Abutters Raise Concerns About Rezoning Parcel for Townhomes

The Town Council approved rezoning the property at 39 Blossom Road for a development of affordable, townhome-style units.

The 20-acre parcel was zoned Agricultural-Residential (AR-I), developer Joe Caldarola told the Council at their June 15 meeting, and rezoning it Multi-family Residential (R-III) will enable him to offer a lower density development with more affordable housing for families and seniors.

Where the parcel allows for a 160-unit development, Caldarola plans to construct 50 townhome units, with no more than six units attached in a rowhouse-style configuration.

The developer plans to sell the homes for less than $300,000, with no rentals.

Planning staff recommended the rezoning because it would provide the Town with a greater variety in its housing stock, something called for in the 2013 Master Plan and reflected in current discussions with the Board regarding zoning ordinance amendments, according to Town Planner Cynthia May.

The rezoned parcel would also provide a reasonable transition between the Commercial-II uses to the west and the AR-I uses to the north and east.

Abutters to the proposed development said they are not against the project, but have concerns about privacy and how the new townhomes will impact their own properties.

Because the lot has a substantial slope, Bob Ross of 2 Holmes St. said he will be looking directly into the second-floor of his new neighbors’ homes from his backyard.

“My property is elevated 40 to 50 feet. In the back of my yard, where the pool and deck are, I will be looking in everyone’s back windows and roofs,” he said.

“In the spirit of being good neighbors, if the Planning Board were to ask you to look at existing homes in the vicinity and do some berms and some fencing, would you be amenable to that to give some protection from existing homes and development?” Councilor Tom Dolan asked.

“There are only a few houses surrounding the development, but there are some buffers that can be installed,” the developer replied. “I don’t think we can really do that until we get past the engineering.”

In addition to the potential privacy loss, Ross also expressed concern over wind and dirt during construction and the proposed entrance to the new development.

The only proposed entrance to the property is located on Hillside Avenue, near the Derry town line.

Ross said the street is frequently overwhelmed by large snow drifts in the winter, and suffers from traffic that results from people attending classes at Dance Progressions and vehicles parked along the side of the street.

Councilors reminded abutters to the proposed development that plans must still be approved by the Planning Board, which will offer additional opportunities to provide input and share concerns about potential impacts.

Councilor Joe Green asked if rezoning the parcel R-III would be an example of spot zoning, as there are limited properties with that zoning in town, primarily located near commercial and industrial properties.

“This also coincides with what the Planning Board has been looking at in the Zoning re-write – R-III being allowed in adjacent AR-I land as a transition. This will not be an anomaly, the transitions will be essentially the same,” May said, noting such transitions are described in the Town’s Zoning Map.

“There’s no trend here. Someone came in a month or two ago claiming there was spot zoning because they were trying to stop something from happening, but it became pretty clear that claim was without merit,” Attorney Mike Ramsdell said, referring to the rezoning of a Mohawk Drive property for a wine bistro. “(May) is right, the change in zoning, because it’s located between commercial and an AR-I District, will provide transition. There’s no claim to spot zoning whatsoever.

As a condition of Board approval of rezoning, the zoning will stay AR-I if the site plan is not accepted.