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Woodmont opponents make case for apple trees

Union Leader Correspondent

June 13. 2013 10:14PM

LONDONDERRY — With several dozen citizens gathered inside Town Hall eager to voice their concerns Wednesday night, one key player in the Woodmont Commons saga was absent.

Project developer Michael Kettenbach didn’t attend this week’s meeting, though he did send his attorney, Ari Pollack.Town officials had scheduled a public hearing for this week’s meeting, but Pollack asked that the hearing be continued to the June 26 meeting because the development team remains “in peer review on aspects of the project’s fiscal impact.”After the board approved the request, a group of residents led by Jack Falvey presented their request that Woodmont developers set aside 19 acres of orchards along Gilcreast Road for use as a public park.

Falvey began the presentation with a 1970s-era video titled “Londonderry Air,” which was created before the development of the airport area.

The footage included photographs of the Londonderry of days past, with rolling farmlands, Old Home Day parades and miles and miles of apple orchards.

“All this is not ancient history,” Falvey told the crowd. “This is the ongoing process we’re all involved in here tonight. The challenge becomes the apple and the automobile.”

Later, Falvey said the Lievens family, the former owners of the land slated for Woodmont Commons, was crucial in bringing I-93 to the Londonderry area so many years ago, and that Bill Lievens founded the Londonderry Housing and Redevelopment Authority and served as a selectman, school board member and planning board member.“We still have a great deal to thank him for,” Falvey said.The Lievens family sold the 280-acre parcel to Massachusetts-based real estate developer Pillsbury Realty Development LLC in January 2010 for a reported $7 million.

No members of the Lievens family were present at Wednesday’s meeting, and Planning Board Chairman Arthur Rugg said the family had issued several written and verbal statements asking Falvey not to mention them in the presentation.“They don’t want the family name used and want no association with Mr. Falvey or his presentation,” Rugg said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”Several residents offered their thoughts following Falvey’s presentation, including many who live along Gilcreast Road.Conservation Commissioner Mike Speltz said the area is known for its prime agricultural soils — another reason to ask the developer to conserve it as open space.Resident Jeffrey Smith, who lives one road away from the proposed park, said he hoped that if the park came to pass, there wouldn’t be any through roads.

“I don’t think it would be a good thing to have,” Smith said.

He also expressed worries over the future water source should the area be developed.

“My aquifer sits right under your planned development,” he said, looking at Pollack. “That’s a prime concern.”

Neighbor Matt Stoller talked about the traffic along Gilcreast Road.

“I won’t go out on my bicycle after 3 p.m. out there. It’s tough enough to get my truck out on that street,” said Stoller. “Putting in additional cuts and getting more cars out there would make it extremely difficult and would significantly impact everyone along that road.”

Resident Ray Adams said, “I understand the applicant has certain rights, but what about the rights of our longtime taxpayers.”Jason Phelps added: “In my heart of hearts, I would love for this development not to go forward. I know I will be directly and adversely impacted during development and after. ... If there’s even more traffic coming from Woodmont, I fear I’d be disinclined to continue walking in my own neighborhood.”Pollack said the Woodmont Development team plans to go before the board again June 26 to address fiscal impact issues, with another public hearing to take place July 10.“From there, I think we’ll be able to put together all the recommendations,” Rugg said. “Hopefully by late July or August we’ll be able to make our decision. We’re definitely getting closer, and it’s been a long, arduous journey.”

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