DERRY —A new zoning district approved last year is getting popular, with two major projects already coming forward and hoping to land within that area of town.
The Planning Board got an early look at the proposed West Running Brook Village plan, a mixed-use development concept that, if approved, would be located on about 14 acres on Humphrey Road, land owned by Dr. Timothy Butterfield.
The plan was the second to come before the board for early conceptual discussion last month, joining the proposed mixed-use Westbrook development on property owned by the Siragusa family at 45 and 49 South Main St.
The two projects, Westbrook and West Running Brook Village, are the first to fall under the town’s new West Running Brook zoning district, approved last year, and a zone that could mean growth for Derry and a chance for the town to combine multi-use retail/housing and other permitted uses in that area.
The zone includes West Running Brook Middle School, the historic Robert Frost Farm and areas stretching over to include portions of property on Rockingham Road, (South Main Street), Island Pond Road, and Humphrey Road. The new district would encourage a mix of land uses, including residential, small-scale retail/commercial, recreation and conservation that could be built near each other.
Uses allowed in the district include banks, performing and fine arts schools and studios, conference centers, daycare centers, hotels, inn-style businesses, indoor commercial recreation, medical, manufacturing, movie/recording studios, restaurants and professional offices.
Allowed housing development would be multi-family residential and a more smaller-scale village-style development that could have interconnected paths and walkways, streetscapes and access for bicycles and pedestrians to use.
Attorney John Cronin of the firm Cronin, Bisson and Zalinski represented the West Running Brook Village plan at a recent meeting, saying the concept is in early stages only, but the development could bring a good mix of housing, retail, restaurants and walkability and trails to the property, all in keeping within the new zoning guidelines.
The development would be located on both the north and south side of Humphrey Road on Butterfield's property, offering a combination of 18, 1,800 square-foot townhouse-styled units, commercial space, opportunities for restaurants, and an open "wagon wheel" space for residents to enjoy, along with a fenced-in play yard for dogs.
The property is also near the Don Ball Park off Humphrey Road, a popular spot for families with a playground, fields and many recreational programs.
The new zoning district doesn't allow studio-styled apartments, but according to planning officials, that style could be included in the development plan if a waiver was approved.
Cronin added Butterfield, a veterinarian, longstanding resident and community supporter, wants the project on his family's property to succeed.
"He has a passion for this site and how it's going to look at the end of the day," Cronin said.
Since the plan is in the very early stages, officials gave their own opinions and feedback on what they liked or what they felt should be changed.
Planning Board member Mark Connors stressed his interest in connectivity to nearby trails. The historic Robert Frost Farm is also nearby and could be an anchor point for connected spaces, Connors said.
"And I'd also like to see sidewalks as we begin to build in this area," Connors added.
Board member Jim MacEachern said he hoped developments planned for the new zoning district would follow guidelines to make sure they are similar in many ways in design, etc.
"You want to make things look like they all match," he said, adding that could be the style of the housing, the architecture, and how all plans fit in with what's allowed in the new zone. "Give it a sense of a more village district."
Planning Director George Sioras said the new West Running Brook district has guidelines built-in for development prospects that allow for a project's uniqueness and flexibility.
Sioras also stressed the beautiful views looking north to Pinkerton Academy and how ordinance rules also stress ways to keep those views intact.
All feedback given from the board will now go back to developers, Cronin said, adding he appreciated all the good information offered by the town as the project design and planning moves forward.