Neighborworks Southern New Hampshire of Manchester has received permission from the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) to build 12 five- to seven-unit townhouses in two phases, instead of the three 16-unit buildings in the town’s ordinance, at its rental workforce housing subdivision of the former Whittemore Estates off Mammoth Road.
Susan Manchester, an attorney with the law firm Sheehan Phinney, said the town ordinance requires three buildings with 16 units per building to get to 48 units per phase, but the developer wants to build smaller, townhouse style buildings.
“The townhouse style, smaller building is more homey and more aesthetically pleasing than a large, 16-unit building that is currently required by the ordinance,” Manchester said. Neighborworks Executive Director Robert Tourigny said he had been looking at various sites in town where affordable workforce housing would make sense.
“We’ve done a lot of residential development in the City of Manchester, and we have about 350 affordable rental units in our portfolio,” Tourigny said. “We have folks that live in Manchester and work at Harvey, the airport and other places in Londonderry, and it’s important for us to be able to provide a housing opportunity for them in the community that they work in.”
Tourigny said the site was initially approved in 2003 as an age-restricted property. He is working with the owner, a lending institution that foreclosed on the property, to redevelop the site. Tourigny said they had presented a conceptual plan to the Planning Board and based on feedback from that board and planning staff, went forward with developing the new site plan.
“As a developer of affordable housing, it’s not often that I come before you to reduce the size and number of our buildings; it’s usually the other way around,” Tourigny said. But given the size and configuration of the site and the preference to construct smaller buildings to be more appealing, marketable and attractive in the community, they have come up with the concept of clusters of townhouses of five to seven units per building, as opposed to what the ordinance requires.
“I guess by default it assumes a 16-unit building – that all workforce housing is 16-unit buildings,” he said.
Chairman James Smith asked if the units would be for sale and Tourigny said they would be rental units. His company would own the buildings and units, and manage the property.
“They would be two and three bedroom apartments,” he added. Tourigny said phase one would have four seven-unit buildings and two five-unit buildings for a total of 38 units. Phase two would have five seven-unit buildings and one five-unit building for a total of 40 units, for an overall total of nine seven-unit buildings and three five-unit buildings totaling 73 units.
Manchester had no other requests of the ZBA. Manchester said the purpose of phasing is to have an orderly plan for residential growth in town, which needs to worry about schools and infrastructure. “We’re not changing the number of units – the fact that we’re having smaller buildings is entirely consistent with the spirit of the ordinance and is consistent with the public interest,” Manchester said.
Board member Neil Dunn said Whittemore Estates was originally an 83-unit, age-restricted condominium project that built six units and went into foreclosure. Manchester said they were not proposing to take the footprint that was planned for the original development and convert it to workforce housing. Instead, they are proposing a new site plan and will be going to the Planning Board with the new project.
Board member Jay Hooley asked if it was a subdivision and was told that it was.
“So you’re taking the prior project, lopping the built piece off, and starting completely new to the north,” Hooley asked. “Yes,” Manchester replied.
Tourigny noted a clubhouse would be part of the proposal, and tenants would be encouraged to have a community garden. Resident Al Lampson, who said he was president of the condo association at Parrish Hills, said it was swamp between Parrish Hills and the proposed project, and to put workforce housing with children in the area of the swamp, as opposed to Parrish Hills, which is senior housing, could lead to tick bites, drowning and disturbing the wetland. He said phasing made a lot of sense.
Resident Pauline Caron wanted to know where the road into the development would be and was told by Hooley that it would be about several hundred feet north of Trail Haven Road, which is off Mammoth Road. As Mammoth Road is a state road, the state would have input on any curb cut. Caron said she approved of the smaller buildings and noted the ZBA “opened a Pandora’s Box” by allowing bigger buildings in a previous workforce housing decision.
The board voted unanimously to approve the request with no restrictions.