DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

December 26, 2013

Londonderry's top stories for 2013

Londonderry sees lots of changes this past year

By Julie Huss
jhuss@derrynews.com

---- — LONDONDERRY — The top news in 2013 involved growth in town and how to make it work while keeping the town’s open space and community intact.

It was often a difficult issue to juggle, but town officials worked hard on many plans that would help Londonderry grow while maintaining that balance of community spirit and clean living.

The massive Woodmont Commons project was finally approved, the Londonderry Lancers Marching Band celebrated another presidential inauguration and residents hoped to save as many apples trees as possible.

The town also got new leadership in the front office and in the fire department.

Here are some of Londonderry’s top stories for 2013.

Mr. Smith comes to Londonderry

The town welcomed Kevin Smith as its new town manager in August after many months of searching for the right candidate. He began the job on Aug. 15 and said it was great to come home.

Smith, a Londonderry native, is a 1995 Londonderry High School graduate, and said he was a proud Lancer through and through. His parents still call Londonderry home.

“It’s an incredible privilege to do this,” Smith said after taking the job.

He is a former GOP gubernatorial candidate and ran for the top state job in 2012.

He said his experience carries over well into his new job. Londonderry has a lot going for it, he said, including its prime location, small-town quality of life and also a huge potential for making things happen.

He said he was happy to be working back home.

Police Chief William Hart had served as the interim manager until Smith was selected.

Lancers march back to Washington

In January, the Londonderry High School Lancer Marching Band traveled to Washington, D.C., to be part of the second inauguration for President Barack Obama.

The 260-member band and color guard, along with 30 parents and chaperones, made the trip.

Students were very excited about the trip and took their turn marching down Pennsylvania Avenue past the viewing stand where the President and Mrs. Obama were seated.

Music director Andy Soucy said it was honor to be part of the celebration again.

“We had the honor four years ago,” Soucy said. “I didn’t expect it again and we are really honored.”

The band was chosen from more than 1,500 applications from groups all over the country. The band has also traveled to China, to the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, and numerous trips to New York City for parades.

Woodmont Commons given the OK

It was a long journey, but the vote finally came.

The Planning Board finally gave its OK to the massive, 600-plus-acre Woodmont Commons development this year. The multi-use development plan had been before town boards for more than a year, making for some very long meetings, workshops and public sessions.

The project will be completed in phases over 20 years. Proponents maintained the project would be a good fit for Londonderry and was the first development of this type ever proposed in town.

The plan includes residential areas, parks, business and other community spots all keeping within the town’s zoning laws.

Planning Board Chairman Art Rugg said it was a long process and one that will have many impacts on the town.

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

Some residents hosted a “Hug-A-Tree” event to raise awareness and try to save some of the former Woodmont Orchard apple trees that might be lost to development.

Happy trails to you

Supporters of the town’s trail system had a good year, getting a portion of the system paved thanks to continuing support from residents and also celebrating how much the town’s trail system is growing.

The newly paved portion is a one-mile stretch near Exit 5, leading over to an area near North Elementary School.

The town’s trails are being built on the abandoned Manchester-Lawrence railway corridor. As more work is done, trails in Londonderry will eventually be part of a 6.4-mile, multi-use area for walking, biking, hiking and other recreational activities.

Trail supporters hosted guided tours throughout the year to introduce some of the areas to residents.

“We want to encourage people to come out and learn about us,” trail supporter Pollyann Winslow said. “It’s all going to be wonderful to connect to everything.”

Police get new cruisers

The Londonderry Police Department were among the first in the area to get a new fleet of the new crossover Ford Explorer Interceptors, replacing the aging Ford Crown Victoria fleet.

Police got 16 new vehicles back in and added a 17th vehicle later in the year.

The choice was an easy one, police Chief Bill Hart said, as the Interceptors are tops in safety and handling and are also an all-weather vehicle that operates well when weather is bad.

“All in all, we believe this new vehicle will provide a better, safer and more reliable vehicle for all of us and the public at a very reasonable price,” Hart said.

Pettengill Road a potential boon

Many officials in town still have high hopes for the Pettengill Road projet.

The 1,000-acre project could bring economic growth to that area of town near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Officials believe it is a perfect place to attract business and help the town grow.

Coming up with the money to fund the project continues to prove a challenge.

There were attempts to secure grant funding and other financial means to fund the proposed $12 million project.

“This project could happen quickly if funding were there,” resident Kathy Wagner said earlier this year. “We have to come up with the money ourselves if we believe in the project.”

New fire chief named

Darren O’Brien was named the town’s new fire chief in August.

He served as the interim chief following the retirement last year of Chief Kevin MacAffrie.

O’Brien was born and raised in Londonderry. He has served the fire department since he was 19, working his way through up the ranks to become a battalion chief prior to taking the top job.