Letters Question, Defend Planning Board on Woodmont

Two letters questioning Planning Board behavior and Woodmont Commons’ attitude, as well as a response from Planning Board member Tom Freda, were read into the public record last week.
Planning Board Chairman Arthur Rugg read a letter from Walter and Marilyn Stocks of 39 Gordon Drive into the record that speaks out against the town “financially supporting Woodmont Commons or any other project in town.”

The letter, read at the Wednesday, July 10 Planning Board meeting, said Londonderry taxpayers should not be “put in (that) position.” They wrote that “if the existing roads need to be upgraded or the fire department needs a new truck, etc., because of Woodmont or any other development, the developer of these projects should be responsible for the cost of these items, not the Londonderry taxpayer.”

Acknowledging that it was good that the development would be tax positive at the 20-year build-out, they said getting to that 20-year build-out was the problem. “It is not the responsibility of the Londonderry taxpayer to subsidize this or any other project,” the Stocks’ letter said.
The Stocks said the residents of Londonderry should be “given a binding vote to decide if they want this project or not, before the Planning Board votes on the project.”

“Also, the cost increase because of Woodmont Commons from Pennichuck Water, Public Service of New Hampshire, Comcast, Verizon and the Londonderry Sanitary Sewer should not be passed on to the existing customers. It should be payed (sic) by the developer of Woodmont Commons and the new customers of these services,” the Stocks wrote.

They also requested that the PUD ordinance be repealed “before another developer tries to develop another tract of land in Londonderry with a mega-development.” The ordinance allows contiguous parcels of 100 acres or more to have their own master plan. Woodmont is 600-plus acres.
Another letter was read into the record, this one from James and Carol Tomaswick of 24 Devonshire Lane.

“Our family moved to Londonderry over 43 years ago,” the letter states. “At the time there were no stop lights on Route 102 between Hudson and Derry. The area was open and green and it was, to us, an ideal place to raise a family. That’s why we moved here. Things change. Some call it progress.”

Their home is “a block away from the proposed Woodmont Commons. We guess we are not ‘technically’ abutters, but we will be adversely and directly affected,” the letter states.
They said that when Home Depot decided to build off Route 102, they and their neighbors petitioned the town to close Devonshire Lane to through traffic because it had become a cut-through for speeders trying to avoid the lights at Gilcreast Road and Route 102.

“Home Depot stepped up and purchased the land at the end of Devonshire so that the Town could block the street from the potential barrage of traffic,” the letter states. “We believe Home Depot did this because they wanted to be good neighbors and the Town supported its citizens,”
They wrote that they have not seen Woodmont Commons offering the same level of good neighbor behavior.

“As far as we have seen, Woodmont Commons has not offered a single thing in an attempt to be good future neighbors,” the letter states. “Why should they spend money or give up land if they don’t have to? Why should they care if they are good neighbors or not? Our take is that they will do nothing that costs them money unless they are made to do so. Neighbors be damned! And, to our knowledge, the Town has yet to do anything to support its longtime taxpayers who have voiced concern after concern about the negative impact of this project.”

They further stated that they endured blasting from Market Basket construction that “caused our well water to go black and our house to settle below our drainage pipe,” and incurred significant plumbing and drainage cost with no assistance from the town.

“It is our hope that the Town will do something other than smile and bob their heads when the Woodmont Commons representatives come before the Planning Board,” the letter continues. “We are hopeful (but not convinced) that you will protect your long term citizens and taxpayers against the potential damage and disruption this project will cause.”

The Tomaswicks said they concurred with resident Jack Falvey, who asked that a 19-acre park be required as a condition of the town’s acceptance of Woodmont Commons’ Master Plan.
“We also ask that the Town require a fund be made available to offset the damage that will occur to those taxpayers like us (not just immediate abutters) who are negatively affected by this development,” the letter states.

Planning Board member Tom Freda also read a letter into the record, his response to the Tomaswick letter, which had been sent to the Planning Board on Sunday, July 8. Freda made quick work of the issue of Falvey’s suggested park.

“Mr. Falvey has suggested that the Woodmont PUD approval by the Planning Board must be conditioned on Woodmont establishing a 19 acre park, which you have echoed in your e-mail. The town’s attorney has looked into this and has specifically advised that conditioning Planning Board approval on Woodmont’s providing this park is illegal,” Freda said.

Freda, who is an attorney, said that more than 35 years ago, the New Hampshire Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional for municipalities to condition approval of a land use plan on taking a part of a developer’s land, requiring improvement that is not necessitated by the land use plan, and cited Robbins Auto Parts vs. City of Laconia.

Freda also said the same ruling applies not only when requesting that a developer improve the land but also if it were to require the land not be improved. “I believe this information was conveyed to Mr. Falvey a few weeks ago as well as distributed to newspapers and put online on the town’s website and recently put back on the town’s website, as it was recently taken down,” Freda said.

Freda addressed the letter writers’ other concerns by saying that he disagreed with the characterization of the planning board “as simply smiling and bobbing our heads for Woodmont representatives.”

“The Woodmont representatives are submitting their application and Planning Board members, including me, are asking questions to follow up on the presentations. Not one decision has been made or voted on as of yet,” Freda said.

He also said board members have listened to any questions from residents who have shown up, and e-mails and letters have been read into the record. “Second, the fact remains that all applicants are entitled to a fair hearing to present their plans to the Planning Board, including the Woodmont applicant,” Freda said. “My concern is and continues to be that this project is fiscally tax positive from the beginning and not just 20 years from now, and that any increased traffic be mitigated by the developers, and not at the taxpayers’ expense.”

Freda said that thirdly, he is for more specific control over the development and in his experience, the time for that kind of control is best obtained when the developer presents specific building plans for specific lots and not at the current level, which according to the PUD ordinance may be amended at any time. He closed his letter by suggesting that the Tomaswicks contact him with any future concerns.

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