, Derry, New Hampshire

February 28, 2013

Londonderry zoners deny church variance

By Julie Huss

---- — LONDONDERRY — A church group hoping to relocate to an industrially zoned area of town failed to convince zoners it was a good idea.

Members of Life! Church appeared before the Zoning Board Feb. 20 asking for a variance to permit a religious facility in the town’s Industrial III district.

The church now meets at a theater in Hooksett. Parishioners hoped to make the move to Londonderry for better access to highways and other high traffic community areas.

With only four members present, the vote to deny the motion was 3-1.

A lot of discussion centered around the definition of a “religious facility,” compared to a gathering space where people would host worship in an already established building.

Life! Church wanted to rent two spaces at 136 Harvey Road, one for office space and the other 3,500-square-foot area to be used on Sunday mornings for two worship services.

No new construction would be done; only some minor improvements would be made to the building’s interior.

Patricia Panciocco represented property owner Woodhaven Limited Partnership. She said the church would be a good fit for the area, arguing the current zoning laws prohibit a “religious facility” in that area, but Life! Church was not deemed a facility, just a gathering of people in an already established space.

“This provides a real opportunity for this tenant,” she said. “(The church) would not overburden the property or exceed limits to people in the building.

She said the Industrial III zone puts a restriction on the construction of a church there, but should not restrict people gathering there.

Parking would not be an issue and having church on Sunday would not hinder any other nearby businesses that are operating throughout the week, she said.

Life! Church pastors Joe and Abi Cyr told officials the move to Londonderry would have served its 150 members well.

Zoners were not convinced and wondered why a church wanted to move to an industrial spot where there were major warehouses, distribution centers and a lot of heavy truck traffic.

Safety was also a concern.

ZBA member Neil Dunn said he worried about the other tenants and how a church group would fit in that area.

“When do we draw the line where we protect the rest of the tenants?” he asked.

Church members hoped the decision would go in their favor, but zoners felt differently.

“It’s a good location, good accessibility for people, and centrally located,” Abi Cyr said. “We were excited about coming to Londonderry.”