Proposed Fordway Townhouse Project Raises Concerns

The Derry Planning Board will delay its decision on whether to give a go-ahead to a planned 10-townhouse rental complex until after a site walk.

At the July 16 Planning Board meeting. Brian Pratt, a consulting engineer representing Lamontagne Builders, presented a plan for townhouses at 30 Brook St., at the corner of Fordway and Brook. However, input from abutters and their own concerns led the Planning Board to schedule a site walk and to delay taking jurisdiction of the project.

The property is PID 23016 and is owned by Stage Crossing LLC.

The owners are seeking two waivers, one from the landscaping requirements and one from the requirement for high-intensity soil mapping, which Pratt said was not needed because the project would be on town water and sewer.

The buildings would be parallel to Brook Street and eight of the units would have their front doors on Brook, with the end units fronting on Fordway.

The access would be off Brook Street, Pratt said, with the 24-foot-wide driveway moved as far away from Fordway as possible.

There will be a sidewalk across the front with granite steps, an overhang and covered porch over the eight Brook Street units, and 19 spaces of parking at the rear. Each unit will also have a two-car garage in its basement area, he said.

The proposal includes connecting to town water at Brook Street and extending town sewer from the corner of Union and Brook, Pratt said.

Two catchbasins are expected to catch stormwater runoff, Pratt said. One is an existing catchbasin across the street. It currently has a 12-inch pipe and Pratt said he was working with the Department of Public Works (DPW), and the owners planned to replace the 12-inch pipe with a 15-inch pipe. The plans also call for a new catchbasin with a 12-inch pipe under the parking lot, which would empty into a detention pond. The excess water would be spread out due to a “level spreading” process and the remainder would go into an existing ditch.

The sight distance is “not great,” Pratt said, and they were asked by town staff not to make it worse. They positioned the building well out of the sight line and plan the landscaping to be out of the sight line as well, he said.

The project will need a Sewer Extension Permit, he said, and he plans to work with the DPW to obtain this.

Abutter concerns included light spillage and other issues from the property, and abutters asked him to raise a proposed 6-foot white vinyl fence to 8 feet. Pratt said he and the owners were amenable to this “as long as the town is not concerned.”

The plan includes three LED lights for the back parking lot, and abutters expressed concern about the lighting, asking the developers to dim the wattage or turn them off late at night.

“We like a cut-off time,” Planning Director George Sioras said.

But in the public comment portion, abutters, many of whom had lived in the Fordway area for years, did not think the complex would work.

Robert Sargent, who has lived at 35 Fordway for 35 years, said, “I am opposed to this development.” When he purchased his home, Sargent said, he looked specifically for an area of single-family homes. Since then he has seen a transfer station, treatment lagoons, and an industrial park.

“This street has more vehicles than it could possibly handle,” he said. “My house shakes when a car goes by, let alone a truck.”

The corner of Fordway and Brook is a “death trap” with accidents waiting to happen, Sargent said. He’s seen cars end up in his neighbors’ yards – or in the brook.

The area is also susceptible to flooding, Sargent said, and he was skeptical about the stormwater runoff plans for the townhouses.

Joseph O’Donnell lives at 39 Fordway and said when trucks go by, “My house shakes like there’s no tomorrow. If you pour a cup of coffee, you feel like you’re on a ship.”

O’Donnell wasn’t sure of the plans for the leach field. “Will it flow down the street, to the river? People fish there,” he said.

Harvey Donovan, who has lived on Brook Street for 53 years, said, “I can’t believe this project is even being thought of.”

After the public hearing closed, Chairman David Granese asked Pratt how many bedrooms would be in each town home. He was told three, with the note that the third bedroom is typically used as an office or storage area.

Planning Board member and Council representative Michael Fairbanks observed that he lives in the area and would like to see the drainage issues addressed because there is significant flooding in the neighborhood.

“And for the record,” he said, “I won’t drive on Brook Street. It is a death trap.”

Alternate member Marc Flattes observed that with three-bedroom units there could be children, and the location could put them in danger.

“It is a residential neighborhood and is zoned for this,” Pratt responded.

Pratt said the builders had originally come before the town staff with a plan for three single-family homes. “The town staff objected,” he said. “They didn’t want to see the driveways so close to Fordway.”

Sioras clarified that the earlier iteration never reached the Planning Board. “We didn’t want to have three curb cuts,” he said. He added that the town staff did not say, “Go out and build 10 townhouses.”

Sioras, who worked in the old Public Works building in the neighborhood for several years, said, “The abutters are not exaggerating about the flooding.”

Planning Vice-Chair John O’Connor said he had trouble visualizing the concept and recommended a site walk. The board agreed and the site walk is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 2, at 8:30 a.m. The discussion on the project was continued to the Sept. 17 meeting.