Zoning Board OKs Workforce Housing Project Variances

The Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) approved with a 4-0 vote two variances for another workforce housing project in Londonderry.

Several abutters spoke against granting the variances at the Oct. 15 public hearing, saying the apartment buildings proposed for construction at 105 Hillside Ave. wouldn’t fit the character of the neighborhood, which is predominantly single-family homes, and could cause property values in the area to decline.

“This project is different from the entire neighborhood, it doesn’t fit,” Robert Holden of 6 Holmes St. said.

Abutters also expressed safety concerns over a potential increase in traffic at the development’s proposed entrance on Hillside Avenue.

Sally Pugh of 102 Hillside Ave. said she has been living across the street from the parcel at 105 Hillside Ave. for 51 years, and the traffic increase would be right in her front yard, noting the developer will likely have to widen the road and she doesn’t have enough land to allow for that.

“I understand what the speakers are saying, but I can envision this completed,” developer Joe Caldarola said. “My intention is to do a good job and I don’t intend for it to negatively affect home values in the area.”

Caldarola said he originally planned to develop affordable senior housing on the parcel, but due to the unique topography of the site, the homes will have garages located underneath, making them less appealing to residents who are generally seeking residences they can access without climbing stairs.

Manchester attorney John Cronin also noted many of the abutters’ concerns are issues for the Planning Board, and that he and his client will address those issues at that time and present a complete traffic study.

Caldarola requested variances to allow workforce housing on a parcel with 16.4 acres where 20 acres are required, and to build 14 townhouse-style, multi-family buildings per year where developers may only complete three buildings per year. The development will feature 96 units total on a property on which zoning would allow construction of 164 units.

This would provide unique, affordable housing for low- to moderate-income residents, which is in the spirit of the Workforce Housing law, Caldarola told the Board.

Caldorola said the townhouse-style home is different from workforce housing options commonly available and will appeal to low- to moderate-income residents.

Mike Speltz of Sugar Plum Lane, who served on the Workforce Housing Task Force that drafted the zoning ordinance, told the Board the 20 acre minimum for workforce housing developments was set in an effort to “maintain the rural character of Londonderry and preserve open space in the Town.

“We took a great deal of testimony from the public,” Speltz said. “The 20 acre requirement is not to limit workforce housing, but to ensure it’s put on a lot that is large enough to preserve open spaces.”

Following the meeting, Speltz said he was disappointed the ZBA granted the developer both variances.

“The Workforce Housing statute says we can’t place an unrealistic burden on workforce housing developments with our ordinances – that applies to the Town as a whole, it’s not an obligation to each individual developer,” Speltz said. “I think the Board missed that.”

Additionally, Speltz thinks it would have served the public welfare to preserve open space and the rural character of the town by upholding the 20 acre requirement for a development of the size proposed. One of the points of law the Zoning Board considers in granting a variance is whether or not doing so is in the public interest.

Speltz said many other communities have seen an increase in the number of variances granted for workforce housing developments because the workforce housing law is so strong.

In the case of a workforce housing challenge, the developer wouldn’t have to appeal the zoning board decision; there is a direct line to Superior Court in the law.

But in the case of Hillside Housing, LLC’s variance requests, Speltz thinks the Board had a legitimate reason to say no.

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter