, Derry, New Hampshire

March 20, 2014

Londonderry planners get growth plan update

By Julie Huss

---- — LONDONDERRY — As time runs out on the town’s growth management ordinance, Planning Board members got some good news about how the town has managed its growth.

At a meeting March 12, Stu Arnett and associate Roger Hawke of the Arnett group gave officials updates on the growth ordinance and how it has suited Londonderry’s needs during different growth spurts and waves through the years.

The town hired the Concord-based consultant to help analyze planning procedures and development strategies.

The town has had the ordinance on the books for more than 25 years. It is set to expire in January 2015.

The ordinance could be readopted by the town.

The ordinance comes into play when town growth hits a specific rate, and then may put restrictions on the amount of growth and building allowed during that time to allow the community’s infrastructure to catch up.

“The GMO was established by state law to give towns protection when they hadn’t done long-range planning,” Hawke said. “Communities were getting hit with a lot of development and schools weren’t often prepared.”

In Londonderry’s case, there were growth spurts over the years, and this ordinance helped the town make sure it had the proper infrastructure in place to handle any excessive tides in development.

The ordinance gives a town time to develop any of those service and infrastructure improvements and come up with a plan, Hawke said.

“It gives a community time to respond to those needs and get their ducks in order,” he said. “It was initiated to manage growth, not prevent it.”

The news for Londonderry’s growth ordinance work was promising, Hawke said, saying the town had worked hard to study its growth and make sure the community would be ready to absorb the population numbers.

“It helped you manage those years when you got clobbered with development,” he said.

With the massive Woodmont Commons project approved, there are already factors included in that plan to make sure growth is done correctly.

Woodmont developers have included substantial infrastructure projects and other public investments to support the town.

Londonderry has done a good job, Hawke said.

“A lot of positives have come out of the process since you’ve had (the GMO) in place,” he said. “Municipal services are in order and you are managing growth well.”

Planning Board Chairman Art Rugg said once the ordinance expires next year, it could be enacted back into law quickly by the town.

“It’s a good ordinance,” Rugg said. “It’s served us very well.”

The town now has other planning tools in place to handle each project as it comes before the town, Rugg said.

“As each project comes up, we deal with it through our zoning ordinances and with developers,” he said.

Rugg said the board would revisit the growth management conversation on a regular basis.