DERRY — A proposed zoning change in one part of town brought out residents who spoke out against the plan, saying it would alter their neighborhoods and create much stress and disruption.
A second public hearing was held May 1 during a Planning Board meeting to continue discussion on a proposed zoning amendment that would move 20 single family properties from Medium High Density Residential zoning over to Office Business District zoning classification.
Another single property would be change from General Commercial to the OBD zone, if approved.
Residents living in the affected areas — Aiken, Valley, Clark and St. Charles streets — told board members this idea to change zoning would not only affect their homes, but also the quality of life they have now in their well-established neighborhoods.
A first hearing was held last month, and again brought out residents against the proposed zoning change.
The zoning amendment proposal started, according to Town Administrator David Caron, as a way for the community to look at possible opportunities in that area of town.
Portions of Derry were deemed an Opportunity Zone last year, among a list of 27 of these zones selected by New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and part of a federally funded program to support communities and provide incentives for growth, business and infrastructure.
Caron said at a previous hearing that there are both merits and concerns when considering zoning changes like this. Creating economic opportunities that could provide tax relief is a bonus, but the feelings of residents living in those areas is also key.
Caron said staff looks at the zoning of properties and what might work.
Tom May, 1 Valley Street, provided a letter to the board, signed by 63 residents who live in the affected areas.
"We have become a strong and more united neighborhood because of this event," May said at the most recent hearing. "We are a stable, residential community and we want to stay this way."
Aiken Street resident Lisa Joslyn noted the neighborhoods are made up of young families, elder residents, veterans and professionals. She has lived there for 34 years. She hopes the zoning change is not approved.
"Our neighborhood is a very important component to the make up of Derry," she said. "You have caused unnecessary stress on our entire community. We just want to continue living in our friendly little neighborhood."
Town Councilor and Planning Board liaison Brian Chrichiello said even if the zoning amendment is ever approved, things don't happen overnight.
"I live in a residential zone on Rollins Street, my mother-in-law lives across the street in a commercial/business district, zoned that way in early 2000s," he said. "Nothing will change overnight."
Board member David Granese said he more information was needed.
"I feel we are putting the cart before the horse here," he said. "There are other areas of town we should look at for rezoning instead of this area."
Board members also voiced concerns about moving forward before the town's master plan update work is complete.
"Some things make sense for rezoning," said Jim MacEachern. "I understand the opportunity zone concept, but I've been through this enough and we should proceed cautiously here. Let's look at the town as a whole, see what may or may not make sense. We've made changes in the past, but it's our job as a board to take input from people and don't rush through these things.
The board agreed to continue the discussion next month.