Stonehenge Apartment Complex Plans Postponed

After considerable public input, the Londonderry Planning Board has
postponed to Feb. 1 further discussion on a controversial multi-family
development proposed for the juncture of Stonehenge and Hardy roads.
The board had already deferred the discussion from its Dec. 7 meeting, in
order to have developers First Londonderry Association answer concerns about
traffic and aesthetics. After a public hearing and concerns by the board
itself, members in the Jan. 4 meeting continued the hearing to February 1.
The property is Tax Map 12, Lots 120 and 121, and is located at 30
Stonehenge Road and 113 Hardy Road. The land is zoned AR-I and the plan is
to build a workforce housing rental project of 12 24-unit buildings, with
288 rental units.
Residents have expressed concern about adding traffic to an
already-dangerous intersection at Stonehenge and Route 28. They have also
expressed concern about the visual effect of the building in an
agricultural-residential area, particularly as seen from Faye Drive.
In the Jan. 4 meeting, Jeff Merritt, an engineer with Keach Nordstrom,
addressed the following concerns from the Dec. 7 meeting:
€ Offsite improvements to the intersection of Stonehenge and 28. A
right-turn lane on to 28 appeared to be the best option, he said.
€ A playground for the complex’s children. The applicants have playgrounds
at their other properties and there is “not a lot of use,” according to
Trottier. A playground also opens the applicants to liability. He said the
preferred option here was a wooded trail of 3,000 feet.
€ Height. A “balloon test” Dec. 31 was done in the area of the proposed
Building 9 on Dec. 31, Merritt said. The balloon was raised to the height of
the ridge line, about 60 feet, and it was not visible from Faye Lane, he
said, though it was visible from one point on West Parish Road.
€ Lighting. The plan is for “full cutoff” fixtures, with no light being
emanated from past the horizontal point, Merritt told the board. It’s the
“dark sky” concept, with no upward lighting, he said. He said, “LED lights
are directional. We can control the focus and reduce ‘spill.'” The fixtures
on the perimeter will have “house-side shields,” which will further reduce
spill by 5 to 10 percent.
€ Trash and recycling. In addition to a trash compactor, a concrete pad will
be installed for a recycling container and the company is in talks with
Waste Management about the size, he said.
The traffic that could be generated remained a sticking point. Traffic
engineer Steve Pernow said he had met with town staff and the development
team, and that the most “reasonable mitigation” appeared to be the
right-turn lane from Stonehenge to Route 28.
There were three concepts discussed, he said:
€ Concept A, widening Stonehenge with two approaching lanes to 28. “That
would increase the egress capacity,” Pernow said. It’s do-able but would
require the relocation of a utility pole, he said.
€ Concept B, widening the north side of Stonehenge.
€ Concept C. Stonehenge would remain as it is, with the addition of the
right-turn lane and a median strip containing the utility pole. “C” was
vetted by the developers and town staff, he said, though DOT will have the
final say.
“It is the first part of a long-range fix for the intersection,” Pernow
“What will that do to the traffic count?” Chairman Art Rugg asked, to which
Pernow said, “It won’t change the volume. But it will make the right turns
James Butler, the Town Council representative to the Planning Board, asked
if Pernow had consulted with the Londonderry Police Department and received
an accident history. Pernow allowed that he hadn’t, but that the DOT had
provided him with an accident list from 2009 to 2013. There were 30
accidents, an average of six per year, he said. Of these, five were diagonal
crashes, nine were rear-enders, three were head-on, 10 “unknown” and three
“other,” he said.
How many injuries? Butler pressed.
Pernow said 21 were property-only and nine had some personal injury. “There
were no fatalities,” he said.
The permanent fix, according to Pernow, would be signaling the intersection.
But that would take multiple years and multiple dollars, he added. “You
can’t just plunk in a signal.”
The bottom line, Butler said, is, “This intersection will still be in
“Will it reduce accidents?” Rugg asked of the turning lane.
“I would not go far enough to say that,” Pernow responded.
“Have you talked to the police?” Butler asked again, to which Pernow
responded that the turning lane had been discussed by staff, himself, the
developers and Stantec, a third-party engineering firm.
Butler wasn’t satisfied. “Our police and fire personnel know that
intersection better than anyone,” he said.
Alternate Ann Chiampa asked for more recent data, noting that “These numbers
are from three years ago.”
Member Al Sypek agreed, saying, “I would ask for more recent data. I’m
interested in trends, patterns.”
“We need a commonality of discussion with police and fire, and I don’t
believe we’ve reached that yet,” Rugg said.
Butler criticized the development team for taking its traffic samples from
July 20 to 23. School was out at that time and many Londonderry-ites were on
vacation, he contended. “Why didn’t you do it at the height of the traffic
season?” he asked. “I have no trust in your numbers.” To audience applause
he added, “This study was done in favor of the developer.”
Fugere pointed out that the numbers were adjusted using a formula to bring
them closer to peak traffic times and said, “That is an unfair statement. I
want this on the record.”
