Homeowner, Business Owner Reach Agreement on Self-Storage Plan

A Derry homeowner and a business owner came to a truce as part of the Nov. 5 Planning Board meeting.

Maureen Rose, a resident of 115 Windham Road, and Edward Smith, a businessman hoping to put a 44,000-square-foot self-storage facility on land abutting her property, worked out some of their differences with the help of the Planning Board and engineer Eric Mitchell. Rose and Smith’s team will work together on landscaping and buffering, so that her home and his business can coexist.

Smith, doing business as Crom, LLC, is planning to build one of his Granite Clover Self-Storage facilities on land abutting Rose’s. He has purchased PID 01023-001 and 01023-003, 125 and 119 Windham Road, respectively, and is planning to purchase PID 01023-004, 117 Windham Road, from Gregory Leduc.

Leduc’s property includes an existing single-family home that is currently rented out. Smith recently received a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment to keep the single-family home along with an apartment for the resident manager. The variance allows him to have two single-family homes on one lot, which will be the status when all three lots are purchased and merged.

Smith will keep an existing self-storage unit on the original lot and wants to build a 4,600-square-foot addition to the existing self-storage units.

The area is zoned I-IV (Industrial).

Mitchell reviewed the plans so far, which include main access from the south and a single emergency-only access gate to the north, which will remain locked unless needed by police, fire, ambulance or snow removal personnel.

A 50-foot buffer is required between an industrial and residential property, and Mitchell said that will be taken care of in part by keeping an existing stand of trees and an area of brush. He said plans call for an 8-foot-high vinyl fence to diminish the visual effect of the self-storage building and said Rose could express a preference as to color. He said landscape plans call for six arborvitae to be planted along with additional arborvitae and deciduous trees along the driveway.

“We believe that will diminish the effects of odor, light and sound,” Mitchell said of the plantings.

Mitchell reminded the board that self-storage is an accepted use in the zone and is “one of the least impacting uses you could have here.”

Mitchell reviewed the hours of operation, which will be 24-7 in the original self-storage facility, with entry by a passkey. The new facility will have more limited hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. “It is climate-controlled and not open in the evenings,” Mitchell explained.

“Somebody could still come in and drive around,” Chairman David Granese pointed out.

But Mitchell said they would have no reason to drive around if the new building is closed.

Smith pointed out that there would be a live-in manager and a security camera.

In the public hearing portion of the meeting, Rose read a letter from her attorney, Patricia Panciocco. Panciocco expressed several concerns, including:

• Outside storage of campers, boats and recreational vehicles;

• Surface water flowing toward Rose’s house and the number of impervious surfaces;

• The practice of self-storage facilities auctioning off abandoned property;

• How the facility will impact traffic, and the need for a traffic study;

• The possible presence of Smith’s other business, College-Bound Movers, which is not permitted in the zone;

• The presence of an existing shed in the 50-foot buffer; and

• Rose’s request to review the landscape plan.

“The value of her property should not be undermined by development,” Panciocco wrote.

Another resident, Donna Thompson of Town Drive, spoke to the traffic issue. “It’s very common for us to hear a loud ‘thump’ from the road,” she told the board. “Windham Road is already bad for traffic.”

Thompson was also concerned about the presence of College-Bound Movers, and about snow storage and oil-water separation, pointing out that most of the neighbors have their own wells.

In response to Thompson’s concern about runoff, Mitchell said there would be a maintenance plan for the oil-water separation. To Rose’s concern, he pointed out that the Smith/Crom, LLC property is lower than her home and surface water would not flow that way.

Smith explained the presence of College-Bound Movers on the plans. He also owns that business, he said, but it is headquartered in Nashua and the trucks will only be present on the Derry property when they’re moving someone’s belongings in or out of a storage unit.

Smith and Mitchell said no campers, boats or recreational vehicles would be stored outside.

For traffic, Mitchell said it had been estimated that there would be an average of two trips into the site per hour. “It’s not like a closet,” he said. “People don’t visit it daily, they don’t visit it monthly.”

Smith also spoke to the nature of the new storage facility. In his other Granite Clover facilities, 50 percent of the customers pay by automatic billing. “We have some customers we’ve had for 12 or 13 years, and we’ve never seen them in person,” he said.

During a break in the meeting, Mitchell talked to Rose and Smith. He said Smith is willing to extend the solid vinyl fence, to minimize the impact of headlights feared by Rose.

In the landscaping plan, he said Rose had asked for more plantings in the “brush area,” but he was reluctant to do so because adding plants might impact the native plants. He said Smith had agreed to add more arborvitae and some lilacs to further minimize the visual impact.  At a point where Rose didn’t want a fence, he said, “We’ll add two rows of arborvitae.”

Randy Chase and other members said they had a problem with the shed in the buffer zone.

Chase argued that Smith created the buffer zone by purchasing the property and that prior to his plans, there was no need for a buffer zone.

Smith’s attorney, John Cronin, weighed in, saying that the shed was pre-existing and “it’s not something you can regulate.” The house and shed actually provide a buffer, he said, and to tear them down is an “economic waste.”

Mitchell said Smith was requesting the shed be moved back 20 feet. “It doesn’t make sense to throw the shed away,” he said. “It makes it look more residential.”

The majority of the Planning Board favored keeping the shed.

The Planning Board agreed unanimously to take jurisdiction of the project and agreed on a split vote to give conditional approval to the application. One of the conditions of the approval was that the landscape plans be agreed upon by both parties.

The vote was 6-2. Randy Chase and Marc Flattes were the dissenting votes. Chase said he thought it was a good plan but he had a problem with the house in the buffer, and Flattes said he agreed with Chase and that the developers had “created their own hardship.”