, Derry, New Hampshire

October 3, 2013

Nevins residents ask town to remove trails

Councilors concerned about voters' reaction

By Julie Huss

---- — LONDONDERRY — Walking trails winding around a residential area may suit some, but residents of one local adult neighborhood say planned trails are too close for comfort.

Residents of the Nevins residential community said public trails originally appearing on the plan for their development would be too close to their homes.

Most residents want the trails removed from the plan.

Moose Hill Council Chambers was filled last week with Nevins homeowners all hoping to convince the Town Council to remove a walking trail easement from their development plan, something put in place prior to the beginning of the Nevins project and something town officials once hoped would be good for the public.

There are 128 homeowners in the Nevins community off Mercury Drive. Homes are detached and are for older residents.

When the development was planned a decade ago, the Planning Board approved putting walking trails around the perimeter of the property for both residents and the public to enjoy.

Attorney Morgan Hollis spoke on behalf of Nevins residents and said people living there have concerns.

“This is an open invitation for the public to come onto the property,” he said.

Residents petitioned the town to release its rights to the walking trail easement. That would release the public right to use any trails put in place.

Some residents said their homes were built after the trail easement was put on the plan. Portions of the planned trail often fall only 15 to 20 feet from buildings.

The Nevins trail story has a lot of history.

Town Council Chairman John Farrell said when the plan was first envisioned, it almost became a family subdivision, not just one for older residents.

The trails were put on the map to serve not only the people who eventually would buy homes there, but also to support the town’s mission to make Londonderry a walking community with many trails and plenty of open space.

The plan changed when the town decided it didn’t want a family-oriented development there that would flood a then-stressed school system and overburden town services. It was a difficult time, Councilor Tom Dolan said, but a decision was made to make Nevins an age-restricted development with some preserved open space and walking trails.

In order to make this happen and to appease developer Elmer Pease, voters approved spending $2.9 million to support making Nevins smaller, with open space and for older citizens. Pease had said he would lose money by making the changes.

“We held a special meeting,” Dolan said. “Ninety-five percent of the residents said yes. It was so well received.”

Pease is no longer associated with the project.

Dolan worried what voters would think now about changing the plan after they spent all that money years ago.

“We are wrestling with that now,” he said. “And what about all the people living at the Nevins who ponied up to the ballot box? This involved the community to a large extent. The community paid for a big portion of that community.”

Jonathan Mitchell moved into the Nevins neighborhood when it was only half complete. He said homeowners have heard different stories about the trail and what would happen.

“Many residents were told there would not be a walking trail,” he said. “Others thought it would be a private trail.”

Many also said homes were built on the land in areas that are located too close to trails and easement borders.

“The builder did what he wanted to do,’ resident Oliver Ducharme said. “He put houses wherever he wanted to.”

That put the trail too close to some homes, residents said.

Councilors will continue discussion on the Nevins trail situation and consult with the town attorney.

“We need to figure out what the process looks like,” Farrell said. “We just need a little more time so we do it right.”