Commercial, Residential Building Permits on the Rise in Derry

Both commercial and residential building projects are on the rise in Derry after several years.

Planning Director George Sioras and Building Inspector Bob Mackey both said this week that they are seeing a spike in both interest and formal applications to stake out a piece of Derry.

The building department cycle goes along with the town’s fiscal year, July 1 through June 30, rather than the calendar year of 2015, Mackey said. But even with those parameters he has seen growth.

“Both building permits and revenues are up quite a bit,” he said in a phone interview Monday.

In comparing the full 2015 fiscal year, July to June, with the first six months of the 2016 fiscal year, Mackey found the following:

• 2015 fiscal year, 65 new construction and renovation permits for commercial, with a revenue in fees of $45,000; first six months of 2016, 34 commercial permits and a revenue of $81,000.

“That’s almost double last year,” Mackey observed.

Revenues depend on the type of project, with several small projects able to bring in considerable revenues. Multifamily dwellings are “lumped in” with commercial rather than residential, he said, and he’s seen three condominium developments and one apartment complex come through.

• 2015 fiscal year, 26 permits for single-family homes for the whole year, with $46,000 in revenue; first six months of 2016, 22 permits so far, with $32,000 in revenues.

“Based on the lots that are out there, we are anticipating 40 to 50 permits for the whole year,” he said. While the housing market is “not crazy,” it is holding its own, Mackey said.

• The combined number of permits for the 2015 fiscal year was 1,017.

“It typically hovers around 1,000,” Mackey said. At halfway through the 2016 fiscal year he’s already processed 786 permits, so the town is well on schedule, according to Mackey.

Mackey attributed the rise in building to an improved economy and renewed sense of confidence. Low interest rates are convincing commercial and residential developers and potential homeowners that, “Now is the time.”

The mild December weather also enabled builders to dig in and get their projects started, he observed.

Sioras said he or his assistant, Elizabeth Robidoux, have met with 10 to 15 people looking to start businesses in or move businesses to Derry. Most of them are smaller businesses and end up in storefronts or small “plazas,” he said.

Some national firms such as Aldi Supermarkets have come in and some sites have been approved for larger commercial development, such as the Cowbell Corners project at Island Pond Road and Route 111. The 35,000-square-foot project broke ground in December, again because of the mild weather.

And developer Jim Derderian of Windham is moving forward on his commercial complex in the former Merrimack Valley Wood Products building on Crystal Avenue, Sioras said.

Sioras said this season has been the busiest since 2008. He agreed with Mackey that “It is a reflection of the economy.’

In the past year, 65 multifamily units have been approved, Sioras said. Of those, 34 are townhouse-style condos and 31 are apartments. In addition, by December of last year 35 new single family home lots were approved, ranging from two-lot subdivisions to eight and 11 lots. A 55-and-older project, Indian Hill Estates, is on hold but expected to build this fall, and Bunker Estates is going into its final phase, he said.

This year is not like the boom years of the 1980s and ‘90s, Sioras cautioned, but it’s still an upswing.

Two major zoning changes in 2015 will promote growth while making Derry the town people want to see, Sioras said. One zoning change reduced the amount of density for multifamily housing. “They can still build, but the density is lower and there is more open space,” Sioras explained.

And with the zoning change on Route 28 South and the extension of town water and sewer partway up that road, he’s looking to see more commercial development, he said.