LONDONDERRY — With plans to develop the land around the airport moving forward, not everyone is in agreement over how it fits in with the town’s overall master plan.
Mike Speltz, who serves on the Master Plan Implementation Committee, came under fire with the Town Council Monday night in response to his recent comments about the jobs at the new FedEx warehouse being proposed for the Pettengill Road area.
During the March 26 meeting of the Master Plan Implementation Committee, Speltz said he took issue with FedEx’s plans to employ 500 part-time warehouse employees and drivers at its proposed new facility.
“Those are not necessarily the kind of jobs we want,” Speltz said last month.
“We may want to influence further development in that (airport) area,” he said. “I think there’s a lot going on there quickly and if we want to have any influence on how it turns out, we need to act soon.”
On Monday, Council Chairman Tom Dolan agreed with Speltz on one thing: the potential impact of development around Pettengill Road and south of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
“This is our golden egg,” Dolan said. “We’re talking approximately a thousand acres of undeveloped industrial land, and we’ve been working really hard to get (Pettengill Road) built.”
As written, the Londonderry master plan describes Pettengill Road as “a self-sustaining industrial village” that would accommodate “a variety of manufacturing, office and industrial uses, as well as the services and recreational opportunities needed to support workers.”
The proposed FedEx facility, initially presented last summer, would be located on Industrial Drive, which is in the same area of Pettengill Road.
Last month, the Planning Board granted conditional approval for the 300,000-square-foot distribution center and warehouse to be located just south of the airport.
This week, Dolan said other companies have likewise expressed interest in setting up shop in that part of town.
“We’re encouraging them to move forward and submit plans,” he said. “So we’re concerned about (Speltz’s) comments and want to be sure they’re not misconstrued as the town’s official position on the matter.”
Dolan said the town councilors had spoken with Speltz and reminded him that, in the future, it would be best if he expressed his opinions “as a private citizen and not as someone speaking for the town in any official way.”
“As a council, we’re behind what FedEx is doing,” Dolan added. “We support them without reservation.”
Speltz, who sat in the audience during Monday night’s meeting, came to the podium to offer an explanation.
He said he voted in favor of the FedEx site plan and wasn’t opposed to the project in itself. He admitted, though, to “making a statement that these part-time jobs being offered are not the jobs we want in our industrial park.”
“The train is leaving the station,” Speltz added. “I’m the first to agree we want to have mixed uses in that area, which can certainly include warehouses.”
Councilor Tom Freda said he felt “disappointed that an individual on a board was speaking as if he was a representative of the entire town.”
“We’ve made it our number one priority to try and bring jobs to this town,” Freda added. “Now we have a company coming that may bring hundreds of jobs, and it’s disappointing to see all of our work endangered by such comments.”
Councilor Joe Green, who serves as the council liaison to the Master Plan Implementation Committee, noted the true purpose of a master plan.
“This plan is purely a conceptual one,” said Green. “It’s definitely not a blueprint, and we have to remind ourselves that.”