DERRY - The planning board has established a subcommittee to explore changing zoning regulations to allow for 55-plus housing in the town's office/medical/business district near the Parkland Medical Center.
The potential zoning change was broached by developer Elmer Pease and his partner Robert Howard, who owns an approximately 27-acre parcel on Rockingham Road. That property had been approved previously for a one-story medical office building but that approval has lapsed.
"This property has been bounced around so many times," said Pease, who has helped develop elderly housing in Manchester and Londonderry. "I've talked to my partner and he would like to see affordable elderly housing here because of its location to the downtown and the hospital."
Pease said an elderly housing project would be a good transition between the general commercial and residential districts the property sits between.
"This is a challenging piece of land," said George Sioras, town planning director. "Some of the neighbors at the time did not want to see commercial uses for it and suggested low-density housing or senior housing."
To make the project a reality, the town would have to look at changing zoning to allow for non-assisted elderly housing in the district.
If the zoning change were approved, Town Administrator John Anderson said it would affect only a small part of the district.
"You've got the hospital and then it is surrounded by the Alexander-Carr property that we own," he said. "We're really talking about a strip of Rockingham Road that makes any sense at all."
The planning board approved Town Councilor David Milz's suggestion to form a subcommittee including town assessors and housing officials to look at the legal and financial implications of making the zoning change.
"There's been a lot of talk about how this would benefit the tax rate for Derry," said Anderson, adding he agreed that a subcommittee could look at how the zoning change and a project such as the one proposed by Pease and Howard would benefit the town.
"It's clearly a benefit to the developer asking for it," Anderson said.
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