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July 17. 2013 10:51PM

Londonderry road project hot topic for officials


Gov. Maggie Hassan joined dozens of state and local officials at the Executive Health and Sports Center in Londonderry Wednesday morning during a public forum detailing the future development of Pettengill Road. april guilmet 

LONDONDERRY — State and town officials gathered inside the Executive Health and Sports Center Wednesday morning to hear the latest word on the long-awaited Pettengill Road project.

It’s been just over a month since the town of Londonderry submitted an application for an $8.2 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant that, if approved, would fully fund the construction of the proposed roadway to be located off the Airport Access Road.

Knowing competition for the grant is tight and word on the grant’s status isn’t expected until sometime this fall, proponents of the project are already thinking outside the box when it comes to funding, with many emphasizing that the time for action is right now.

Project officials said that once completed, commercial and industrial development along Pettengill Road could bring up to 10,000 new jobs to southern New Hampshire and generate millions of dollars in annual tax revenues.

“The goal right now is to expand our commercial and industrial tax base for the region,” said David Preece, executive director of Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission. “But without the necessary infrastructure, economic development will not come and we’ll lose out,” he said.

According to John Vogl, GIS Manager for the town of Londonderry, the immediate plan is to construct a four-lane highway that would open up the thousand or so acres both north and south of the airport.

The area is rife with development possibilities, he said, as it’s readily accessible to both the airport and all major highways as well as public utilities.

“As a town, we’re seeing evidence of interest in this project almost daily,” Vogl said. “It’s not a question of whether or not new businesses would come, it’s a question of when.”

A recent fiscal study on the project’s implications suggests the project, once completed, would “basically pay for itself,” according to Russ Thibeault, president of Economic and Real Estate Advisory Service.

“In a nutshell, this is the most attractive business development in all of New England,” he said. “The project is feasible, it’s shovel-ready and ready to go.”

Total project costs are estimated at around $13 million, he added, noting that tax revenues from the first year alone could likely cover that.

Should the town be unsuccessful in its efforts to obtain a TIGER grant, Thibeault said the option of tax increment financing is one worth considering.

The Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, according to Deputy Airport Manager Brian O’Neil, owns about 22 acres of the parcel.

O’Neil voiced strong support for the Pettengill Road, noting that the airport would benefit from the steady wave of business travelers.

State Sen. Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry) said she’s currently working toward legislation that would result in the creation of a state economic development bank where state dollars are matched with federal money.

Communities seeking to develop large area for future economic expansion would then be able to borrow the funds they needed from the state’s economic development bank, at low interest rates.

Carson said she felt the development was a vital one for the region since overall, the Granite State is graying.

“One way to get younger people to move here and stay here is to offer good-paying jobs with great benefits,” the senator said. “So this is a huge opportunity not only for Londonderry, but for all of southern New Hampshire.”

Governor Maggie Hassan likewise voiced her support for the project.

“More than anything, I think we have reached a time where there’s a rolling consensus on this,” Hassan said, noting the importance of working together towards a common goal.

“That’s when we get stronger and when we’re stronger, more people are creating jobs,” she added.

To make Pettengill Road a reality, a public and private partnership would be needed, according to DRED Commissioner Jeffrey Rose.

“This is really one of those rare moments when we’ll be able to design what the future may look like,” Rose said. aguilmet@newstote.com


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