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March 07. 2013 12:55AM

Londonderry officials adopt a 'playbook' for future

LONDONDERRY - Affordable housing, the preservation of natural spaces and a certain pending development by the name of Woodmont Commons were among the topics discussed during a public hearing on Londonderry's new comprehensive master plan Wednesday night.

In the works for nearly a year, the document is just under 200 pages and tackles the topics of regional impact, the public education system, community safety, population growth projections, economic development, citizen life, emergency planning, agriculture, housing and ways to preserve the town's historical structures.

Just a handful of citizens attended Wednesday night's hearing, with master plan steering committee members Leitha Reilly and Mike Speltz on hand to answer the board's questions.

"We wanted to make sure that throughout the process there was something for everyone in Londonderry," Reilly said. "If diversity in housing is achieved from Woodmont, great. But at the end of the day, really, that's all in the Planning Board's hands. Wherever it's recognized, these are ideas and guiding concepts."

During a lengthy series of public workshops, committee members noted that around half of the citizens who participated wanted their town to stay the same, though quite a few others felt change might actually be for the better.

Speltz said many requested changes such as more opportunities for travel without using cars and the transformation of Londonderry from bedroom community to transforming community were worthy of note.

"The activity centers kind of take on their own character, depending on the area that surrounds them," Reilly added.

Planning Board member Chris Davies questioned the plan's provision for more affordable housing options.

"I still have trouble getting it in my head that Londonderry isn't a place where people of middle income can come to," Davies said. "(Affordable) properties are still around and with the development we have planned, particularly Woodmont, I wonder if we need to do more than that?"

Reilly said many adults expressed the desire for their children to remain in Londonderry when they grow up, while the younger generation complained "there's not very much to do here."

Chairman Art Rugg noted such issues are a statewide concern, with the population gradually growing older.

School board liaison John LaFerriere wondered why Woodmont Commons, a 600-plus acre development proposed along Interstate 93, wasn't specifically mentioned in the document. Speltz said Woodmont accounts for about an eighth of the land listed as "to be developed" in the plan. Rugg further noted that the master plan is essentially "a rough guide" and all final decisions on any future development projects rest with the town council.

"Remember, this is a playbook, not a script," Reilly added.

Speltz said a survey completed of 500 residents during the master plan process represented all different demographics of the town's population.

The board agreed to adopt the new master plan.

aguilmet@newstote.com

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