By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- In the continuing quest for project approval, Walmart representatives hit a snag on Tuesday night after the Town Council agreed to wait until its next regular meeting to vote on a deal that would bring the town $100,000 toward future land conservation in exchange for access to the building site over 2 wetlands.
In brokering the tentative deal, the Derry Conservation Commission decided last month it would rather take the $100,000 than protect a 14-acre wooded parcel that sits behind the proposed site.
The easement amendment requested by Walmart would allow a road to be built on 2 acres of existing conservation land leading up to the site off Ashleigh Drive.
During a public hearing Tuesday night, resident Maureen Rose said she objected to the town not protecting the wetlands.
“That conservation easement was put in place for a reason, and it’s supposed to be in perpetuity. Instead, you break it twice and take money for it? This is a wildlife area and wildlife corridor. Why not preserve the 14-plus acres in back? The Conservation Commission should be stewards of the land, and I think the land should be protected,” Rose said.
She said she works in the area of the development and has seen a family group of foxes nearby and also noted that turtles lay their eggs in the flower beds.
“The wildlife can’t talk. We need to protect wildlife in all the town, not just certain areas of town,” said Rose.
A stipulation of the $100,000 deal is that the town enter into an agreement with the state to make sure that the money is spent only on the purchase of future conservation easements or parcels.
Conservation Commission Chairman Margi Ives addressed the council Tuesday night, pointing out that commission will be meeting in a nonpublic session on March 28 to go over the 12-point list of state requirements and see which existing parcels in town comply.
After the presentation, Councilor Janet Fairbanks told her fellow councilors that she did not feel comfortable voting Tuesday night.
“I would just like a chance to talk to Margi and see if this is a done deal, or to see if maybe we can mitigate some of that land behind Walmart,” said Fairbanks. “That 14 acres makes a wonderful buffer for neighbors. Why not mitigate some conservation land on the west side of town?”
Attorney Peter Imse, representing Walmart, explained that the existing 14 acres of wetlands is not ideal for future development, but said there was no language in the pending agreement excluding that possibility down the road.