While re-writing the Zoning Ordinance in Londonderry is a fine and necessary thing to do, in the end it will work only if residents care enough to express their views. The same thing can be said for Chester’s Master Plan update, and for the work Derry is doing on its zoning ordinance.
Paid planners who don’t live in town may well have the technical training to tackle the projects, but to make it fit the idiosyncrasies of the specific town in question – that’s a whole different ballgame, and again, it takes residents who are willing to express their thoughts on the matter to shape it so that it will work.
If that doesn’t happen – the case of Londonderry’s workforce housing ordinance is a great example – then taxpayers have just wasted a bundle of time and/or money. While the new ordinance or Master Plan may well be better organized or less redundant, it won’t meet the goals of the community, and the cycle – new regulations that don’t quite fit and require a paid project to change them – will be repeated.
But all the public meetings scheduled won’t matter if the turnout is the same few – or no – residents. The crowds and outcry over variances for workforce housing in Londonderry, for example, should prompt those same people to make sure the zoning ordinance changes reflect their concerns.
We have repeatedly reported consistent opposition in recent years to building large apartment complexes in Londonderry, whether partially or completely to provide workforce housing. At a recent Planning Board meeting, Londonderry Geographic Information System Manager John Vogl said, “What’s missing are single-family and smaller scale projects, projects that are fully compatible with one acre-lot neighborhoods. There are lots of opportunities to reduce the scale of workforce housing projects but still offer enough affordable housing.”
He’s right. But that’s not what apparently makes developers the money they want.
Derry, too, has been concerned with the height of new multi-family buildings coming into established single-family neighborhoods. There’s a pattern here.
That’s the kind of concern that should be reflected when changes are made to the ordinance. And it’s an issue that may not attract the attention of paid planners, but very definitely is in the forefront of the minds of people whose lives and investment in their homes are impacted by those same planners’ decisions.
So go ahead and revise the ordinances and plans. Just make sure to do everything possible to bring out citizen involvement in the process. And residents – do everything you can to get out there and express your concerns and suggestions. After-the-fact complaints won’t change anything.