Planning Board Gets Information on Mixed Use

In the next few months, the Derry Planning Board will be considering the ramifications of mixed-use development.
Planning Director George Sioras and assistant Elizabeth Robidoux presented a fact sheet on mixed-use development during a workshop at the Nov. 6 meeting. The town could have either a mixed-use district or a mixed-use overlay on existing districts, although both are in the exploratory stages.

The fact sheet includes the following definitions:
• The development of a tract of land or building or structure with two or more different uses, such as but not limited to residential, office, retail, public or entertainment, in compact urban form;
• A project that integrates a variety of land uses, including residential, office, commercial, service and employment, and can result in measurable reductions in traffic impact;
• A proposed development that includes primary non-residential and primary residential uses on the same development site; or
• A tract of land or building or structure developed for two or more different uses such as, but not limited to, residential, office, manufacturing, retail, public or entertainment.
Sioras told the board they could use any of the above definitions “or create your own.”
Why mixed use? According to Sioras’s research, mixed use can:
• Bring compatible land uses closer together;
• Shorten trips and facilitate alternative modes of transportation;
• Allow for compact development;
• Minimize surface parking;
• Create opportunities for pedestrian access, safety and comfort;
• Create opportunities for crime prevention and security;
• Create and protect public space; and
• Offer “human-scaled” building design.
Sioras and Robideaux provided maps of four areas suitable to mixed usage, including Route 111 at the Derry/Atkinson line; Ryan’s Hill, Route 28 heading south; Webster’s Corner, at Clam Haven and Grandview Farm; and Ross’s Corner, off Folsom Road.
Mixed use is already allowed in the Central Business District, the Derry downtown that runs along West and East Broadway, Sioras wrote in the memo.
The concept could be instituted as an overlay or as a permitted use, Sioras wrote. The overlay could be complicated, and the permitted use is “cleaner,” according to him.
Questions attached to “permitted use” include the following:
• Is it permitted by right? Any deviations from the ordinance would require Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) approval. It would be the ZBA’s responsibility to give conditional approval and send the applicant to the Planning Board.
• Is it permitted by conditional use permit? Deviations would then be reviewed or approved by the Planning Board and given waivers. The applicant would not need to apply for a variance.
Board vice-chair John O’Connor observed, “We should only deal with areas that have town sewer and water going in.”
Chairman Dave Granese said, “Like anything else, we have to write an ordinance that is suitable for the whole town.” When the town created the Traditional Business Overlay, that was part of the process, he said.
Traditional Business Overlay came into being because a developer wanted to buy a stretch of downtown, Sioras said, explaining, “He wanted to put in a generic building. We said ‘no, let’s keep the scale of downtown.’ We didn’t want downtown Derry to become another Crystal Avenue.” So the overlay was put in to cover the area from the Halligan Tavern to the Baptist Church.
The board discussed other examples of mixed-use development, including Mashpee Commons in Massachusetts and the proposed Woodmont Commons in Londonderry.
“We need to have some discussion,” Sioras said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”
The board will review the Planning Department’s document and other material, and hold another workshop after the New Year.