Hoping to see what developers might envision for the property, Derry Town Councilors are opening up a vacant lot at 19 Elm Street for Requests for Proposals (RFP).
Council members also agreed to include a vacant property at Abbot Court as part of the RFP after Councilor Neil Wetherbee amended his original motion during the Tuesday, June 20 meeting.
Once a former shoe factory, a sprawling building that once stood on the now vacant land was demolished last year after hundreds of containers of flammable chemicals were discovered and then removed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
After first documenting the containers, workers from the EPA found more than an estimated 1,000 containers of various sizes in the building, according to officials.
After the chemicals were removed, a crew completed asbestos abatement in the building. A demolition crew was then brought in last summer and used a backhoe to bring down the building over a period of several weeks.
Councilors voted unanimously to appropriate $150,000 from the capital reserve fund for demolition. There were also other costs incurred by the town with the property for a total of about $225,000.
The property, which is zoned residential, has sat unused since the demolition. Councilors have discussed possibly turning the parcel into a park or for other use.
“During a meeting of the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) on June 19, members discussed Councilor Brian Chirichiello’s idea to send out an RFP on the property,” said Councilor Jim Morgan, an EDAC member.
“The idea behind it was to give us a bird’s-eye view about what a developer would like to put there,” Morgan said.
Although the property is currently zoned residential, it lies near commercial property. If a developer were to come in with an RFP that could provide a good use for the property, it might be beneficial to consider a change to a commercial zone, Morgan explained. The plan also calls for fast-tracking the RFP and to have Town Administrator David Caron craft the RFP and have it ready to go by August. Potential developers can present ideas on the property, but the town wouldn’t be obligated.
During discussion, Councilor Richard Tripp said he was concerned that if the property were sold for one use and the zoning were then changed, it could be an issue. But, the RFP is a request for proposal and not a request for purchase, according to officials.
Chirichiello said the property is owned by the town. “So, it’s not changing hands at all,” he said. “The idea is to see what could potentially go in that space. It’s basically an idea capture to see what people can do with it.”
Council Chairman Joshua Bourdon said that he likes that an RFP could spark ideas without legally obligating the town.
Later in the meeting, Wetherbee brought up the Abbot Court property, which is also owned by the town and has sat vacant for a number of years. Wetherbee said it should also be included in the proposal.
Councilors agreed to the amendment, and the proposal was approved 7-0.