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Derry zoning debate softens

Union Leader Correspondent
Union Leader Correspondent

April 22. 2013 11:50PM

DERRY - Buffer zones for automotive sales, service, and repair businesses - a sticking point as the Derry Planning Board updates the town's general commercial zone - are gone.

Planning board member John O'Connor made a successful motion last week to strike the buffer zones from the revised zoning ordinance. The move sent the ordinance back for revisions; the planning board scheduled a new public hearing at its May 1 meeting.

"After much contemplation and talking to people, it's going to be my recommendation to remove the buffer zones," said O'Connor.

Board member Randall Park, who has steadfastly been against the buffer zones, said he fully supported O'Connor's motion, which passed by a 4-2-1 vote.

Several of those who spoke thanked the planning board for removing the automobile business buffer zones.

"I want to thank you, Mr. O'Connor, for speaking to the people in the community and reversing your decision," said Tim Butterfield. "It takes a big person to reverse themselves."

However, the removal of the buffer zones from the zoning ordinance did not end all debate on the zoning revision.

Several residents spoke in opposition of the proposed removal of single-family housing in the general commercial zone.

"Any removal of a permitted use limits the number of permitted uses in the future," said attorney Morgan Hollis of Nashua, representing a South Main Street property owner. "It eliminates options and changes the value of the property."

Several residents who have owned property in the district for generations said the zoning change would restrict the ability of family members to build homes on their properties.

"Why are you fellows talking about my family not being able to build a house on land we've had since the 1600s?" asked Wilbur Palmer.

Hollis noted that there has been some talk of allowing a mixed-use overlay in the general commercial district, which would allow for single-family detached homes, but he said that discussion should be held in conjunction with the proposed changes to the zoning district.

"One of our main goals is to prevent housing developments in this area, but how do we prevent that when we have some current ownership that may want to split off (property) to build a house for a family member?" asked Chase. "The members probably do not have a problem with that."

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