Town Fails to Notify Abutters in Re-Zoning for Wine Bistro

Several abutters said they weren’t notified of a public hearing at which the Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend the Town Council re-zone properties on Mohawk Drive to develop the space into a boutique wine house and bistro.

The board invited the public to speak for or against the re-zoning at their Feb. 4 meeting, but no one was present to give testimony. Abutters told the Council at their meeting Monday night that not one of the 132 condominium owners living on adjacent properties to the proposed home of Cabonnay, Wine and Cuisine, received notification of the public hearing.

“I just heard about this 10 days ago. This was all news to me,” abutter Glenn Keating of 83 Granite St., told the Council. “I had no idea this was happening until I read about it in the Londonderry Times.”

Town Manager Kevin Smith said a certified letter announcing the public hearing was sent to and received by the property management for the condominiums, but management failed to pass the notice along to the condominium association and abutters.

“What we’ll do as a courtesy is send certified notices to the condominium owners who immediately abut (the properties seeking re-zoning) and continue the public hearing to the Council’s March 16 meeting,” he said. “But we have already met the legal requirement.”

Keating said he and his neighbors recognize that something needs to be done with the property, and that a previous proposal for a medical center was satisfactory to them, as business hours would have been limited to weekdays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Sharon Reed of 77 Granite St., told the Council the residents living in the townhomes adjacent to the parcel to be re-zoned are opposed to construction of a restaurant on the site.

“There are young children who live in the condominiums. It may be called a wine bistro, but it’s still a bar,” she said.

Geographic Information System Manager John Vogl said re-zoning the parcels from Commercial-IV to Commercial-I will revert them back to what they had been zoned the last couple decades.

“They were re-zoned to Commercial-IV to make them more saleable for the property owner,” Vogl said.

Councilor John Farrell noted that if the parcels are re-zoned, they would match the surrounding zoning.

Other permitted uses in a C-I zone include limited services motor vehicle, retail, professional office, repair services, and drive-thru windows.

“The most recent in-quiry for this site was an automotive repair shop,” Town Planner Cynthia May told the Planning Board at their hearing. “That’s what this site lends itself to, which is not friendly to the residential neighborhood.”

Smith noted that even if the properties aren’t re-zoned, the applicant could still build a restaurant with a Conditional Use Permit from the Planning Board.

Councilor Joe Green asked abutters at the meeting to leave their contact information with the Town’s Executive Assistant to ensure they are all notified personally.

The Town Council continued its public hearing on re-zoning the parcels until they could verify all abutters to the Mohawk Drive properties were notified.

Councilors agreed the Town may need to reconsider the process for notifying abutters of public hearings so that all individual condominium owners abutting a parcel, all of them taxpayers, receive notification when an action could affect their property.

“This is the first time we have had this happen where a management company hasn’t passed the notification along to the property owners,” Smith said. “You can’t overdo it, we could certainly start sending notice to management, as well as individual abutters. While we’re not legally required to do that, it’s probably not a bad idea.”