, Derry, New Hampshire

October 18, 2012

Woodmont Commons application OK'd

By James Niedzinski
Derry News

---- — LONDONDERRY — After eight postponed public hearings, the application for Woodmont Commons was finally approved.

The application was approved, 8-1, during a Planning Board meeting last week.

Howard/Stein Hudson, the town’s third-party review firm; Michael Ramsdell, the town attorney; and lawyers representing the development company, Pillsbury Realty Development LLC, were in attendance.

The development company purchased about 630 acres of land in 2010 for about $7 million. The proposed development stretches across Pillsbury Road, Gilcreast Road and Interstate 93.

The project is expected to take nearly 20 years to complete, and would include about 1,300 homes, 550 hotel rooms and additional businesses.

Ted Brovitz, the manager of community planning and design for Howard/Stein-Hudson, stressed the public hearing was not an in-depth analysis of the project.

“This meeting is only about application completion, not technical review,” Brovitz said.

Brovitz said the application met all the requirements for review, and recommended the board approve the application.

The most recent application was submitted to the board on Oct. 3 and is posted on the town website.

Brovitz added he will be sending out memos later in the week to the board and Cynthia May, the town planner, with specific technical questions and concerns.

However, residents and town officials had some issues with the application.

Officials and residents were questioning how to handle the Planned Unit Development ordinance.

The PUD ordinance, passed in 2010, outlines concerns and regulation for new developments, separate from current land use regulation. Considering this is the first time town officials are using the PUD, some areas proved to be problematic.

John Laferriere, board member and School Board liaison, voted against accepting the application over PUD concerns.

Laferriere suggested breaking the review process into multiple sections, review each section at a time.

Ari Pollack, an attorney representing the developer, said the PUD ordinance requires the development to be reviewed as a whole.

The PUD recommends separating projects of this size that stretch across several streets, according to resident and Conservation Commission member Mike Speltz.

“If four lanes of 1-93 don’t qualify as a road, I don’t know what does,” he said at the meeting.

Jack Falvey, an abutter, said he thought the PUD should be addressed in different segments.

Falvey said the plans themselves clearly identify the project in different sections, and should be treated as such. He added Brovitz was too vague, and did not address enough differences between applications.

The board has 65 days to review any technical issues with the application, although continuances for the review process may be made, board Chairman Arthur Rugg said.

Some board members said 65 days would not be enough time to review the development, and to address different waivers and variances involved in the project.

“We are willing to work as hard as we can to meet that deadline,” Brovitz said.

The Planning Board will meet on Nov. 14 to further discuss specific technical questions.