Planning for proposed projects such as Exit 4A and the Rail Trail is essential for the economic development of Derry, local leaders agreed during a recent forum for business owners.
The Derry Economic Development Advisory Committee held the open forum on Wednesday, Feb. 22 in the Cable Studio inside the Municipal Center. The program included an update from local legislators on current bills moving through the Legislature.
State Rep. John O’Connor gave an update on a call by some legislators to shift the oversight from the federal government over the State of New Hampshire to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
The move comes after the EPA has failed to approve a storm-water permit dating to 2010, O’Connor said. Under current storm-water permitting, development along Interstate 93 is limited to three lanes, instead of four, O’Connor said.
“We are still waiting for EPA to give us our final permit,” O’Connor said. “The objective is, and the consensus is, of a lot of legislators up there, to break away from the Federal EPA and that way the DES will work with us.”
O’Connor, who is chairman of the House Environment and Agriculture Committee said a bill has come forward, with a study, to examine the possibility of having NHDES “absorb the EPA responsibilities for the State of New Hampshire.”
O’Connor said that EPA is still relying on old data from 2010 on such storm-water permitting related items as the use of road salt by businesses. Through better technology, there have been reductions in the amount of road salt that is applied on area roads.
“It’s based on old, old data and none of the new technology and none of the things we put into place here in town as far as the road salt reduction that’s taking place,” O’Connor said. “So they are still chastising us for something that happened many, many years ago.”
Also in the forum, the progress of the Exit 4A project was discussed. State Rep. Brian Chirichiello said plans are under way to begin construction in 2019.
Derry’s cost for the project is capped at $5 million because of a prior lawsuit that also involved Londonderry and Boston North, a development firm, according to officials. The suit was filed in the early 1990s, according to officials.
Chirichiello said the project is likely to be “fast-tracked” by the state and Derry needs to plan in advance for the construction.
“We need to make sure we are all on the same page there,” he said.
Planned to reduce traffic congestion on Route 102, Exit 4A also ties into helping with economic development downtown.
“This time we need to focus on the downtown because that’s the original reason we are doing Exit 4A, “Chirichiello said.
Another proposed project, the Rail Trail, is also critical for sparking economic development downtown, according to officials.
Also referred to as the Bike Path, the project includes two proposed segments, with the first running from Hood Park to North High Street.
The second northerly segment would run from just north of North High Street to the Derry-Londonderry town line.
Running through private property, the second segment would require a lot more work than the first segment, including replacement of a culvert and bridge deck repair, according to officials.
Construction on the first segment of the project has been delayed until a plan to modify Hood Pond Dam is approved by NHDES, according to officials. DES changed the hazard classification of the Hood Pond Dam, requiring the structure to meet a higher standard.
When asked about the status of the project, Town Administrator David Caron said the town is waiting on the engineering study to be complete on Hood Dam.
“Once that’s done, we will sit down with DES and develop the scope for improvements and time frame,” Caron said.