A town official and a member of the School District administrative team engaged in a war of words recently on the subject of multifamily housing.
At the Aug. 15 Town Council meeting, Councilor Thomas Freda sharply criticized School District Business Administrator Peter Curro over a letter Curro wrote to the Planning Board on July 10. Freda’s remarks were read into the record as he defended the Planning Board and chairman Art Rugg.
Curro’s original letter, dated July 10 and written as a private citizen, spoke of the “negative impact” of multifamily development. In earlier debates on residential versus commercial development, he stated that Londonderry officials had determined “we don’t want to be in the boat Derry is in,” referring to Derry’s numerous apartments and residential developments and not enough business or industry to mitigate the tax impact.
Curro stated that multifamily development had a negative tax impact and put stress on the capacity of the public schools.
Curro’s boss, Superintendent Nathan Greenberg, recently wrote to the Planning Board asking that it not approve a zoning change for a proposed multifamily development, stating that approval of the change would put undue stress on the district he supervises.
Curro charged the Planning Board with being “reactionary” and noted, “The developers do not always have the best interests of the town at hand. They are in it for profit.”
He contended that the Planning Board should be more proactive in bringing the kind of development Londonderry needs.
In particular, Curro criticized the decision to allow an Uncle Bob’s storage facility to open in the north end of town. He said that area would be better served by a pharmacy, grocery store or bank. The Planning Board, he said, should be focusing development on filling the voids.
He also asked for more town parks and centers of recreation, and lamented the loss of the “rural character” of the town.
But Freda countered, “Mr. Curro is entitled to his own opinion. He is not entitled to his own facts.”
Freda’s statement said that Curro had pointed to no study that showed multifamily housing had a negative impact on taxes. “In two studies done by the Planning Board, multifamily housing was shown to have a positive impact,” Freda said in his statement. He urged the School Board to produce its own studies, noting that last month the board had to go to the Planning Department for projected enrollment information.
Freda also reacted to Curro’s complaint that the Planning Board was reactionary. “The Planning Board does indeed react to plans,” Freda said. “But they can’t pick land and order other people how to develop it.”
The “Uncle Bob’s” parcel sat undeveloped for 10 years, according to Freda. “Nobody wanted to put a bank, pharmacy or supermarket there,” he said. “The one person who wanted to develop it risked their time, money and effort.”
Freda, who served on the Planning Board for five years, said Curro was not “signing the checks or risking his own money” when he criticized the board.
In a phone interview last week, Freda said he thought he had to speak out because he knew members of the Planning Board would not respond. He knows the work those people do, he said.
Also in a phone interview last week, Curro said he would have to go back and look at his letter to the Planning Board. He did not respond further as of press time.