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Hesitant of asking price, Londonderry tables land purchase talk

Union Leader Correspondent

January 10. 2018 11:42PM
A photograph from appraiser Kevin McManus shows a seasonal stream found adjacent to a swamp with the 66.9-acre parcel of land that Londonderry may purchase. The Town Council will continue conversations on purchasing the property at the current asking price of $740,000 on Feb. 5. (COURTESY PHOTO)

The town of Londonderry is considering the purchase of 66.9 acres of land off Griffin Road. The irregularly-sized parcel of land has a significant amount of wetlands and is offered to the town at $740,000. (COURTESY)

LONDONDERRY — After nearly two hours of debate, the Londonderry Town Council this week decided they needed more time to review the proposed purchase of 66.9 acres of land along Griffin Road for conservation.

The council voted unanimously to continue the conversation on the proposed sale of the land to the town, for a cost of $740,000, to their Feb. 5 meeting. Vice Chairman John Farrell said they should seek advice from the town manager and attorney to do their due diligence before signing off on the cost, which raised some eyebrows during a public hearing on Monday night.

“What I was thinking was the council would give direction to the town manager, work with the town attorney as we’ve done in the past, to act as our agent, so that they can look at the set of facts … and possibility engage the developer,” Farrell said, noting the town wants to know. the price-tag is a fair number.

“I think that we really want to go forward with it … but I think that the question is is the number, the $740,000, the right number,” said fellow councilor Joe Green, who made the motion to continue the discussion to early February.

“I just think it needs to be really, really clear – there’s a lot of information in here that I’m very comfortable with, and I want to be specific that the fact that reason why I made that motion is because there’s some undetected information that I don’t have … that could really turn and change our minds,” he added.

The council was careful moving forward during the public hearing, concerned about the cost of the property. Several members of the board did not have an issue with the plan conceptually, but if the price was right for Londonderry.

The appraisal, from certified general appraiser Kevin McManus, was $740,000 as of Oct. 6, 2017.

According to the preliminary purchase and sale agreement, Chestnut Realty Partners, LLC, would sell the property for the appraisal amount in the form of a check drawn on the town, with a closing date of June 30. The agreement also notes that “time shall be of the essence.”

The developer originally looked to yield 9-15 lots off a new road, each a single-family residential house.

Skeptics of the purchase said Londonderry should look at a conservation easement instead of purchasing the land, saying the town should not be in the real estate business. Others argued the land may not be developable and the council should obtain more information before any agreement is made.

The vacant and irregular-sized parcel, located around Griffin Road, Holstein Avenue and Lantern Lane, is bisected by a significant wetland system.

Mike Speltz, of the town’s Conservation Commission, said this land was not originally on the priority list, but has moved up since six of the top 12 open spaces from 2010 have been developed.

One of the key attractions of this purchase is the wildlife habitat and the preservation of wetlands and a portion of the Long Swamp.

“This tier 1 (swamp) is best-in-state and is something we definitely want to preserve,” Speltz said.

The site also has vernal pools, which are great for turtles and salamanders because it offers temporary water devoid of fish, he added. “You get the best of both worlds for critters that require both aquatic habitat and a little bit of upland to do their breeding and nesting.”

Environment Real estate Local and County Government Londonderry

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