DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

December 12, 2013

Londonderry ranks highly for being family friendly

Study ranks town ninth for being family-friendly

By Julie Huss
jhuss@derrynews.com

---- — LONDONDERRY — Residents are listing all their favorite reasons why they love living in Londonderry.

The school system, apple orchards, the goodwill, friends and community spirit top the list.

That helped the town rank ninth out of 40 Granite State communities best in which to raise a family, according to a study done by NerdWallet.com, a California-based consumer advocacy website.

Residents wanted to talk about their town.

"This is the best community I've ever lived in," John Hempfield said.

Hempfield said he has backpacked and/or lived in 13 countries and about 57 communities and nothing compares to living in Londonderry.

"I've lived all over, it's the best," he said.

The study evaluated five factors to create the top community list: public school rating, median home value, ongoing cost of home ownership, income and economic growth.

Analysts studied communities in all 50 states to find the best places to raise a family. In New Hampshire, Durham took the top spot, with Hooksett and Littleton rounding out the top three.

Londonderry's neighbor Derry ranked 18th on the list. Officials there say it might be good to somehow tag team with Londonderry's success.

Derry Planning Board member Jim MacEachern said Londonderry has a lot to be proud of.

Londonderry has things in place that help boost its growth and vision, he said, including the approved 600-plus-acre Woodmont Commons project and strong industry and infrastructure plans near the airport.

Woodmont will have a big regional impact and Derry will be affected, he said. Somehow building on that success could help Derry.

"That's a golden opportunity," MacEachern said. "We might work with Londonderry."

NerdWallet.com's Mike Anderson did the study and said people ranked Londonderry high due to its sense of community and positive environment.

"Families also want affordable homes, high income and quality schools for their kids," he said.

Doing the state studies also gives those looking for a new home a chance to discover Londonderry, Anderson said.

Hempfield is a member of the Londonderry Lions Club, an organization that helps keep the community spirit fire burning all year long.

The club is selling Christmas trees on Mammoth Road and he said having the town's support makes all the difference.

"Every year we have repeat customers," Lion Jim Conner said. "They show their gratitude for what the money is used for."

That money stays in the community, another Londonderry strength, Conner said.

Pollyann Winslow has lived in town 15 years. Her list of Londonderry favorites is long.

"We have a high school band that is internationally acclaimed, a commitment to volunteerism and inclusiveness, a feeling that you belong," she said.

Winslow said she loves to walk the more than 40 miles of developed and maintained trails in town, cross-country ski in the apple orchards and go sledding at Mack's Apples.

Katie Sullivan is an assistant principal at Londonderry High School and has lived in town for 38 years. Her town ties date back decades.

"My parents still live in the house I grew up in," she said. "I live and work in the town that I love."

Sullivan said she loves being part of her hometown, teaching its students and having the opportunity to give back to her community. She advises the high school's Pay it Forward Club that does many community service projects through the year.

Kathy Wagner helps lead the annual Old Home Day event the brings thousands of people to town every August. She is also the town treasurer and a local business owner.

She said Londonderry has it all.

"We are blessed with four working farms, a sugar shack, more than 1,000 acres of preserved space and dedicated volunteer organizations creating trails and recreation," Wagner said. "We have the state's major airport in our community and the potential to become New Hampshire's economic powerhouse, yet still remaining true to our agrarian roots."

Sullivan said she has the best job and loves guiding and inspiring the next generation of Londonderry students.

"The one thing I adore about this town is even though it's a lot bigger now than when I grew up, it still has a small town feel," she said. "People of Londonderry care for one another and pull together when needed."

To see the complete list of top Granite State communities, visit nerdwallet.com.