Wallace Farm, a proposed rental workforce housing development on Perkins Road near Exit 5 of Interstate 93 and the recipient of three variances by the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) last month, is now before the Planning Board.
At the board’s Wednesday, May 5 meeting, attorney Jay Leonard noted, “Workforce housing is about affordable housing but it’s also about a diverse set of affordable choices, which is something we don’t think about a whole lot. I’m asking you to kind of think about this project as being special because that’s really why we’re taking on the project.”
Leonard and developer Thomas Monihan walked out of the ZBA meeting of April 17 with everything they had originally requested last year, when their original requests to the ZBA were denied. In January, the ZBA agreed to rehear the case.
Monihan had requested – and received – three variances: to allow phasing of the project over three years instead of the required five years; to be allowed to build 10 buildings with 24 units per building rather than the 16 units per building required by ordinance; and to have 50 percent workforce tenants, where 75 percent is required.
Mark Fougere, owner of Fougere Planning and Development, briefed the Planning Board on the project last week. “This site is approximately 25 acres and will have 240 units of rental housing in 10 three-story buildings with 24 units per building,” he said. “This site meets the criteria and goals of the ordinance and the Master Plan.
It has good access and access to utilities, and has limited wetlands and steep slopes,” Fougere said he had been working with staff for the past two or three months and found them helpful in the planning process.
He said he had been asked by the engineering department to look into sewer capacities downstream to make sure there is adequate capacity for the project, and had contacted Manchester Water Works to make sure there was water availability, pressure and the size of the lines that would be required.
“The farmhouse and stone walls along Perkins Road will be preserved and we will be meeting later this month with the Heritage Commission,” he added. “We’ve engaged the services of an architect and are proceeding with designing elevations and more specifics.”
He said he thinks the proposal is compatible with the neighborhood, with the Vista Ridge development across the street and the Sleep Inn hotel next door to the site, as well as existing commercial development and future planned commercial development nearby.
Board member Maria Newman asked about another exit road from the property and Fougere said they were looking at the south portion of the property as a future project for age-restricted housing, where a road would be built to connect with the Wallace Farm property.
Board member Lynn Wiles asked how the workforce housing units would be segregated from the non-workforce units, and Leonard said no such segregation would occur. Leonard said the units and buildings would be exactly the same – only the amount of rent would be different.
“There will be no workforce buildings or workforce floors. They will be evenly spread out throughout the buildings,” Fougere added. Board member Mary Wing Soares asked about the number of bedrooms, and Leonard said the apartments would be one- or two-bedroom units.
Soares also asked about the possibility of the project’s starting out as a rental project and later becoming condominiums. Fougere responded that the project is and always will be a workforce rental project and had to be that way for 40 years.
“They will not be owner occupied,” Leonard said.
Chairman Art Rugg said they could have the plan state that it would be rental in “perpetuity.”
Board member John Laferriere asked about school buses and the presence of a shelter for students at the end of the road, and Fougere and Leonard nodded in assent.
Resident Ann Chiampa asked about the presence of deciduous trees to screen the property on Perkins Road. “The trees lose their leaves in the winter and you can see right into the property,” she said. “Could trees that don’t lose their leaves be planted to add permanent blockage?”
Rugg said that was part of the regulations. Resident Deb Paul, who is publisher of the Londonderry Times, asked about fire hydrants on the property, and was told the buildings require sprinklers.