Town Boards and Committees Update Council, Note Goals

Representatives of Derry’s town boards and committees gave an update on their work and a peek at their 2015 goals at the March 3 Town Council meeting.

The board and committee reports are given annually  before the Council.

Maureen Reno, chairman of the Energy and Environmental Advisory Committee (EEAC), and vice-chair Marc Flattes went first. Reno said the EEAC, authorized by the then-Council in 2009, is involved with “green buildings, green initiatives and clean energy issues.”

The group has three main goals, according to Reno. The first is advising homeowners on green energy practices, and to that aim, the EEAC has hosted a series of public workshops on how to reduce energy costs.

“We work with the Go Green Committee for joint sponsorship of events,” Reno explained. Upcoming events include a Rain Barrel workshop April 18 at Broadview Farm and a speaker from the Union of Concerned Scientists April 29.

Reno said their second goal is advising the town on green energy practices, with the goal of reducing energy costs. “This is another way to trim the fat,” she said, referring to the budget and concern about the tax rate.

They were involved in the design of the new Transfer Station, advising the Department of Public Works, and are working on getting a solar power array at the site of the old Derry landfill, she said.

They are also reaching out to the Derry Cooperative School District to help with energy savings, Reno added.

Their third goal, she said, is to continue to seek out new technologies and funding mechanisms at the state level.

Councilor David Fischer asked if Reno and Flattes had heard of Rainbank, a company that provides equipment to capture rainwater that can then be reused. Reno said she hadn’t but was interested in hearing more.

“We are on the same page and that warms my heart,” Reno told the Council.

Town Administrator Galen Stearns confirmed that the town is swapping out its streetlights, and some outdoor lights on town buildings, for LED lighting.

Heritage Commission chair Karen Blandford-Anderson said the group “looks to the presentation and promotion of historic Derry.”

This past year’s achievements included appointing a new curator for the Derry History Museum, Blandford-Anderson said. Mark Mastromarino has a wealth of experience, she noted.

The museum will now have more consistent open hours, Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. Blandford-Anderson said they will also try to capitalize on visitors to the Derry Opera House, which is located in the same building as the museum, and will be open on days and nights when there is a program.  “That way, for example, parents of children in the Kids Coop Theatre will have a place to go while they’re waiting,” Blandford-Anderson explained.

She also said the group expects to be the point people for Derry’s 300th anniversary in 2019.

Lynn Perkins, chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, observed that with his group, “It’s tough to establish goals – they’re usually established for you.” Its meetings are based on property owners’ appeals for variances or special exceptions from the Zoning Ordinance.

Perkins said land use boards tend to go through a high rate of membership turnover. “If you’re at 75 percent you’re doing well,” he said, adding that he’s pleased with the diversity of his board. “We are a 50-50 gender mix,” Perkins said.

Perkins said he’s been moving the group from a reactive to proactive position. “We’re looking at zoning ordinance changes,” he said. “If the ordinance was written some time ago, it’s not necessarily in line with the current interests and goals of the community.”

In addition, he said, “We are also realigning our policies with the state statutes.”

Planning Board chairman David Granese said his group was to hold public hearings March 4 to update the requirements for residential buffer zones, review allowable building heights, review the Central Business and Traditional Business Overlay districts, revise parking calculations,  and review the use of Industrial Zones; and is working with landowners on a proposed General Commercial IV district on Route 28 South, with a workshop planned for April 1.

“We have an ongoing discussion regarding mixed usage and a subcommittee defining the uses,” Granese said.

The board also revised the zoning ordinance to get it in line with the new Property Maintenance ordinance, Granese said, and revised both the sign ordinance and the livestock ordinance.

In 2015-16 the board will be reviewing the overall zoning of the entire town, Granese said.

Council member Tom Cardon noted that residents are concerned about the proliferation of multi-family housing and asked, “Can we do a moratorium?”

Granese said he voted against two recently-proposed developments because “neither of them was a good fit.” But, he said, “If it’s allowed in the zone, we have to let it continue.”