January 6, 2011

Resident works to keep Woodmont information flowing

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- With the proposed 630-acre Woodmont Commons looming on the horizon, longtime town resident and former Londonderry Housing and Redevelopment Authority member Jack Falvey is urging residents to ask the important questions.
Falvey, who was a charter member of the conservation commission and served 25 years on the town’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority, addressed
 around 30 residents attending the Londonderry Rotary Club’s monthly meeting Wednesday morning.
“The development plans have been massive, to say the least,” said Falvey, who has followed the project since its early stages. “I was absolutely chagrined at what they said they were going to do. I still am.”
The master plan for Woodmont,
 proposed by Pillsbury Realty Development LLC, includes an estimated 650,000 square feet of retail, 1,200 new homes, three hotels and 700,000 square feet of commercial space, with the remaining 40 percent of the property reserved for open space and agricultural uses. Development will occur over a 20year period, with an estimated 60 housing units to be built annually, project officials previously said.
Concerned with the project’s implications, Falvey approached Planning Board Chairman Arthur Rugg several months ago, asking how he, as a citizen, could influence the project.
Soon after his conversation with Rugg, Falvey began e-mailing his neighbors to get their take on the situ­
The end result was an ongoing e-mail chain, which, as of this week, had around 75 members — and counting. 

“I got all kinds of responses,” Falvey said. “This e-mail chain has no agenda other than exchanging information.” 
As Falvey noted yesterday, Londonderry’s Planned Unit Development ordinance was passed early last year, giving the Planning Board the ultimate say on future development. 
The Planned Unit Development (PUD), which was unanimously approved by the Town Council in early Jan. 2010, allows for developers of a parcel or parcels to propose a master plan for development. 
“The PUD ordinance passed by the town means the master plan would have to go before the Planning Board each step of the way and the board would have full say,” Falvey said. 
Which is reassuring news, he noted, considering some 1,300 structures are included in conceptual project plans, along with some very unusual land uses, such as turning a marsh into a lake, and the addition of tiny, impassable roads. 
Referring to a handout sheet of the project’s conceptual master plan drawings, Falvey noted that one 18-acre parcel along Gilcreast Road would have seven new road cuts. Another 19-acre parcel would hold 55 dwellings. 
“So it’s a huge density concern. Even though this an island in the center of town, there’s a great potential here to affect the entire town,” Falvey said. “The idea of New Urbanism has been presented to us: the idea that there should be little villages here in town that is walkable.” 
He estimated around 3,000 new residents could result from the proposed construction, in addition to countless additional automobiles. 
“Century Village is a great walking village, but you hardly ever see anyone walking there,” Falvey emphasized. 
According to the project’s website, Woodmont Commons is being planned in phases, resulting in a village-style destination complete with diverse housing development, local and national retailers, offices and hotels, as well as recreational and civic facilities. 
Developers are hoping to begin construction this spring, though Town Councilor John Farrell, who attended Wednesday’s Rotary Club meeting, said they had yet to submit final project proposals. 
Either way, he emphasized the construction’s timetable would ultimately be decided by the Planning Board. 
“As it stands now, this project is only conceptual. There are more unknowns than knowns,” Farrell said yesterday. “We do have a reputation in this state as being a tremendous pain in the rear end when it comes to developers. When will they put the shovel in the ground? Technically, they already have.” 
Farrell noted that the new Market Basket store that’s currently being built on the site of the former Sears Essentials store on Orchard View Drive would have a new road to go with it: an early beginning to what’s expected to be a 10-20 year building period. 
“We’re dealing with a developer with a lot of money and a lot of state influence,” Farrell continued. “He has a lot of ideas, but nothing has been submitted for approval yet. If we don’t hear from the public, we won’t know what the public is really thinking.” 
Farrell added that town officials have already told Woodmont Commons developers that they would like to have a working relationship with them that’s similar to the one the town currently has with the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. 
The airport pays the town around $600,000 in taxes annually, Farrell noted, and also contracts with the Londonderry police department for its security needs. 
“Themessagehereiswedon’t want to pay soft costs. This was one of the earliest messages communicated to developers,” Farrell said. “I have yet to see our Planning Board back away with a fight.” 
Another Woodmont Commons public workshop is scheduled for next week, during the Jan. 12 Planning Board meeting. For more information, visit the project’s website, www. woodmontcommons. com. Residents wishing to join Falvey’s e-mail list may contact him at jack@falvey.org. 

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