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Opinion

June 28. 2013 7:37PM

Londonderry taxes on Woodmont could hit $5M in 20 years

An analysis of Woodmont Commons, the 300-acre village community being proposed alongside Interstate 93 in Londonderry, suggests the project could bring in annual tax revenues of more than $5 million once it reaches the 20-year buildout.

During the latest in a series of many public hearings, Lucy Gallo, principal with the Development Planning and Finance Group (DPFG), shared details of the project's recently completed fiscal impact analysis during Wednesday night's Londonderry Planning Board meeting.

Attorney Ari Pollack, who represents project developers Pillsbury Realty Development, LLC, said the development team would be back before the Planning Board on July 10.

During next month's meeting, the developers plan on discussing the site's development standards, and Pollack said he's hoping "to have some action taken that night."

Gallo, whose firm was tasked with analyzing the projected financial impacts in the coming years, as well as determine what effects Woodmont Commons could have on the town's general fund, said the team took a multi-faceted approach to gathering its data.

"We're taking a particular look at the town's general fund because we know that most elected officials are interested in the impact this potential land use change would have on property tax rates," she said.

Using the town's 2013 budget information, including current property tax rates and trends as well as current commercial market values, the analysis also incorporated information provided by town and school officials.

"We know Londonderry, like many communities, is heavily dependent on residential tax base," Gallo said. "Woodmont would hopefully lesson the burden on residential tax."

Results from the analysis suggest the rate of new employees flocking to Woodmont Commons for their jobs would likely grow faster than the population.

Once the site reaches its 20-year buildout, the project is expected to bring 3,600 more residents to Londonderry, along with 3,800 commuting employees.

"I don't think this would surprise anyone as the live, work and play components of this project are very attractive to the market," Gallo said.

While it's difficult to determine the revenue level year to year, Gallo said the goal was to make "reasonable assumptions" though admitted the commercial development "wouldn't happen overnight."

"It's premature at this point to predict any one particular year's results," she said.

Town officials said the police, fire, building department, recreation and community development departments, along with the library and the school district, would be most sensitive to growth.

"Unlike many other communities, Londonderry's school district has availability for expansion right now, both in its operating budget and its space availability," Gallo countered.

Local school tax revenues are expected to generate "about a $7 million net surplus" once Woodmont Commons reaches its build-out, according to Gallo.

Overall, annual town-wide expenditures from Woodmont Commons are expected to increase by $3.7 million, with about a third of those costs attributed to anticipated fire and emergency needs.

Several town officials attending Wednesday night's meeting expressed some concerns.

Assistant Public Works Director John Trottier said the town lacks the "minimal equipment" needed to perform summer and winter maintenance in an urban setting like Woodmont Commons.

He further noted that the fiscal analysis presented "doesn't seem to address the impact of sanitary waste and its disposal."

"This type of development is very different from what Londonderry presently supports and could prove costly when it comes providing services in a much denser, more urban environment," Trottier said. "Plus we don't know how many of these roads will be public roads, or who will be maintaining the street lights, the grass strips in the middle of the roads. So there are a number of unknowns right now."

Board Chairman Arthur Rugg agreed.

"Right now, we have a lot of initial assumptions," he said. "This makes the whole process very, very difficult."

aguilmet@newstote.com




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