Town Planners Talk Water Study, Zoning Change Review Process

Chairman of the Conservation Commission, Marge Badois, attended a recent Planning Board meeting to review plans for an updated water management plan focused on getting a sense of the underground water supply in Londonderry.

According to Badois, “Our [current] water management plan was done as part of the Town’s 1991 Master Plan, when Londonderry’s population was 17,105. Now, 28 years later, there are roughly 10,000 more people drawing on the same sources of water. The Conservation Commission intends to fund an update to the 1991 plan; a request for proposals is ready to be released this month.”

“The objectives of this plan remain the same as in 1991: identify sources, understand threats, project future demand, analyze the adequacy of water supplies now and future, and recommend ways to keep our water clean and plentiful.”

Badois pointed out that this study will focus on the quantity of water available. She also mentioned that Londonderry’s water supply is heavily reliant on replenishment from precipitation because there are no large underground aquifers in town. Another study, approved and funded by voters this spring, is distinct from this Management Plan update and is focused on water quantity. Together, the two efforts will create a comprehensive approach to managing our water resources.

Badois shared that the implementation of the study will be with the assistance of town staff and through a working group to be appointed by the Town Manager that will include staff and representatives from the Town Council, Planning Board and Conservation Commission and the public. Board Member Peter Commerford volunteered to be the Planning Board representative.

Badois said that the Request for Proposals and Statement of Work are ready to be released once approved with work anticipated to begin prior to December 1 and goal to finish the study before the budgeting process begins for next fiscal year.

Board Members Scott Benson asked if a potential outcome of the study might be a recommendation for an expansion of town water. Badois replied that it was impossible to predict at this point, but that it could potentially be a study finding.

Board Member Al Sypek asked what other recommendations might come from the study. Referring to examples from the 1991 study, Badois cited potential recommendation to conserve sensitive areas, programs to improve management of private septic systems, water conservation ideas. She also said it will be very helpful for planning purposes to understand how the boundaries of major wetlands have shifted over time.

The Board was very supportive of the need for an update the earlier study citing some well issues in town, periodic issues from droughts and the rapid growth in residents and businesses tapping the water supply.

In other business, Town Planner Colleen Mailloux updated the Board on plans to review proposed commercial zoning changes and a restructuring of the zoning ordinance guidelines with the public and other town boards.

The commercial zoning changes would create a Commercial Performance Zone (CPZ) that would replace the existing Route 102 and Route 28 Performance Overlay Zones and subsume the current C-I and C-II commercial districts into this new zone. Mailloux plans to invite impacted landowners to a public information session in October, although some owners have already reached out to the planning department to learn about the changes. She shared that in total a few hundred landowners would be impacted by the changes.

After this session, the proposed changes would go back to the Planning Board in November and a public hearing in December.

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