Planning Report: Rapid Growth Could Strain Services, Infrastructure

Based on the Town’s 2002 Growth Management Ordinance (GMO), which lapsed last year, the Town has satisfied criteria for a determination of unsustainable growth.

In 2015, Londonderry authorized 278 building permits, compared with an average of 21.2 permits authorized over the preceding six years, according to a report GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Manager and Comprehensive Planner John Vogl presented to the Planning Board at its April 6 meeting.

Additionally, the number of housing units the Londonderry Building Division authorized between 2014 and 2015 grew by 3.2 percent, compared with a growth of .19 percent growth in the number of housing units building departments authorized in abutting municipalities.

“Given our findings, if the GMO were in effect today, it is likely a building permit limitation would be justified,” Vogl said.

In addition to looking at the increase in building permits, the GMO also considers the fiscal impact of residential growth in town.

Vogl said because staff was not directed to complete an extensive examination of the GMO, they used census reports and a School District facilities report completed by an outside auditor to consider the impact of the Town’s residential growth on services and facilities.

“We looked at the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) and it’s safe to say our facilities are adequate, given improvements that have been made to Fire, Police, the library and to other facilities like Town Hall,” he said. “Certainly, we heard of issues at the School District with regard to an auditorium and the School District Offices. The School District reports in the future there may be stresses at the elementary level in the north part of town; but I think presently it’s safe to say services are adequate to meet the growth for this year.”

Vogl recommended the Planning Board consider the findings of their study as they move forward with the CIP this year, looking at services and future demand on infrastructure.

“I think we need to keep track of where we are in the scheme of things,” Chairman Art Rugg agreed. “In the last six to seven years we have been through the Great Recession, and economic conditions really dictate what growth is.”

“I think that’s exactly what we’re seeing now. Projects that have been dormant for the last six to seven years through the Great Recession have now picked up and we’re seeing the fruits of those approvals,” Vogl said.

Member Mary Soares noted many “empty nesters” in town are selling their homes to younger families with elementary school-aged children.

Member Leitha Reilly, who also serves as vice chairman of the School Board, said the District’s facilities report – available on the School District’s website at – “confirmed a lot of what we already knew,” but also “highlighted those challenges coming down the pipe.

“(Business Administrator) Peter Curro has worked extensively with the Town side,” she said. “Typically, with new construction, you tend to get younger families or those just starting out, and, we find, a lot of new elementary students. That’s what we’re seeing in the north end of town.”

Reilly said the District has seen 40 new students come in over the summer, dispersed in various buildings or across different grades.

“Honestly it’s a logistics nightmare,” she said.

According to the District’s facilities report, local schools are nearing capacity, based on the District’s standards for class sizes.

“I think this Committee has been diligent to keep pace with the infrastructure, but we need to also be diligent to keep pace with what the growth is. I think these numbers need to go to schools, department heads and the Council so when we have the CIP meeting they’re really cognizant of this,” Rugg said.

Vogl recommended the Board also remain mindful of the types of development being approved, such as the ratio of senior housing projects.

“We’re going to see more building. We have Woodmont and certainly we will have more commercial/industrial development,” he said.

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