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Affordable apartment push moving along in Londonderry

Union Leader Correspondent

May 08. 2014 11:50PM

LONDONDERRY — Plans for a 240-unit workforce housing apartment complex near Exit 5 are progressing in Londonderry.

During Wednesday night’s planning board meeting, the board granted several waivers for the proposed Wallace Farm project, to be located on a 25-acre parcel at 62 Perkins Road.

Among the requested waivers, the board unanimously approved the developer’s proposal to consolidate the lot with an adjacent 18-acre lot at 48 Perkins Road.

The Wallace family at one time used the property — now owned by developer Tom Monahan — as farmland.

Planning staff opted to continue to this week’s public hearing until the June 11 meeting, with Associate Town Planner John Trottier noting factors such as sewer, fire safety and traffic would need to be further addressed before a development agreement could ultimately be reached.

Discussions on the Wallace Farm development have been underway for nearly two years, but different incarnations of plans had posed concerns for some, particularly when it came to worries about traffic or altering the appearance of century-old forests.

An inclusionary housing ordinance was passed in Londonderry in 2010 in response to the town’s Housing Task Force’s discovery that the area was lacking in affordable rental options for working people.

Nashua attorney Thomas Leonard, who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting on Monahan’s behalf, said the current plan is to place the apartment buildings towards the rear of the lot, farther away from Perkins Road, in response to some prior citizen concerns.

“We know how important it is to have things set back,” Leonard said. “There will be no driveways coming out onto the street — you’re not going to see 10 driveways backing out onto Perkins Road.”

Project officials also stressed their intentions to maintain the existing trees and old stonewall at the front of the site.

Traffic Engineer Robert Woodland said the most recent plans also encompass improvements to the Perkins Road/Route 28 intersection.

Woodland noted that a raised traffic island appears to be the safest option, based on traffic studies and projections of the area’s maximum build-out occupancy.

“Having a traffic island will address the safety issue at this location, particularly when people are (coming out of Wallace Farm) and turning left (onto Route 28),” he said. “This would basically provide a physical barrier and make it so it’s not an enforcement issue.”

Board Chairman Art Rugg said the site’s original buildings, including a farmhouse and milking barn, would likely be torn down before construction begins.

Rugg said Monahan had offered the buildings to the Londonderry Heritage Commission, but the town “graciously denied it” due to the buildings’ state of disrepair.

However, officials noted that the complex’s new clubhouse would be designed to resemble the site’s original homestead, with a plaque to be installed in homage to the farm’s history.

Items from inside the home will be offered to the local historical society before the building falls to the wrecking ball.

“It’s all yours,” Monahan told town officials.

Once completed, officials said the project would consist of ten, 24-unit, three-story apartment buildings. As a workforce housing project that means 120 of those apartments would need to remain “guaranteed affordable” for at least 40 years.

In order to qualify for “workforce housing” rates, a family’s income would need to fall within 60 percent of the area’s median income.

Leonard estimated monthly rent and utilities for those units would be about $1,300.

“They’re not inexpensive and these are going to be high-quality units,” he added. “But they do meet Londonderry’s stated goals of providing diverse housing options. Not everyone wants to own.”

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