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April 05. 2013 1:38AM

Plans for former school approved

DERRY - The Planning Board has approved a 19-unit apartment complex at the former Floyd Elementary School on Highland Avenue.

Several board members and abutters expressed concerns about the density of the project, but ultimately the project passed by a 4-2-1 vote, with the board members voting in favor of the project noting that the number of units is allowed under the zoning regulations.

Board member John O'Connor also pointed to the developer's willingness to compromise on several issues regarding the project, including lowering the total number of units from 20 to 19.

At Wednesday night's public hearing, project engineer Nicole Duquette stated that there was a proposed change in the configuration of the units because of structural issues associated with the building, with a larger apartment being reconfigured into a 320-square-foot efficiency apartment.

That would have increased the number of efficiency apartments from five to six, which was a concern for abutter Craig Busteed.

"I'm completely against six efficiencies at this point," he said. "The last time we spoke, other people thought that five efficiencies were too much. It seems to make the neighborhood a little too transient."

Busteed said he was not against the planned use for the former school, but said he thought the density was too high for the neighborhood.

Board member Randall Chase asked whether the developers could look at doing away with the former multi-purpose building next to the school. Plans for that building include four of the proposed apartments.

Project architect Dave Gleason said the multi-purpose building would be renovated to match the facade of the brick school house. He also said the building was the only feasible place for the two handicapped-accessible units included in the project.

Gleason said he has worked with the state on accessibility issues and that there are not enough places for people who have accessibility issues to live.

After hearing from the board and several abutters, Gleason said it would be possible to reduce the number of efficiency apartments and overall units by turning two adjacent efficiencies into a single one-bedroom unit.

Even with the change, Chase and board member Darrell Park voted against the project, citing concerns about the density. Park said he liked over 90 percent of the project, but wanted the developers to decrease the density.

Anderson said he shared Chase and Park's concerns about the density, but voted for the project, noting it is allowed under the town's zoning regulations.

He did urge the developers to continue to communicate and work with neighbors as the project moves forward.



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