Landscaping Business Hopes to Rezone Area Near Rail Trail

By Alex Malm

During the Monday, Jan. 9, Town Council meeting, four of the five members heard a rezoning request for 4 Commercial Lane, which is on the Londonderry Rail Trail during the Jan. 9 meeting.
Council Chair, John Farrell, stepped from his seat in the matter, stating his daughter works for the law firm representing the business involved.
Attorney, Bob Carey, presented the plan to the board for the owner of Gizmo Enterprises, LLC, also known as Groundhog Landscaping. He told the board they were looking to rezone a portion of their property from AR1 to C-II.
He explained that the owner has owned the property that abuts the Rail Trail off Rockingham Road since 2004, and has a landscaping business that began in Londonderry and continues to operate there.
Carey explained that recently they became aware they have encroached onto the Londonderry Rail Trail, which is owned by the State, and it needs to be rezoned. He added that they worked with the DOT, the town, and the prior planning director to try to find a solution.
One of the points made by Carey is that the property is around other types of zoning.
“Its surrounded by multiple zones,” said Carey.
He also noted that one of the uses allowed in the C-II district is recreational, which wouldn’t impact the Rail Trail if the zoning was changed, and would be consistent with the current use.
Carey also noted that because of the amount of wetlands, the rezoning wouldn’t allow for more development to be put on the site.
If the Town Council were to approve the request, Carey said they would put up planting and trees as a natural screening between his property and the Rail Trail.
In terms of fitting in with the master plan, Carey said it wouldn’t be a large enough strip of land to be developable.
“Rezoning it isn’t something that would be inconsistent with the master plan,” said Carey.
Londonderry Trailways President, Bob Rimol, spoke in favor of the plan, “We have a lot of abutters along the rail trail.” He explained that they never had an issue with Groundhog Landscaping.
Rimol said he hopes they are able to come up with a solution that wouldn’t require them to change anything, saying he thinks there is an adequate buffer.
“We do have issues with other abutters,” said Rimol noting that he wouldn’t name names, but said they have tried to address it with them without any response.
He added that they have abutters that are closer to the Rail Trail.
The rezoning request had originally gone to the Planning Board prior to the Town Council meeting, and that board recommended the Town Council reject the request to rezone the property.
Assistant Town Manager, Kellie Caron, said that reasons for the recommendation of the denial includes being consistent with the master plan, and the potential for spot zoning.
Councilor, Deb Paul, stated she thought changing the property would set a dangerous precedent, adding that if we do this for one business, other businesses would be able to make the same request along the trail.
One resident, who lives in the AR1 zone on Rockingham Road, said she wasn’t sure why they were looking to rezone it as a commercial property. She added that she originally bought the home as an AR1 Zone property and doesn’t want to have a commercial property abutting hers.
Caron said if they were to approve the request it would make the property part residential and part commercial.
The council voted 4-0 to continue the application, hoping to get additional information.
The board will take up the Public Hearing once again during its Monday, Jan 23, meeting.