LONDONDERRY — As town officials begin the process of reviewing the completed Woodmont Commons master plan, some of the citizens who demonstrated across the street from the former orchard last weekend said their battle to save 600 apple trees from the ax isn’t over just yet.
During Wednesday night’s Londonderry Planning Board meeting, Town Planner Cynthia May said developers for the 600-acre town village project had submitted completed plans earlier that day, allowing town officials plenty of time to review the document before next week’s public hearing.
Residents can check out the master plan prior to the Aug. 14 public hearing online via the town’s website, with hard copies also available for viewing at Planning and Economic Development at Londonderry Town Hall and the Leach Library.
Last Sunday, 45 residents gathered across the street from the former orchard site on behalf of the Save Woodmont Apple Trees (SWAT) citizens’ group.
Initially planned to take place on the actual development site, those plans were changed when several dozen “No Trespassing” signs appeared along the site’s perimeter in the days leading up to the protest.Calls made to Michael Kettenbach, principle of Pillsbury Realty Development LLC, and his attorney, Ari Pollack, weren’t returned.
Resident Mary Tetreau, the event’s organizer, said she’s hoping the peaceful gathering would give the developers cause to consider preserving a small section of apple trees as a public park.
Tetreau, along with fellow SWAT member Jack Falvey, vowed to host a similar event in the future, though a date hasn’t yet been determined.“We’re a group of activists who plan to remain active,” Tetreau said on Thursday.
Falvey said in an email that tentative plans are “to roll out another event sometime after Labor Day.”
“Now that we have established a town wide support base that recognizes the town wide tax impact Woodmont would like us to ignore, we will go into high gear for the next public move,” he added.
Despite the relatively small turnout, Tetreau said she thought last weekend’s demonstration was successful as it “gave people a way to express their feelings in a peaceful way.”“I think people are fed up with going to meetings and writing letters,” she added. “The typical meeting setting can be intimidating for many.”
Planning Board member Mary Soares, who observed Sunday’s protest on the board’s behalf, said many citizens attending voiced concerns of the perceived “lack of transparency” in the whole plan process.
“Personally I don’t know how this board could be more transparent than it has been,” she said this week. “We’ve allowed people to speak at all our meetings and we’ve posted all the information on the website.”
“I think a lot of people are wondering why this is going on for as long as it has,” fellow board member Al Sypek replied.
May said the project’s sheer size and depth, as well as its unique nature, made for a huge undertaking on the town’s behalf.
“The initial submission was very bare bones and this board needs to understand what the impacts are going to be,” May said. “With over 600 acres it takes a long time to do those studies and (the developers) agreed to do it in a way that made sense.”
In recent months, the preliminary plans were dissected before multiple public hearings, with town officials discussing the site’s traffic impact and infrastructure needs, among other things.
May said the absence of a community development director following the resignation of Andre Garron last year has further complicated matters, as have the prospects of other pending development in town, including Pettengill Road.
“It’s been almost three years since the initial design charette was presented,” board Chairman Art Rugg said. “During that time it was pretty difficult to get all the answers we wanted.”
Rugg added that reaching a development agreement with the Woodmont Commons team would come further down the road.
The Londonderry Planning Board meets Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Moose Hill Council Chambers at Londonderry Town Hall.