Historic Home’s Relevance Requested at Planning Board

On August 2, a project engineer from Keach Nordstrom Associates in sought approval from the Planning Board for a five lot subdivision located at 24 Griffin Road. The site is mostly undeveloped apart from a single family home and barn that currently resides on the property, and is made up of small pockets of wetlands, with one large wetland complex in the center of the property.

The proposed plan is to divide the parcel into five lots, four of which would only be from one to one and a half acres, with the fifth lot, Lot 26, being 37 acres. Houses would be developed on the smaller lots, while the remainder of the land would be put on hold for development, most likely resulting in either a conservation area, an open lot, or a single home lot.

Each house would be subject to the buyers’ preference, but “it’s hard to say exactly what will go on here” because of the housing market in Londonderry. The lots can accommodate houses that are 2200 sq. ft. or larger, and each would have their own individual wells and septic systems.

At the end of the public hearing the board approved the plan, though there were many concerns raised by the neighbors to the land parcel, as well as Ann Chiampa, a member of the planning board as well as member of the Londonderry Historical Society.

Chiampa’s main concern was the history behind the home that resides on the land parcel, which, according to the assessment records, may be the oldest house in Londonderry, thought to have been built as early as 1722, if not earlier. When she began researching it deeper, she found the dates 1620 and 1690 written in the margins of the records, but there are no official records dating back that far that can corroborate.

The Historical Society brought in James Garvin, who worked as the State Architectural Historian for the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources for 24 years, to survey the house and do some more research. In his report, Garvin suggested a dendrochronology study to accurately date the house, and recommended hiring expert William Flynt who currently works with Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts.

While Chiampa and the Historical Society is “very thankful [the developers] gave us the opportunity to bring Mr. Garvin in the house,” she’s hoping they will let Flynt in the house to take samples for the study. She said that she had tried to contact both Chestnut Realty, the owner of the land parcel and applicant at the meeting, and Keach Nordstrom Associates to set up a day during which Flynt could, but had received no response.

The dendrochronology study requires samples of wood within the house, which would then be compared to a “library of samples” from the time period the house is suspected to have been built in. In order to get an accurate date, the wood chosen needs to be particular to the time period it was built, not from renovated areas of the house.

Chaimpa had already gone in front of the Town Council to ask for funding for this project, but is now concerned that it won’t be able to happen.

“If this house really is the first one built in Londonderry, that would be another chapter for the history books,” she said.

The project engineer from Keach Nordstrom said that there shouldn’t be any problem with it, but “given the condition of the house I think they’re hesitant to let people in whenever.”

Keith Martel approached the microphone on behalf of Chestnut Realty, and spoke about allowing samples to be taken from beams set aside for the society during the demolition, and that they had spoken to another member of the Historical Society about this.

He said they were uncomfortable giving access to a “decrepit house where somebody could be falling through the floor” for any amount of time.

Arthur Rugg, Chariman of the Planning Board, recommended that they sort out the plans in another setting and opened the floor up to more discussion from other concerned members of Londonderry.

Leitha Reilly, a member of the board who had recused herself from the hearing because she is a neighbor to the parcel, voiced her concern about Lot 26, the 37 acre piece of land whose use has not been determined yet. The main point of this hearing was to get approval for the subdivision so the developers could begin construction on the four lots meant for homes, and the larger lot would be determined at a later date.

Though the project engineer maintained that the large lot would most likely be used as conservation land or an open space lot, and that its inclusion in the application is more as a placeholder for the future, Reilly remained unconvinced that they are not planning anything for the future development of the land.

“I would like more clarity on what the plan to do with that back parcel,” she told the planning board, continuing with, “I don’t know how you can accept it without that level of clarity.”

It was established, however, that should the developers want to do something with the land other than what the current application said it could be used for – a single family home – they will have to go before the Planning Board again in order to get approval.

Despite concerns from neighbors about the future development of Lot 26, and since the application was not about the development of Lot 26, the Board approved the application.

Another application brought forth at the meeting was one for a formal review of a site plan for Phase 1 of an elderly housing development, which includes the development of 21 housing units, a clubhouse, and other site improvements located off NH Route 102 at Adams Road and Cross Road. Though listed as a public hearing, Cross Farm Development (owner and applicant) requested a continuation of the public hearing to the September 6 meeting. While there was some discussion about possible problems with the community, particularly the access point to Route 102, no decisions will be made until the September 6 meeting.

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