DERRY — The county has dropped a proposal to bring a post-prison transitional housing project to town.
A plan to potentially bring the housing to 12 Peabody Road, the former Vintage Grace adult/daycare facility, has stalled after a big outcry from neighbors and the community about why the plan and its location were not a good one.
Derry Town Councilor Brian Chirichiello announced the county's decision on social media, thanking everyone who voiced their concerns about the plan.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook,” he said. “People in these neighborhoods were extremely concerned. The location is the worst."
Earlier this month Chirichiello, also a Derry state representative and a member of the Rockingham County Executive Committee, found out that the former Vintage Grace facility on Peabody Road was being studied as a potential purchase by the county.
Chirichiello told fellow town councilors at a meeting that the location was not right.
“I have a major issue with this,” Chirichiello said at a recent Town Council meeting. “A lot of this doesn’t smell right about this situation.”
The property at 12 Peabody Road is owned by the Derry Housing and Redevelopment Authority. It was put on the market for $675,000, according to town assessment records.
The building sits on an acre of land and is not far from Grinnell Elementary and Gilbert H. Hood Middle schools. There are also condominium complexes and residential neighborhoods nearby and Pleasant Valley nursing center is right next door.
On May 8, the county's Executive Council met for an hours-long remote meeting and talked about the transitional housing proposal.
District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Coyle, a former Derry resident and town councilor, said the county has been talking for some time about transitional housing and where it could be located.
The prospect of acquiring the Derry property came to the county’s attention, Coyle said.
“We thought it fit the needs of what we were looking for,” he added.
Rockingham County Corrections Superintendent Stephen Church also said during that county meeting that providing a transitional program for those leaving the prison system has many aspects to consider when looking for a proper location. That includes what a community might be able to offer in the way of social services, health care, job opportunities and other support.
“We try to transition them into communities, into these programs,” Church said, adding if those transitioning “don’t have a place to lay their head,” recovery and a successful release might not happen.
Chirichiello said he feels having residents reach out and voice their opposition to the proposal made a big difference in the outcome.
"People were angry," he said. "People were voicing concerns straight to the county. It got exposed and they decided to ditch this quickly and let it go."
Chirichiello said there are much better places for this type of housing.
"There are better locations," he said, "just away from schools."