Senior Affairs Director Pans Proposal for Rental Housing

Attorney Patricia Panciocco, Jocelyn Bos of Calamar builders and George Chadwick, senior project manager of Bedford Design Consultants, presented a conceptual design for a rental housing project for seniors with rents ranging from $1,300 a month for a one bedroom unit to $1,500-plus for two bedrooms, leading Londonderry Senior Affairs Director Catherine Blash to respond that what Londonderry needs is affordable senior housing. She termed this project not affordable.

The proposal, for three connected buildings, would be at the end of Reed Street, with Golden Drive to the west and Button Drive to the south. It was presented to the Planning Board on Wednesday night, March 12.

Panciocco said the site includes the remaining seven lots between Avandi’s and the old Mr. Steer building.

“To the west you have the Crossroads Mall and other services that are located in there, pharmacies, dry cleaners, video stores,” she said. “There are several pharmacies close by and an urgent care facility on the other side of Route 102, and less than a mile away you’ve got two grocery stores and other shopping plazas.” 

Panciocco said it was the short distance to the services and shopping areas that make the site attractive to Calamar for an elderly rental project.

Bos said there is a need for senior rental housing and explained that a one-bedroom unit would be 865 square feet and a two-bedroom unit would be 1,050 to 1,100 square feet.

“We are aging and many of us no longer wish to take care of our homes, and yet we wish to be independent,” Bos said. “We can’t afford the upper end of retirement communities where you buy in, they have meals, etc., and rents can run anywhere from $2,500 and up.”

Bos said the middle building would have a community room, exercise room, a 40-seat theater, internal mailboxes, and a washer/dryer room and would service the 33 one-bedroom and the 77 two-bedroom apartments. She said the apartments would have washers and dryers and stainless steel appliances.

Calamar acts as its own general contractor, she said, but added that local contractors and craftsmen would be used to build the project, with an 18-month construction time frame.

Chadwick said there would be hurdles to overcome, such as density, setbacks and mandatory two-bedroom requirements, and they are working through the process. He requested input from the Planning Board before they go to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for variances.

Chadwick said the allowable density was six units per acre and their proposal would have 13.7 units per acre.

Assistant Public Works Director John Trottier said easements would be needed through a neighboring parcel to extend the sewer to their lot, and a traffic study would be required.

Board member Chris Davies asked about the radius of the cul-de-sac that is at the entrance to the project. Trottier said the builder would make the cul-de-sac to town standards.

Board member Lynn Wiles asked about the footprint of each building, and Chadwick said that building A is 15,980 square feet, B is 16,510 square feet and C is 15,755 square feet.

“My seniors are older than 55 and they need housing that is affordable, and this is not affordable,” Blash said. “These prices, maybe some of us could afford this, but my seniors cannot afford anything like this so that’s why I came tonight to listen. I had gone to the luncheon where this was all presented and the seniors walking out when it was over said to me ‘we cannot afford this.’ Has there been anything presented to the town that is affordable?”

Chairman Arthur Rugg said there had been proposals for affordable elderly housing in the past that never came to fruition.

Board member Maria Newman said there are several constraints and roadblocks for development of subsidized housing.

Resident Mike Speltz said he understood that land around the proposed development was controlled by the same owner.

“It seems to me that it would be difficult to ask for special treatment based on a density problem when other land held by the owner is abutting, so I don’t have a lot of sympathy for putting this high a density on these parcels,” Speltz said.

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