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Derry property owners fight zoning changes

Union Leader Correspondent

November 27. 2012 9:46PM

DERRY - Planning board efforts to redefine the zoning in the Webster's Corner section of town along Rockingham Road is still meeting with objections from some property owners in the district.

Earlier this year, the Planning Board held several workshop meetings on a proposed change to an Office/Medical/Business zone for the current General Commercial zone in anticipation of public water and sewer coming to the area.

Planning and town officials undertook the proposed changes as a way to enhance the development of the district. That change was scrapped, however, when many of the property owners objected to the proposed exclusion of gas stations and automobile sales and service businesses in the district.

In an effort to take the property owners concerns into account, the board held a workshop meeting last week to look at keeping the district zoned General Commercial while looking at the possibility of a buffer zone between automotive businesses.

In addition, the Planning Board also wanted to begin consideration of whether it should allow single-family homes in the district and whether the town would consider mixed-used overlay districts for some of the larger properties along Rockingham Road.

Board members considered buffer zones of between 1,000 and 2,000 feet between the businesses, with most members present stating they preferred a minimum 1,500-foot distance between them.

Many of the board members also stated they were in favor of not allowing for single-family housing in the district. Town planning director George Sioras stated the current house lot size for the district is 30,000-square-feet.

Sioras said the board could look at allowing larger lots of one acre in the potential mixed-used overlay areas. Mixed-use development allows for a mix of retail and residential development.

However, Town Councilor David Milz said the Planning Board should focus on nailing down definitions for the automotive buffer zones and residential lot size before taking up the mixed-used overlay discussion. Town Administrator John Anderson also noted that the mixed-used overlay district does not have to be exclusive to the General Commercial district along Rockingham Road.

"We can pick and choose where we want to have a mixed-used overlay zone," he said. "It doesn't have to be just in this zone."

With several Planning Board members unable to attend last week's meeting, the board agreed to take up the buffer zone and housing issues at its Dec. 5 meeting. During the public hearing session of the meeting, however, several Rockingham Road property owners said they are still unhappy with the board potentially limiting the type of businesses.

"People are directly affected by putting on restrictions and limiting the use," said Sheldon Wolff. "It constitutes a taking by the town."

As public water and sewer makes its way down Rockingham Road, he said the face of real estate will change on its own.

"In today's economy, it is better to have business than an empty store front," he said.

Milz said it was not the goal of the Planning Board to limit business opportunities for property owners.

"Our reason for the buffers was mostly to protect the existing businesses," he said.

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