“Put it on the record,” Butler said.
Member Leitha Reilly told Pernow and David DeBaie, the independent
consultant from Stantec, “I value your expertise. But not when it flies in
the face of common sense.”
Merritt said the Building 9 site was chosen for the balloon test because it
is the only building in the development that will be four stories tall.
There is also a topographic difference between the development and Faye
Lane, he said.
Merritt said that there will be 1,400 feet between Building 9 and the
closest house on Faye Lane; 1,200 feet to Mammoth Road; and 1,750 feet to
Hardy. “It’s spread out, so you won’t get the feeling it’s towering over
you,” he said.
“This site ‘falls away’ from Stonehenge,” Mark Fugere, a principal with
Fugere Planning, said. “The vegetation will be 6 to 7 feet high.”
But Butler wasn’t so sure. He had been at the balloon test on New Year’s Eve
morning, he said. While he agreed that the balloon could not be seen from
Faye Drive, he expressed concern that the development would be much more
visible once trees were taken down. “When you clean it out and open it up, I
would not like the view,” he told the developers. He also asked why balloons
were not flown over the area of the proposed Building 1.
Merritt countered, “I’m not suggesting you can’t see the site.” The concern,
he said, was that Buildings 7 and 9 would tower over Faye Lane, and that was
why the balloon was raised there.
Units 1 and 3 are only three stories each and have a 50-foot buffer from the
road, he said.
But Merritt added, “I think people should be able to see the development.
We’re not ashamed of it.”
Public Opinion
In the public hearing portion of the meeting, Conservation Chair Marge
Badois addressed the fact that the development will border on Little Cohas
Brook. “It is an important and sensitive watershed,” she said. “I would
recommend that you have an on-site third-party monitor the area on a
permanent periodic basis.” She noted that the snow storage and dumpster are
being placed in an area that could mean trouble for Little Cohas.
“Our recommendation,” she said, “is that you keep the buffer as wide as you
Badois also addressed the fact that Conservation was never given the
opportunity to comment on the Design Review Committee process, though they
were consulted on the dredge-and-fill permit. Planning Director Colleen
Mailloux said that Conservation should have been informed, but that there
were staff changes at the time and there could have been a miscommunication.
Faye Lane resident David Nease said, “I’ve been fighting this project for
eight years. They don’t want the liability of a playground? I don’t want the
liability of having a recreational trail behind my house.”
Nease said, “Every one of the apartment complexes in Londonderry has a drug
problem. I have three small children.”
He also disputed the lighting plan, saying, “I don’t want ‘Home Depot’ in my
back yard. I see deer in my back yard. With 288 units, do they really
believe we won’t see the lights?”
John Curran, also a resident of Faye Drive, said, “They had no contact with
us unless we were direct abutters. We were out of the loop.”
Curran urged the board to take a subjective look at the prospect, noting
that the 30 accidents were the ones reported, and a lot of fender-benders
aren’t reported. Also, he said, a workforce housing complex means that
people will, well, work. And they will drive to work, down Stonehenge to
Route 28.
“I urge you, do your due diligence,” he told the board.
Nutfield publisher and resident Debra Paul asked what is “reasonable” in the
traffic study world. “These people are not driving these roads every day,
and seeing what is going on,” she told the board.
The developers are responsible for making sure safety is maintained, and
Paul didn’t see that happening.
In addition, Paul expressed concern about enough water pressure for a
fully-engulfed fire; the sight lines; and the impact on town services.
In talks with the DOT, Paul said, department personnel told her the best
time to put in a traffic light at the Stonehenge/28 intersection was during
the widening of I-93, which is ongoing. The developer should be responsible
for putting in the light, Paul maintained.
“We are here to do what’s right for the community,” Paul said. “The
developers have done nothing.” She urged the developers to “either pony up,
or take your bags and go.”
“This is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I urge you to rethink
it,” Paul told the board.
Lifetime resident Jillian Davenport said, “Safety is the number one concern
of all the residents. At the end of the day, this developer is not sure he
can make the problem better, and will possibly make it worse.”
Fire Lt. and resident Beau Butler brought firsthand experience, saying he
has been responding to accidents in Londonderry for 12 years. “I deal with
the human factor,” he said. “I have responded to a number of accidents on
this stretch of roadway. It is a terrible stretch, like a luge. If you add
more cars, it will set the town up for failure.”
Council Chair John Farrell wrapped up the public comment. saying, “This is a
square peg in a round hole. It’s in the wrong place in the wrong time.” He
further compared the project to “Russian roulette” regarding drivers and
“We live here, they don’t live here,” he said of the developers. “We need to
figure out a better way.”
The board listed the concerns they wanted dealt with by the February
meeting, including a better plan for trash and recycling; a meeting with
Conservation; and a meeting between traffic consultants, police, fire and
the DOT. They voted unanimously to continue the hearing to February 1, at 7

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter