Council Concerned Over Rezoning Rockingham Road

Raising concern over the impact another multi-family residential development would have on town resources, the Town Council tabled a request Monday night to rezone an Industrial property on Rockingham Road.

The Evans Family, who has owned the property at 280 Rockingham Road for a number of years, requested rezoning a 40-acre portion of the parcel, located near the brownfield site on Sanborn Road identified for an affordable senior housing project, to make the entire property more marketable to developers.

“The topography in that part of the site is steeper. It has several small wetland areas and there’s a large wetland in the middle of the property that creates a natural divide. It’s much more conducive to smaller buildings and residential development than larger industrial development,” said Earl Blatchford, senior project manager at Haynor Swanson.

Blatchford told the Council that Charlie Evans has been trying to market the property for quite some time with no success.

“There is no specific plan for developing the property, now,” he said. “He had gotten some feedback that part of the property would be tough to develop to commercial.”

Council Chairman John Farrell expressed frustration that he was not aware of the zoning request when it went before the Planning Board, which unanimously approved rezoning the property in February, as reported by the Londonderry Times.

“I’m a little disturbed by the fact we’ve had a number of these (large multi-family developments) and we’re finding out about this now,” he said. “There has been a lot of discussion about them and talk about what to do with them, but as a governing body, we’re finding out about this now. I realize we’re trying to hire a planning director, but this is not the way we should be doing business.”

Farrell also said, “shame on us, we need to be informed.”

Blatchford emphasized there are no specific plans for developing the property, saying Evans is “taking the time now to do the rezoning because we feel it makes sense.”

But Farrell expressed skepticism that Evans is rezoning the property without a basic plan for development.

“Charlie Evans is a good developer, he gets things done,” he said.

GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Manager John Vogl said no site plans for the property have been submitted to the Planning Department and noted the rezoning request is consistent with the Master Plan and would create a better transition between Agricultural-I and non-residential uses in the area.

Councilor Tom Dolan said his concern with the rezoning request is a financial one.

“To take a potentially tax positive piece of property and turn it to a tax negative property by turning it into residential, I’m not saying it’s a disqualifier, but it’s a concern. One of the reasons we tend to accelerate development of industrial property is for the benefit to the taxpayers,” he said.

Dolan noted the Council has entered development agreements in the past where the developer is held responsible if the Town finds over time their project results in a negative tax impact.

“The developer has some skin in the game to keep the community whole,” he said. “I wonder if this might be a candidate for that to keep this from going negative.”

The Council agreed to table voting on the rezoning proposal until its next meeting to allow time for Planning staff to evaluate the potential impact that full build-out of the site could have on town services.

Farrell directed Town Manager Kevin Smith to contact the School District to determine what the impacts on the schools would be.

“The impact of our decision could be monumental, but we don’t know what the impact of that decision is going to be,” Dolan said. “Once we get those impacts, we can become more educated. It gives us some discussion.”

“It would be prudent not to go quickly,” Farrell said. “What we have learned over the last several years is when we are prudent and we don’t move quickly, we make very good decisions.”