Council Approves Zoning Ordinance Changes to Control Density

The Derry Town Council has given its approval to changes in the Zoning Ordinance that will exert more control over Derry’s burgeoning population of apartments, condos and townhouses.

At its April 7 meeting the board approved amendments that will reduce the density by allowing fewer multi-family units in the MHDR (Medium-High Density Residential) and MFR (Multi-Family Residential) districts, which include some of the town’s oldest and most compact neighborhoods.

Planning Director George Sioras introduced the changes, stating that reducing the density of multi-family housing had been a goal of the Council and Planning Board since last year.

The density reductions were accomplished by the following:

• The minimum lot area required was changed from 3,630 square feet per dwelling unit to 5,000 square feet per dwelling unit.

• The density calculation will be based on the net buildable area of land.

• Multi-family dwellings may not exceed 110 percent of the average building height of other residential dwellings within a 500-foot circumference. The former maximum height was 60 feet.

• “Green area” on the lot may no longer be applied toward the recreation area calculation.

Sioras referred briefly to some of the larger apartment complexes in the town, including the Fairways, which was formerly farmland.

“We don’t want that to ever happen again,” he said. The complex on Linlew Drive was built on land that was zoned industrial and has town water and sewer.

“It should have been an industrial park,” Sioras said.

Sioras reminded the board and audience that four years ago, the state made it mandatory that each town and city provide workforce housing. “We have not been challenged on that,” Sioras said, observing that Derry has its share. With the revised ordinance, Derry will continue to meet the requirement without a strain on town services, he said.

Sioras said the updated ordinance went through several iterations, with seven workshops or public hearings.

In the public hearing portion of the Council meeting, resident Janet Fairbanks asked, “Is this is as strict, legally, as it could possibly be?”

Sioras said the revisions had been through legal counsel, to which Fairbanks responded, “The number of apartments being built could kill us through taxation.”

Resident Brian Chirichiello applauded the move and said, “I urge you to support this.”

Chirichiello asked for clarification on the building heights and Sioras said with the former height of 60 feet, a multi-family next to a single-family or duplex would “rise way above it.” The new calculation takes the neighboring buildings into account, he said.

The Council voted unanimously to accept the amendments to the Zoning Ordinance.