Town Council Hears Presention on Potential Griffin Road Land Purchase

At the August 14 Town Council meeting, Michael Speltz, an alternate for the Conservation Committee, went before the council to inquire about purchasing the piece of land abutting the parcel off 24 Griffin Road that was discussed at the August 2 Planning Board meeting.

The Conservation Commission has been looking into this 30-acre parcel for a number of years, and while the Londonderry map says the parcel is owned by Forest Land Preservation, it has since changed hands and is potentially under the responsibility of developers. Over the past few months, the Conservation Commission has come to an “informal agreement” with the developers to split the cost of the land appraisal to see whether any development could be done and what lands should be reserved for wildlife.

Speltz brought it to the council to see what the general reaction would be on how to proceed.

The land is a combination of wetlands and supportive landscape – landscape that helps keep the wetlands from degrading. About 15 percent is emergent wetland, with the rest being supportive landscape. The majority of the land, except for the swamp that makes up the western border of the parcel, is fine to develop, according to Speltz. Parts have already been forested from a time when development was scheduled to happen there, and has since started to grow back.

Speltz said the combination of new and old vegetation is ideal for wildlife.

As part of his presentation, Speltz outlined the Conservation Commission’s next steps, should the council decide to give the go-ahead for the project. First, the commission would refer the project to the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) to negotiate the purchase price of the parcel, then the JNC would negotiate the appraisal price with the developers, after which the Conservation Commission would decide whether or not the parcel is worthwhile to purchase. If the Conservation Committee decided they would like to spend the money to purchase the parcel, they would then bring it back to the Town Council for approval.

The members of the council felt that more information was required before they could say that the project was a good thing to pursue. Town Council Vice Chairman John Farrell said that before they make a decision, the Geographic Information System manager should get involved to determine what percentage of the land could reasonably be developed.

“Why is the developer so interested in talking to us?” he asked, stating that he would also like to know what motives the developer has regarding the parcel.

Both Councilman Jim Butler and Chairman Tom Dolan agree with Farrell and want more information before they make any sort of decision on pursuing this project.

When the floor opened for public comment, Ann Chiampa, member of the Planning Board and curator of the Londonderry Historical Society, approached the microphone to inquire about how long the developer had been planning to do something with the land.

Chiampa was one of the public commenters at the August 2 planning board meeting when the adjacent lot was being discussed. At that meeting, there was no mention of this land parcel, and the developers had said that the only area they were planning on developing was four lots in the subdivision at 24 Griffin Road, the fifth of which is the large stretch of land abutting the lot in question. It was implied that the developers were planning for this to be conservation land, but now that they are seemingly looking to develop the lot next to it, Chiampa questioned whether or not that was accurate.

Ultimately, the Town Council decided that before they could make any sort of decision, both informally and formally, there would need to be more information on the land parcel.

Town Manager Kevin Smith said he would give the project to the new Geographic Information Service Manager as her first project, and the council would revisit it when more information is available.

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