Conservation Reviews Central Fire Station Wetland Impacts

The Conservation Commission discussed options for conserving property as compensation for wetland impacts from the planned expansion of Central Fire Station.  When a development fills in wetland area of a certain minimum size, the Wetlands Bureau of the State Department of Environmental Services (DES) requires the developer to mitigate the loss of wetlands.

One way to mitigate the loss is to find a parcel of land in Londonderry to conserve in place of the lost land.  Through a formula established by the state based on the size and quality of the wetlands impacted, a certain number of acres of other land must be conserved.  Another way to mitigate the loss is to make a cash donation to the state Aquatic Resource Mitigation Fund which then disburses funds statewide based on proposals submitted by towns and conservation entities.

The Central Fire Station plan calls for filling in a 10,480 sq. ft. wetland.  Much of this wet area is a manmade pond on the property that long ago was used to fill the fire trucks with water.  The town proposed to conserve another parcel in town to provide the required mitigation.

Bruce Gilday of BAG Land Consultants and Fire Chief Darren O’Brien presented their preliminary plan to the Commission.  The plan calls for an expansion from four bays to six, an improved fire truck flow in and out of the station, safer access to Mammoth Road and parking in the rear.  In addition, since the original complex mock up, the plan has been modified to put the administrative part of the complex adjacent to the library to have it closer to town hall and the police department.

Gilday suggested to the Council that a 4.6-acre property at 15 Wilshire that abuts Moose Hill Orchards would be appropriate for mitigation.  This property is 48% wetland and 52% upland. This property is already owned by the town though, so a conservation organization outside the Londonderry Conservation Commission would have to hold a conservation easement on it.

Commissioners debated the merits of this property. Mike Speltz noted that since the town already owns this land there would not be a lot of value in using it for mitigation since it is already protected. Deb Lievens pointed out that while town-owned, the land is not protected from development since the town could sell off the land at some point.

Since a third-party organization would have be involved, the town would have to pay for transaction costs and ongoing monitoring of the property. Speltz suggested as an alternative putting a conservation restriction which is easier and less costly than an easement. Gilday promised to see if DES would entertain that option.

Speltz asked Gilday if they would be open to contributing to the purchase of another parcel in town that the Conservation Commission is exploring. Gilday was open to that idea. In the end, it was agreed to investigate the options and reconvene as soon as possible to choose one.

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