What follows are some of the top stories that took place in Londonderry during 2013:
1. Impact fees were determined by the Superior Court to be in need of an audit, in a decision issued Dec. 31, 2012. The town hired Melanson-Heath to do a forensic audit of the impact fees; that audit was completed in August and found a number of items wrong with the system. The impact fee collection was suspended until resolution of litigation that remains ongoing. A new impact fee ordinance has been written by the town’s attorney, Mike Ramsdell, and approved by the Town Council, but the suspension is still in effect.
2. The Woodmont Commons PUD (Planned Unit Development), a 1400-unit residential and commercial development covering over 600 acres, including the former Woodmont Orchards, was approved in September after a series of meetings to discuss the large scope of the project, including infrastructure, master plan, and development. The plan was opposed by some residents, most notably Jack Falvey, who brought up questions of traffic and the cutting down of apple trees.
3. The Londonderry High School Marching Band marched in its second consecutive inaugural parade for re-elected President Barack Obama in January. The band, under the direction of Andy Soucy, traveled in six buses filled with excited musicians and chaperones and a truck filled with musical instruments and equipment.
4. The new Master Plan for Londonderry was adopted by the Master Plan Steering Committee in February and by the Planning Board in March. The new Master Plan proposes a more walking-friendly community with pathways and areas of mini-village concepts. An implementation committee is slated to meet in the new year.
5. The Perkins Road workforce housing project was denied last year by the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) but developers of the 240-unit rental facility, located at the former Wallace family farm, persisted and reapplied. Attorney Jay Leonard systematically laid out the arguments on behalf of builder Tom Monihan and reiterated that the current ordinance allowing 16 units per building was not financially feasible for the builder to make a profit. He also argued that the ordinance requirement of 75 percent workforce tenants should be reduced to 50 percent. After several meetings, the ZBA reversed its former denial and granted acceptance in March. The property is near exit 5 of Interstate 93.
6. The town began a renewed search for a town manager in 2013 and at one point thought it had made a choice, but the candidate chose a different community and a new search was started. In February a search for a replacement for retired Fire Chief Kevin MacCaffrie was also begun, and Londonderry Fire Battalion Chief Darren O’Brien was named interim chief. In August, Kevin Smith was named Town Manager and O’Brien was named permanent Fire Chief.
7. Boston Marathon runner Gary Sloper from Londonderry had a scare as the marathon was interrupted at the finish line by two explosions that injured many and killed three people. Sloper was running to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and described what happened as “very scary.” He said he was a mile from the finish when his wife called him on his cell phone to tell him of the explosions. “If you do the math, because I was 10 minutes behind my normal time, if I had been on time, I would have been at the finish line when the bombs went off,” Sloper said.
8. Saying Manchester breached its contract with Hooksett because of classroom overcrowding, in May the Hooksett school board allowed parents to send their students to Londonderry schools, leading to an injunction from Manchester. In August the two parties reached a settlement that shortened Hooksett’s contract with Manchester and in December, the Hooksett school board approved a Memorandum of Understanding put forth by the Londonderry school board outlining how students could come to Londonderry, what was required and how many students Londonderry would take.
9. The Town Council approved creating a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district in the Pettengill Road area near the airport to extend Pettengill to attract business development. Stuart Arnett of Arnett Development Group, a contracted development consultant for the town, said the TIF had two goals: economic development and acceleration of a bond pay down. The TIF and any bond must be approved by voters to be adopted.
10. Several town positions saw new faces in 2013. In February Stacey Thrall was named Senior Affairs Director but resigned in May. She was replaced by Catherine Blash in August. In June, Marguerite “Meg” Seymour resigned as Town Clerk/ Tax Collector after 13 years of service; her duties were given to Finance Director Sue Hickey. Kathleen Donnelly is Assistant Town Clerk/Tax Collector. In August, Margo Lapietro, executive assistant to the Town Council, was terminated and was replaced by Kirby Wade.