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Plans for old school creating concerns in Derry

Union Leader Correspondent

March 10. 2013 11:23PM
Developers are looking to build 20 apartments at the former Floyd School on Highland Avenue. (ADAM SWIFT PHOTO)

DERRY - A number of residents living near the former Floyd School on Highland Avenue have raised concerns about the proposed development of the property into 20 apartment units.

At a public hearing last week, questions were raised about increased traffic, parking on the property, changes in the nature of the neighborhood, and about one of the owners of the property.

An 18-unit condominium project was initially approved at the former school about five years ago but the plan is now moving forward with a new developer, according to Nicole Duquette of engineering firm T.F. Moran.

Extended Realty LLC is now in charge of the project and is looking to use the existing footprint of the school and gymnasium to create 20 efficiency, one-, and two-bedroom apartments.

Highland Avenue resident Mike Buckley said he has lived in the neighborhood for more than 50 years and that the project will drastically change the character of the neighborhood.

When the school was open, Buckley said there were a maximum of 180 students, many of whom walked to school.

"The traffic that was generated was minimal," he said. "The traffic is certainly much less than is proposed here."

Extended Realty is proposing 47 parking spaces on the property. Several residents said they were uncomfortable with having that much extra traffic in the family neighborhood. There were also questions raised about where additional visitors to the apartment complex would park.

Buckley also raised concerns about traffic turning onto the private way off Highland Avenue into the school.

The opening to the private way is 22-feet wide, and developers are requesting a waiver to allow the private drive to be a half-foot less than the 24-feet required by the town.

Town Administrator John Anderson recommended the developers consider a wider entrance. Several board members also requested the developers look at keeping the private way up to town regulations by narrowing the adjacent sidewalk by six inches.

Developers are also requesting a waiver allowing for above ground rather than underground utilities. Anderson also suggested they look at installing the underground utilities before coming back before the board for the continued public hearing on April 3.

The site walk for the property is scheduled for Saturday, March 23, at 10 a.m.

In addition to questions about the plan itself, several residents had concerns about one of the owners of the property, Eric Spofford. Spofford has a 50 percent interest in Extended Realty LLC and is also the owner of the Granite House sober living facility in downtown Derry.

"This is not a part of that," Spofford said at the beginning of the public hearing. "This is a separate entity and a separate project that has no affiliations or ties to (Granite House). It is solely a 20-unit apartment building."

Despite Spofford's statement, Derry resident and realtor Steve Trefethen pointed to a Facebook post Spofford made after became an owner of the Floyd School property stating it would be the third phase of the Granite House project.

"Mr. Spofford is not in the apartment business, he is in the 12-step program for substance abuse," said Trefethen.

However, Planning Board member John O'Connor said the board was considering a plan for an apartment building, not a sober living facility.

"We're not going to discuss any Facebook postings," he said.

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