Master Plan Implementation Committee member Mike Speltz told the group that the airport development area should be discussed because what is going in seems to be different from what the Master Plan envisioned.
“There is a lot of development going on up there and the development that’s happening is pretty much all based on warehousing and distribution facilities, which is not really conforming to the vision that’s in our Master Plan,” he said. That vision is a “much more campus environment,” Speltz said.
Speltz told the committee at its Wednesday, March 26 meeting, that what goes into the area makes a difference. He noted that FedEx wants to employ 500 part-time employees for its proposed warehouse facility in the Pettengill Road area.
“Those are not necessarily the kind of jobs that we want,” he said. “We may want to influence the further development of that area. I hope that we will turn our attention to the airport area because I think there’s a lot going on there quickly, and if we want to have any influence on how that turns out, then we need to act soon.”
The Master Plan states, “The Pettengill Road area is largely accepted by the community as a desirable location for growth given its industrial zoning, proximity to the airport, and relative distance from residential neighborhoods.
“This plan abandons the idea of the conventional industrial park and instead imagines Pettengill Road as a self-sustaining industrial village. People who currently work in this area must drive to meet all of their daily needs. The Pettengill Road Industrial Village would accommodate a variety of manufacturing, office, and industrial uses, as well as the services and recreational opportunities needed to support workers and reduce the number of car trips on local roads.
“Taking it one step further, this Village could be planned as a national model for a sustainable, closed-loop eco-village, where the businesses feed and service each other. Imagine one factory using the waste from another. Local restaurants could serve food grown in agricultural lands within the Village.
“Designed around a network of interconnected streets, the Pettengill Road Industrial Village would not only provide a healthy and convenient place for workers and employees, but would also become a tourist destination.”
Committee member Ted Combes said the type of development going in is something the Town Manager could negotiate with the landowners.
Comprehensive Planner John Vogl said the town is involved in making sure the types of developments wanted in the mixed use area are permitted under the zoning, and making sure the town’s regulations can support and permit that type of development.
“Certainly as long as I’ve been here that’s been the vision, a corporate park,” Vogl said. “Whether or not the developers are choosing to go that way, that’s their prerogative. I think it’s up to the (zoning) audit to look at the goals in that area and ask, ‘is it permissible under the zoning that we have.’”
Committee member Art Rugg said zoning was designed to be flexible.
Committee member Tim Siekmann said if five star restaurants and hotels were desired there, it should be zoned accordingly.
“I’m just saying that zoning would be easier (if) based on what the town wants in a certain area, and tailor it that way,” Siekmann said.
Combes asked if it would be worthwhile to ask Town Manager Kevin Smith to approach the landowners and potential developers to tell them what the town wants in the area, as covered in the Master Plan. Smith said he had met with all the landowners multiple times and talked with them about what the town would like to see in the area.
“They are very much aware,” Smith said. “I think there are potential developers who are talking to the landowners who also share that vision, but they’ve also got to have the resources at the same time to be able to bring that to fruition.”
He said he had also made clear to them that the town does not want to see a situation like South Willow Street in Manchester. “That is not the vision that we have for the Pettengill Road area,” Smith said.