, Derry, New Hampshire

December 27, 2012

Londonderry news in review

By Julie Huss

---- — The year in Londonderry started with officials wrangling over budgets and ways to spend money wisely.

Many students cut their hair to make a difference, hosted events to help a cause, and succeeded both on and off the playing field.

Residents voted in big numbers, enjoyed many community programs, and celebrated the town’s heritage and humble beginnings.

Here is a sampling of some of the town’s stop stories for 2012.

Woodmont Commons continues with delays

Woodmont remained on people’s minds this year, although every time the subject came up, there seemed to be another delay in public hearings and information sessions.

The massive 630-acre plan for the former Woodmont orchard property was discussed by town officials and development representatives, and debated by residents on both sides of the proposal.

Attorney John Michels, representing Woodmont developer Michael Kettenbach, was a regular fixture at meetings throughout the year, giving updates on the mammoth project.

“In 1997, the master plan talked about coming up with a new village concept,” Michels said this year.

The Woodmont plan seemed to fit that bill and in years since, the plan is still on the table.

The year also included updates for the town’s master plan.

Woodmont continuations are still going on with more studies expected.

The Planning Board did officially approve the application, but officials and developers said there is a long and complex road ahead.

That road includes looking at more factors like traffic impact and what may happen to the environment if the project moves forward.

The Woodmont development may add up to 1,300 residential units, retail space and commercial buildings to that area of Londonderry where the former orchards grew.

Beautiful Lengths campaign honored

Londonderry High School students continue to make cuts for all the right reasons.

For nearly a decade, the school has hosted the Pantene Beautiful Lengths event. Students pledge to cut inches off their long locks to support those battling cancer. The donated hair is made into wigs.

The program keeps growing, just like hair, as each year passes, organizer Steve Juster said this year.

He credited everyone’s commitment to the cause, including all the students and school staff who pledge to cut their locks to help others.

This year, the program at the school was honored by Gov. John Lynch. He called Londonderry’s efforts “a selfless act of giving” during his final State of the State address.

Five students and Juster made the trip to Concord to hear Lynch’s speech.

The next Pantene event at the high school will be held in January 2013. More than 100 students and staff have already pledged to cut their hair for a good cause.

Sandy rears

her stormy head

Hurricane Sandy hit Londonderry hard, along with other towns in the region. The storm was responsible for canceling school and other community activities for several days while power outages left hundreds of residents in the dark for days.

Public Service of New Hampshire said Londonderry may have been one of the hardest hit communities in the southern portion of the state.

But many officials and residents said it could have been much worse.

“We had along preparation time,” Londonderry fire Chief Kevin MacCaffrie said. “People in no way, shape or form were taken by surprise by this.”

MacCaffrie said his department was very successful in getting information to the public about the storm using social media outlets like Twitter and emergency text messaging.

The storm hit almost a year to the day after the October snowstorm of 2011. MacCaffrie said this time there were fewer fire calls, only 78 compared to last year’s 150.

It was all about being prepared and ready. Some kept their lights on and fared well.

For once, Gerald and Dorothy Gulezian of Brookview Drive did not have to pump out their basement.

“It’s nothing short of miraculous,” Gerald Gulezian said. “We had water pumps, generators, flashlights and batteries at the ready. We needed none of it.”

Town manager job in flux

As one town manager left, a familiar face filled the post on an interim basis.

David Caron resigned as Londonderry’s town manager in July. He served the town since 2003 and made his exit after being granted a personal family leave earlier in the summer.

A town impact fee snafu also added to possible reasons for Caron’s departure.

“During that time, it became apparent to Mr. Caron and the council that the combination of the Caron family emergency and the town’s pressing business, including the impact fees situation, has rendered its advisable for Mr. Caron and the town to sever their relationship,” Town Council Chairman John Farrell said when Caron’s resignation was accepted.

Farrell said it was a “joint decision” to cut ties with Caron.

Police Chief William Hart became the interim manager and is still serving in that role until a new manager is hired.

After Caron left, Hart announced the town would refund more than $1.2 million in impact fees to developers and property owners.

Some of the money was collected in error and some was not used within the six years as required.

Farrell said owners of 25 town properties would receive at least $5,000 in impact fee money. Another 400 landowners will get refunds of less than $5,000.

More than $1 million of the approximately $1.2 million owed in fees was in an escrow account, Farrell said. The remainder came from a town surplus account.

Farrell said this year that no blame was put directly on Caron. Since Hart was put in place as the interim manager, he’s made some changes in town accounting and record-keeping.

Pool makes a

splash at YMCA

In June, the YMCA of Greater Londonderry celebrated the opening of the Schaefer Community Pool.

The heated, outdoor, six-lane pool replaced two older oval pools.

The pool is named for Schaefer Mortgage, a lead sponsor of the project, part of the YMCA’s $750,000 capital improvement plan, that will also include an outdoor multipurpose sports complex.

The YMCA opened in 1999 and serves 175 to 180 campers during its summer programs.

New hope for rail trail

Londonderry Trailways started cutting overgrowth on railroad tracks from Mammoth Road to the Little Cohas Brook in an effort to complete its section of the Granite State Rail Trail.

The trail will include more than six miles of paved paths through Londonderry once it’s completed. The Iron Horse Preservation Society, a nonprofit group, has agreed to remove the railroad free of charge.

The grassroots organization was approved for a $20,000 grant earlier in the year, but must raise 20 percent of the funds themselves, Rimol said.

Once complete, the Granite State Rail Trail, will extend from Salem to Lebanon, with much of it being paved.

Up in arms over gunfire

Golfers at the Londonderry Country Club have had enough gunfire. The owner complained bitterly to the Town Council about noise from the nearby police firing range, the Fish and Game Club firing range and the Musquash Conservation Area.

Town councilors went out to listen for themselves. Some thought the noise from planes landing at and departing nearby Manchester-Boston Regional Airport was worse than any audible gunshots.

The conflict between the country club and people using the firing ranges is not new, and no real solutions were reached. But police Chief William Hart promised to limit the use of the outdoor range.

A state law, passed in 2004, protects firing ranges from noise pollution complaints.

Hunting in the Musquash is legal, so it appears the noise — and the complaints — will continue.

Local dogs may have their day

The town’s dog park committee worked hard this year to find land and create a space for the local canines to play and roam.

In October, committee chairman Dottie Grover said the plans were moving along and support was strong in the community for Londonderry to have its own dog park.

As the year moved on, property on Sanborn Road was eyed for a possible dog park location.

But the Town Council put its bet on that same land for use by the Elder Affairs Committee at a later date.

Other land locations are still being considered for a possible dog park.

Committee members said the goal was to have a new park be either no burden or a very low burden to Londonderry taxpayers.

“We are hoping a wonderful philanthropist will make a donation of land,” Cindy Eaton said. “We really don’t want to burden the taxpayers of Londonderry. That’s our number one goal.”

The committee has visited dog parks in other communities including Derry, Dover and Portsmouth to make sure the Londonderry plan falls into place for what residents ... and their dogs ... want and need.