Sleeping Giants Awaken

Just when it seemed that residents concerned about local issues were batting their heads against a wall, there’s reason to take heart.

The Londonderry Zoning Board of Adjustment met last week to decide on variance requests sought by the developer of a workforce housing project on Stonehenge Road. The developer openly stated he sought the variances to make the project financially viable and enhance his profit margin. And although he argued that Londonderry needs more workforce housing, there’s a difference of opinion as to whether data supports that viewpoint.

Potential neighbors of the development spoke out, as they have on similar developments. But in this case, their words did not fall on deaf ears.

Residents concerned about property values and their rights vs. those of an out-of-town developer made their case cogently and clearly, and the Zoning Board listened.

While this is one instance, and the arguments made by residents pertained to one specific development, it’s a win that should remind us that an informed citizenry is a sleeping giant waiting to be awakened.

When residents attend public meetings, do their homework and express their views, it is indeed possible for them to provide convincing and successful arguments.

It’s easy to sit home and complain. It’s quite different to come out to a meeting, take the microphone, and express a viewpoint politely but firmly. But a resident’s opinion should hold at least as much weight as an out-of-town developer.

Londonderry is far from alone in issues that would benefit from public input. A week doesn’t go by that Sandown doesn’t face questions about the financial operation of the Timberlane School District. With that town’s tax rate skyrocketing in the past few years because of school costs, residents are speaking out not to be contrary but because their homes are at stake. And they should be heard.

Chester is getting ready for the master plan update process. That’s a perfect time for residents to talk about what kind of town Chester should be. With plenty of open space left to develop, the potential for change is real, and should be in the hands of residents, rather than those who live elsewhere. But that requires time at the microphone.

Hampstead faces warrant articles for substantial sums of money for school renovations. Is that what residents want to pay for? Speak out.

And Derry, with its high tax rate and tax cap, faces a big choice in whether to cut services and staff to provide relief.

Take a page from the Londonderry success story, prepare your comments, and head to the meeting microphone. Let’s awaken the sleeping giant.