Nevins Community Looks for Lawn Relief from Zoning Ordinance

Although many Londonderry residents value their environment and the personality it gives to the town, efforts to protect natural resources can sometimes come in conflict with development efforts. This was made apparent during the June 21 Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting.

For a second time that night, Zoning Ordinance 263 caused a disturbance with homeowners living in an 50-plus community owned by the Nevins Retirement Cooperative Association (NRCA), as it prevented 22 units within the cooperative from using chemical fertilizers or pesticides on their lawns. A Conservation Overlay Buffer extends onto their properties, causing this prevention.

The association was represented by their attorney Robert Shepard, while NRCA’s President of the Board of the Directors Anthony Vialanti was also present to answer questions. Prior to purchasing the already designed land a few years ago, the NRCA was completely unaware of the buffer’s existence. The issue was brought to light after an inspection of the area by the Conservation Commission. It should be noted that while the homes are owned by the residents, the NRCA owns the property on and around the homes.

Shepard voiced his disapproval of the conflict, stating that they came before the Zoning Board “basically because of a poor plan.” He noted that the NRCA was in no way seeking an “elimination of the buffer,” but rather, simply to give affected residents a chance at having “modest backyards with a lawn” that they could use as they see fit. He also argued that allowing homeowners to have better access to their lawns would increase the value of the homes, as only potash is allowed to cultivate the grass.

Shepard and Vialanti were not alone in their efforts, however, as numerous homeowners affected by this ordinance were also present to speak out in favor of a variance to alleviate these circumstances. One resident, Phil Marineau, criticized the Conservation Commission for trying to protect the local environment by supporting the ordinance, believing that some fertilizer and pesticides would be minute compared to the supposed heavy level of contaminates in the area.

Resident Peter Woodberry, doubted the effectiveness of potash when compared to the banned substances, stating that “[residents are] being punished” for circumstances that are not their fault.

Essentially, the frustrations of these homeowners matched the frustration conveyed by the NRCA.  Nonetheless, the board struggled to come to an agreement on where to take the issue. Both board member Jim Tirabassi and Chair Neil Dunn questioned why the developer and homeowners were not aware of the buffer issue beforehand, with Tirabassi stating, “I don’t think we’re going to find a resolution” to the issue until circumstances are made clearer.

As a result, Neil moved to continue the discussion at a later date once the board has had a chance to get more information from the Conservation Commission on the history of this buffer and the houses being affected. The matter will be picked up again during the board’s next meeting on July 19.

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