The Londonderry School Board was approached in its Tuesday (Oct. 22) meeting by Londonderry longtime resident Tony DeFrancesco regarding a “Call of Action” that centered “around the future of the Londonderry School District, planning and preparation for the future, concerning development, building and land”, per DeFrancesco.
“We’ve had a lot of recent discussion about expansion of schools, portable classrooms, additions, kindergartens, new schools, etc.”, said DeFrancesco, who also mentioned he sits on the town’s Facilities Committee. He added that there is a lack of space, both in buildings and in land: “Much of what you now own as a School District is inadequate in the amount of space that it has for the building that’s on it, and the development of it is nearly impossible or cost prohibitive.”
For these reasons, said DeFrancesco, he is suggesting that the School Board figure out a way to have on the March 2020 ballot an article that includes the possibility of land acquisition. DeFrancesco told the School Board members that he works as a realtor: “In my opinion, the future of the district will be decided by our actions, your actions now, regarding real estate in the future. You have needs, you know you have needs.”
He explained that he believes the School Board must think today about four or five years down the road and that there is a lot of land for sale that is not on the market, especially on larger parcels and that some of this land could be a “no-brainer” for the School District, in case there is indeed a decision to purchase land. DeFrancesco also offered his help with the process.
He continued his 10-minute presentation by emphasizing the time it takes between a land acquisition and occupancy, which is why, to his eyes, the process needs to begin now. “Owning land is never a bad thing”, said DeFrancesco. “The problem in Southern New Hampshire is that there isn’t a lot of land available. So a lot of that land will have a building on it, a commercial building probably.”
He went on to say that that would not necessarily be a negative thing, because while the process is enforced, the District could collect rent and have some money for development in a few years. “I was told by a Superintendent in the past that the school district doesn’t want to be in the rental business. I would argue that you already are”, said DeFrancesco, and gave as an example a variety of programs such as YMCA, church groups, driver education and more, who operate in the District’s facilities.
“We know based on the facility committee that the land behind the high school and at Moose Hill is very expensive land to develop”, said DeFrancesco. That land has ledge and a drop off and it will cost a lot of money to fix it. “It’s not easy for a municipality to buy land, buildings, or anything, because of the process”, he added. Should the District indeed decide they wish to buy land, they will have to negotiate and then go to the voters and this process could take several months. However, DeFrancesco said that to his knowledge, there are tax incentives for landowners who sell to municipalities.
He urged the board to take action, since prices are not going to go down and the longer it takes to make a decision, the bigger the problem will get. “I’m asking you as a board – please plan and prepare”, concluded DeFrancesco. “As a local School Board, your job is to solve problems. This is a problem. It has been identified and talked about for several years, buying land will help solve some future problems and maybe some that we don’t know about yet.”