Conservation Commission Hears Mixed Use Development Proposal

By Alex Malm

The Londonderry Conservation Commission held its regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 26.

During the meeting the Commission had a design review for a site plan at 215 and 217 Rockingham Road. Representing the owners was Doug MacGuire.

He explained that currently the one lot developed has an existing office building on it.

MacGuire said that the developed lot is not in the best of shape and the parking lot is not convenient to access points on Rockingham Road, and said that the second lot is currently vacant. He explained that the proposal is to consolidate the two properties and construct something more in line with the Performance Overlay District (POD).

He said that they would like to construct a new 6,000 Square foot building that will be two-stories, with the first floor commercial and second floor residential, which would be a mixed-use building. He added that it would have six residential units. He said that they are eliminating all the curb cuts, where they technically could have three, into one, which will improve circulation around the building.

MacGuire told the Commission that the site is fairly flat with some wetlands in the rear of the property to the south. He said that the wetland is generated by existing run-off by the two properties, noting the parking lot drains right to the wetland. He mentioned that the land owners have owned the properties for quite some time and have tried to do some improvements over the years.

He also said that there is an existing culvert that was installed to collect the low point and bring it all the way under Rockingham Road, which is the drainage outfall for the wetland area. He explained that their proposal is to increase the elevation at the site approximately four feet to be able to collect the drainage in a closed drainage system. He added that they would like to do a wet pond at the lowest point of the property, which is adjacent to the wetland. He mentioned that they believe by improving the site, they will better protect the existing wetlands by providing drainage mitigation allowing it to naturalize.

He added that all the proposed pavement is now curbed and collected to drainage catch basins that are directed to the treatment system prior to discharge to the wetland. He noted that they are not proposing any wetland impacts.

Commission member Michael Speltz asked about the plan having pavement in the buffer.

MacGuire told the Commission that they are proposing some parking in the buffer because they are trying to work with what is already on site, as there is existing parking in the buffer right now that is unmitigated. He added that they are proposing to still have pavement in the buffer, but from an erosion standpoint everything is collected and directed to the wet pond.

Commission member Deborah Lievens asked if they would be applying for a Conditional Use Permit, and MacGuire said that they would be.

Speltz explained that the Commission does not have the authority to give them that particular use of pavement in the buffer. MacGuire said that the Commission has the authority for access and vehicular circulation.

Commission member Mike Byerly pointed out that usually the CUP is requested if there is no other access to the property.

MacGuire said that it just states for access and circulation rather than access to the property on the conditional use permit application. He said that his assumption regarding the conditional use permit requirement, is the goal is to limit impervious area that drains directly to wetlands from the buffer.

Lievens said that the buffer loses its significance or purpose by placing pavement there.

MacGuire stated that this is not new construction as this is an existing site that has pavement within five feet of the wetland itself and drains the entire pavement area directly to the wetland. He added that all the drainage on the site has played a role in creating the wetland area.

MacGuire said that overall he feels that the plan is an improvement to the site, even with a buffer impact of approximately 16,000 square feet. He said that currently there is 8,000 square feet of buffer impact on the site.

Byerly asked if the existing building would be renovated. MacGuire said that it would be a new building, pulling it closer to the road and placing the parking in front of the building, which he stated are some criteria of the performance overlay district.

Byerly explained that this is the opportunity to shrink the building and parking spots, so pavement would not be placed in the buffer.

MacGuire said that while it is a valid point he doesn’t think it is realistic for the development based on discussions he’s had with the owner.

He said that when looking at the functions and values of the adjacent wetlands on site, he didn’t know if having a 50-foot buffer is really worth having, as the vast majority is related to the discharge from the parking lot.

Speltz asked what the parking requirements are for what they are proposing. MacGuire said that it would be two spaces per unit which would equal 12.

Lievens said that she thought it was too much to fit on the two properties. Byerly also echoed Lievens’ concerns.

MacGuire said that he understood what the Commission was saying and said that he doesn’t like to advocate for a project that he doesn’t believe is appropriate.

He said that he believes the project is appropriate and noted that he was unsure of what else could be done with the wetland on the property.

He told the Commission that he reviewed a possibility of making the building a one story building and removing the 12 parking spaces, but noted that they still would have impact areas associated with the building and impact areas associated with the buffer.

Lievens asked if there was documentation by the wetland scientist that the wetland was created by outflow. MacGuire said that he didn’t have the information with him at the meeting but could get the information to the Commission, saying that he can have the wetland scientist put together a packet for the Board to review.

Speltz asked if the application could be tabled until the next meeting.

GIS Manager Amy Kizak said that the DRC comments are due by Nov. 5 and they will be back before the Commission for the conditional use permit.

Byerly asked if they need a variance for the project to move forward. MacGuire said that they are going in front of the Zoning Board of Adjustment for the use.

MacGuire said that his client didn’t want to lose a month of design review while waiting for the ZBA. He pointed out that residential and commercial are allowed uses, but not combined, which he thinks is a technicality.

He said that he is fine to hold off on comments, as the Commission needs more information.

Kizak said that the Commission could make one of their comments that they request the applicant come back with more information.

The Commission had a number of comments for the plan including recommending not using the Callery pear tree or honey locust tree in their landscaping plan. To keep snow storage out of the buffer. Avoid disturbing the buffer, noting the silt fence should be back from the edge of wetland. Reducing/eliminating the pavement in the buffer. To request the wetland scientist report. To request visuals of the site. Recommend reduce parking requirements (waiver) to eliminate spaces.

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter