impact concerns,” he said. “The way it sits now, I don’t think it’s going to work.”

Planning Board Chairman Art Rugg said it’s been a long process, but one that will potentially have many impacts on Londonderry, ffor its residents, its town services and its economic life.

“There has been a lot of give and take on this,” Rugg said. “But it has a good, positive vision to it.”

Having residents be part of the long process was valuable.

“Citizens have had as much of an input as the board,” Rugg said. “I think the citizens have been a integral part of the process.”

Resident Mary Treteau has often been outspoken about Woodmont.

She led a charge earlier this summer to protect some apple trees still standing on the former Woodmont Orchards land along Pillsbury and Gilcreast roads.

The Woodmont plan will save some of those trees.

Tetreau said citizens worked hard to get their feelings out to the public about the huge impact Woodmont would have in town.

“We did it to make the town better and make Woodmont Commons better,” she said.

Ari Pollack represents Pillsbury Development and said residents had a lot to contribute.

“I think the citizens have been a integral part of the process,” he said.

Woodmont developer Michael Kettenback said the project would be good for the town.

“I am the builder of this property, and I appreciate everything this board has done and also all the people who have touched it,” he said. “We’re going to give you something this community will be proud of,” he said.