Nevins residents in Londonderry see public walking trail as wrong turn

Union Leader Correspondent
September 24. 2013 9:42PM

LONDONDERRY — A conservation easement for a public walking trail around a local retirement complex that was approved by voters over a decade ago is causing fresh concern among residents and town officials.

The proposed trail system is part of a town-owned conservation easement around the perimeter of Nevins Active Adult Community, which was approved by voters in 2003.

For Nevins residents, however, that trail promised by developer Elmer Pease a decade ago no longer makes much sense. And although nobody in town is pushing for construction of the trail, dozens of residents attended Monday’s Town Council meeting to voice their concerns.

“This ... walking trail they want to build is actually two feet from the side of my house,” Nevins resident Bill Marino told councilors.

William Graser, one of the community’s first residents, said he likewise hopes the trail never gets built.

“There are too many potential problems,” he said.

Pease, who is no longer involved in the project, had initially proposed a much larger and non-age restrictive development that town officials felt would have placed an enormous burden on the school district. “So we negotiated,” Town Councilor Tom Dolan said.

“We had a special election and it was so well-received that 90 percent of the voters said yes,” Dolan said. “So one of the issues we’re wrestling with now is how do we avoid a bait and switch.”

Many of the Nevins residents said they were told the trail would never get built.

“A lot of people came in and bought homes here and they were told there would be no trail,” resident Jonathan Mitchell said. “Where would the public park? It would cause a lot of consternation, especially at times of the year when many of our residents aren’t at home.”

Morgan Hollis, an attorney for Nevins, said the site of the retirement community is in a cooperative, meaning residents own their homes but lease the land it stands on.

Hollis said the trail is being proposed for a 25-foot easement circling the community and in some spots would lead walkers though people’s back yards and directly under bedroom windows.

“The difficulty is that this trail doesn’t really lead anywhere,” Hollis said. “As time has gone by, many citizens have learned that this is essentially an open invitation for the public to come onto their property.”

With the Nevins Community currently near build-out, many fear the trail could be coming next.

Hollis said the community’s board of directors has held several informal meetings, where the overwhelming majority objected to a public trail.

The board also met with the Planning Board recently, which approved an amended site plan.

“But that doesn’t solve this issue, because the walking trail is now referenced in the town’s open space plan,” Hollis said.

In order to put a stop to the trail, the town would have to release its rights to the easement, Hollis said.

Council Chairman John Farrell said the situation is unfortunate and dates to a time when “the community was trying to connect walking trails throughout the town.”

“As I recall, the purpose was to allow folks to walk to the nearby stores (along Route 102),” Farrell said. “But times do change.”

Councilors agreed to continue this week’s public hearing to next month and in the meantime work toward finding a solution with the help of the town’s attorneys.

“We have this looming third party known as the rest of the taxpayers,” Dolan said. “Which makes for a unique deliberation. I’d like to find out a bit more about possibility creating a public trail somewhere else in town.”


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