Calling for a moratorium, Londonderry Times Publisher Deb Paul asserted that the Town should pull the Workforce Housing Ordinance off the books before moving forward with approving new development.
“This could save our community a lot of anguish,” she told the Town Council Monday night, explaining the Zoning and Planning Boards need updated and more accurate information available when considering requests and proposals from developers for workforce housing projects.
The Planning Department and the Planning Board must take up the issue and introduce the process of writing a new ordinance. Once they publicly announce the process is under way, anything new that is brought to the Town would be subject to the new ordinance, while anything already in the pipeline would abide by the existing ordinance, according to Town Councilor John Farrell.
“It may take anywhere between 10 and 90 days to get it on the agenda, go through the correct postings and start the process,” he said, noting the Council is open to any ordinance the board brings forward.
Planning Board Chair Art Rugg said the board has looked at the ordinance and charged Planning staff to look into the workforce and 55 and older statutes.
Rugg noted workforce housing is becoming available through the Wallace Farms development, which will offer 240 units, half being workforce housing; the NeighborWorks project, 78 workforce housing units, and a proposed workforce housing development on Hardy Road, which would feature 288 units, with 75 percent required by the Town’s Zoning Ordinance to be workforce.
“Within three years there will be 700 new houses and apartments, and that doesn’t include the impact from Woodmont. Both Stonehenge and Hardy Road are feeder roads from arteries. This really concerns me that this small corner of Londonderry is getting so impacted by all this new development,” Paul said. “I would hate to add another 288 onto that 700.”
The Planning staff is quite busy, Rugg said. “This is of concern, but we have to do things based upon the law and hard data,” he noted. “I think we have to take a hard look and ensure the Town is protected.
Farrell said the Council can put a task force in place, but it would slow down the process of drafting a new ordinance.
Additionally, Farrell noted Planning is looking into defining what the Town’s “fair share” of workforce housing is, as the state statute is not written clearly to define what that means.
“I presume we are way over what we are required,” Councilor Joe Green said.
The Council directed the Town Manager to talk to the Zoning Board and Planning Board about launching an investigation into Paul’s concerns.