DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

May 15, 2014

Londonderry Town Common sparks debate

By Julie Huss
jhuss@derrynews.com

---- — LONDONDERRY — Some want the space to be more vibrant, family-friendly and more developed.

Others are sticking to their guns and want it to remain the way it is.

There are varying opinions when it comes to the Town Common and what its future might hold.

Town councilors last week spent time talking about the Town Common and what would be best for Londonderry’s central space.

The updated town Master Plan includes information and potential scenarios as to what could eventually happen around the Common. Currently, there is a bandstand, historical markers, the town forest and trails.

The most recent Master Plan was completed last fall and now an implementation committee is in place to work on some of the plan’s proposals and details.

Town Council Chairman Tom Dolan asked his fellow councilors to review the plan’s information on the Town Common and offer their feedback at a future meeting.

Dolan said a lot of good energy went into the Master Plan work. He said what is proposed for the Town Common is something to consider.

“We could find a way to support it as a goal,” Dolan said, “and how we move forward with this initiative.”

But not everyone was on board.

Councilor John Farrell asked what the specific initiative for the Town Common would be. Since the Master Plan is only a planning document, he wanted to know if the town should be funding any of its proposed plans.

Both Town Manager Kevin Smith and Councilor Joe Green sit on the Master Plan Implementation Committee. Smith said the Town Common is a priority.

“It’s one of the first things we are looking at as a committee,” he said.

Green said the Master Plan is a conceptual document only and a lot of work went into its creation.

“People came out at meetings and many thought they wanted more activity in that area (of the Common),” Green said, “saying it could use other things to bring more family activity. Having this conversation amongst us is a good idea.”

The implementation committee has no authority to make final decisions, Smith added. Only recommendations would come before the Town Council.

The updated Master Plan lays out detailed scenarios about possible planning and development around the Town Common area, including updated trails, simple roads, a larger bandstand, skating pond, some potential shops and other village-style amenities.

Orchard land directly across from Matthew Thornton Elementary School is also in play as a potential site for future development, according to the Master Plan.

Citizens gave input all through the Master Plan process on what they would like to see or not see happen in town.

The updated plan states any development would help keep the integrity of the Town Common intact, but would offer some improvements. The report calls the Town Common “underutilized and difficult to access.”

It would also forge a good balance between any new plans or what residents hope to keep unchanged.

Town Councilor Tom Freda said the master plan also states “drastic” changes in zoning in town.

“It’s a very large leap,” Freda said. “People’s property rights will be severely affected. The number of people who decided this Master Plan were a small minority.”

Green said it’s just a different way of looking at things and not a one size fits all solution.

Councilor Jim Butler called the Master Plan and any Town Common development ideas strictly “a vision” and not the letter of the law when it comes to what might actually ever happen there.

Dolan said the Master Plan information is worthy of consideration.

“We spend a lot of money on this stuff,” he said. “We shouldn’t just stick it in the filing cabinet.”

The updated Master Plan is available on the town site at londonderrynh.org.