Changes in Zoning Ordinance Approved by Town Council

The Derry Town Council has approved changes in the zoning ordinance specific to the General Commercial and Office/Medical/Business (OMB) Districts. The Council voted 7-0 June 18 to approve the revisions.
The amendments have been through seven Planning Board workshops, according to a memo from Planning Director George Sioras, and have seen changes after extensive public input.

The changes were divided into four sections, with two sections approved at the June 4 Council meeting. The other two sections were tabled at that time. The proposed changes were researched and worked on after the Council approved extending town water and sewer up Route 28. At that time, Sioras said, the Council asked the Planning Board to look at the needs and uses in that district.

In a series of workshops and public hearings, residents and business owners expressed concern about several proposed changes, including buffer zones around automobile-related businesses and the future elimination of single-family housing.

Sioras said at the Council meeting that the buffer zones produced “one of the most lengthy discussions,” lasting over several months. “There was a lot of opposition,” he said. “The board took that out.” But the individual site plans will still get into buffering, landscape design, etc., he said, and will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

“How can we legislate that so we will not have the Auto Mile?” Council Chairman Michael Fairbanks asked, referring to the infamous strip in Massachusetts. The Planning Board will continue to regulate the businesses, but on a case-by-case basis, Sioras said. “We may explore this again, down the road,” he said.
Single-family homes, formerly a permitted use in the General Commercial zone, will no longer be allowed.

The decision was made to eliminate single-family housing in order to expand the land for commercial uses, Sioras and board members had said in previous meetings. While the current single-family homes will be “grandfathered in,” the homeowners will need to obtain a variance to subdivide their land and build another home on the property.

Single-family homes would be permitted in a mixed-use overlay district, a concept to be discussed at the July 17 Planning Board meeting. Councilor Neil Wetherbee said, “It is my sincere hope that the Planning Board continue discussing some kind of mixed-use overlay district.”
Councilor Brad Benson agreed that mixed-use is “the way to go.”

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