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Latest rezoning request would add starter homes to Manchester development

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 08. 2018 11:11PM
Cows and pigs once roamed the old Giovagnoli Farm off Mammoth Road in Manchester. Now the owners of 140 combined acres are seeking rezoning that would allow development similar in density to that approved for a nearby site last week by aldermen. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — An attorney representing property owners in the city’s South End — including two who took the city to court to challenge a rezoning vote allowing the construction of 160 luxury townhouses in one of the last residential, rural areas of Manchester — has filed a rezoning request of their own to allow for multi-family developments on their combined 140 acres.

Attorney John Bisson of Cronin, Bisson & Zalinsky, P.C. in Manchester represents Elizabeth and Yiannis Voyiatzakis, the Robert A. Demers 1998 Trust, David Giovagnoli and 415 Farm, LLC,., who collectively own approximately 140 acres along South Mammoth Road.

Last week, city aldermen voted to override a veto by Mayor Joyce Craig and pass a controversial rezoning request by developer William Socha allowing construction of 160 luxury townhouses on 24.5 acres.

In August, Bisson warned city aldermen his client’s rezoning request would be coming if Socha’s request was approved.

“The Giovagnoli family and the Voyiatzakis family and the Demers family have filed a similar rezoning request,” said Bisson. “If you grant this, there is another 140 acres in the area that should be rezoned similarly.

“If you do this for 26 acres you should do the same thing for the rest of the folks in the neighborhood so that the 140 acres will be before you asking for the same relief. If it is good for 26 acres, it should be good for 140 acres. You folks can do the math. If we can put 160 units on 26 acres think of what we could do on 140.”

According to Bisson, Elizabeth Voyiatzakis and David Giovagnoli opposed the rezoning effort “from the beginning” because it will “fundamentally alter one of the last single-family neighborhood communities in the city.”

Bisson writes in a letter to city aldermen that due to the scope of the proposal “the neighborhood will change dramatically and forever.”

“Thus, the applicants must seek to protect their interests as well,” Bisson adds. “Put simply, if the rezoning is approved which will allow 160 units on 24.5 acres is permitted, then the applicants should have the same opportunity to increase the density of any development on their combined 140 acres.”

Giovagnoli said he wants to develop starter homes on the land — 1,000- 1,500-square-foot homes.

“There’s enough apartments in town,” Giovagnoli said.

The rezoning request can be viewed below:

Giovagnoli said the rezoning request was submitted to “give the aldermen something to think about before they approved Socha’s request.”

“They went ahead and approved it anyway,” said Giovagnoli, who added he will now wait and see how the request plays out at City Hall.

The proposed amendment would change the present zoning classification of the Voyiatzakis lots from residential suburban to residential suburban multi-family, and the Demers lots — along with property owned by Giovagnoli and 415 Farm, LLC — from residential one family district to residential suburban multi-family, to allow for the development of multi-family properties on the land.

The request does not specify the number of homes the applicants are considering for the property.

“To the extent that the (Socha) application finds support, there is no basis to reject this request,” Bisson writes.

A bitter battle

Aldermen first approved Socha’s request in October 2017, when they voted 9-5 in favor of his petition to rezone three privately held parcels from single-family to suburban multi-family. Residents of Lucas and South Mammoth Roads opposed the project, warning it would spoil one of the last rural sections of the city.

The former zoning had allowed for 26 single-family homes on the 24.5 acres.

Following that vote, Elizabeth Voyiatzakis and Giovagnoli challenged that decision in Superior Court, claiming the city failed to comply with state law when calculating the appropriate buffer area used to determine the number of property owners needed to trigger a two-thirds vote.

Aldermen then voted in July 2018 to start the rezoning process all over again.

Last week, the rezoning passed on a 10-3 vote with aldermen Chris Stewart, Tim Baines, Chris Herbert, Elizabeth Moreau, Dan O’Neil, Joe Kelly Levasseur, Bill Shea, Barbara Shaw, Bill Barry and Keith Hirschmann in favor. Opposed were aldermen Kevin Cavanaugh, Tony Sapienza and John Cataldo.

Craig vetoed the rezoning, saying she had opposed the request from developer William Socha “from the beginning.” Aldermen voted 10-3 to override that veto, along the same lines as the earlier vote.

“I’m very familiar with the area,” said Craig when issuing her veto. “I grew up around the corner on Corning Road, and my parents still live there today. I believe this development could adversely affect current homeowners’ property values, cause traffic delays, and increase calls for emergency personnel and police services. I’m pro-development. This land is currently zoned for single-family homes, as it has been for decades, and I completely support development of single-family homes in this neighborhood.”

City planners have asked Giovagnoli to provide more information, and are reviewing his rezoning request before issuing a report on how it complies — or doesn’t — with the city’s master plan.

“It will probably be rejected,” said Giovagnoli.

Local and County Government Manchester

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