Zoning proposal remains divisive in Derry
DERRY - After nearly seven months of debate and workshop meetings, the planning board's efforts to redefine zoning in the general commercial district along the Rockingham Road section of Webster's Corner are still meeting resistance from the zone's property owners.
At a workshop meeting last week, all but one planning board member stated they still support a proposed 1,000-foot buffer zone for automobile service and gas stations in the zone.
However, board member Darrell Park said he no longer supports the buffer zone, earning the praise of several residents who spoke during the meeting.
Last 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 looked at keeping the area zoned general commercial but establishing the buffer zone.
"The last time, I hesitantly supported a limited buffer zone," said Park. "I would like to withdraw that support."
He said there are several reasons for not supporting the buffer zone, including the fact that the only individuals speaking in its favor are current business owners asking for some protection they currently do not have.
"It is not in our purview to protect businesses in the face of competition," said Park.
However, he said he still supports limiting residential development in the district to current property owners.
"I still don't want to see a housing development go in there," he said.
There has been some talk of allowing a mixed-use overlay for some of the parcels in the district, but the consensus of the planning board at its latest workshop was that the issue would be addressed after any changes to the general commercial district were completed.
"I think it is a valid discussion to have, but we said it wasn't going to be part of this discussion," said Town Administrator John Anderson.
South Main Street resident Gerry Siragusa told board members he did not feel they were listening to the wishes of the property owners actually affected by a proposed zoning change.
"A lot of my neighbors have come up and made their opinions known," he said. "It's frustrating; I feel the board is not hearing what all the property owners are saying, and we're saying don't make any changes. Keep it general commercial and let the market dictate what we do."
Anderson said he believes the planning board and town officials are listening to what people have to say.
"We've moved significantly from the beginning of this process," he said. "Just because we don't give you everything you want and you don't walk away 100 percent whole, it doesn't mean we didn't listen to you. Part of negotiations is a give and take where you settle on a middle ground."
The planning board will hold its next workshop meeting on the zoning changes on Wednesday, March 6.