Energy Chapter dominates as Derry panel tackles Town Plan

By Bruce Frauman
©2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

A dozen Londonderry residents joined with the town’s Planning Commission to discuss a revised Town Plan that will guide Londonderry for the next eight years.

Planning Commission chair Sharon Crossman introduces the Town Plan overview to the audience. All photos by GNAT-TV.

The first issue out of the block at the June 26 hearing was what the town could do to prevent another solar array such as the one on Route 11 overlooking Thompsonburg Road. While Commission member Emmett Dunbar replied that that issue wasn’t the  sole purpose of the meeting, energy issues still dominated.

Commission members Dick Dale and Larry Gubb noted that the newly appointed Energy Committee (of which the writer is a member) is working with the Windham Regional Commission on an enhanced Energy Chapter of the Town Plan. Once that is adopted and approved by the WRC, the Town Plan will receive substantial deference by the state Public Service Board.

Planning Commission chair Sharon Crossman said the goal is “to try to represent what a vision for Londonderry would be for the next eight years … The meat of the matter is really in the goals, policies and actions that we have laid out. The chapters each contain a lot of information some of it constructive, some of it historic and current trends.”

The goal of the Town Plan is  to try to represent what a vision for Londonderry would be for the next eight years … The meat of the matter is really in the goals, policies and actions that we have laid out.

Sharon Crossman
Planning Commission chair

The eight chapters of the Town Plan are in response to the 14 goals set forth in state statute. The Town Plan that passed in 2012 contained “non substantive” changes from the previous plan, according to Crossman. So, this plan is the first major revision in 10 years and will be in force eight years rather than the previous five-year updates. One major difference is the addition of goals for each topic in addition to the policies and action steps.

Also new to the 2017 Town Plan is a section on Flood Resilience with goals “to reduce the loss of life, injury and economic impacts resulting from all flood hazards and to reduce the impact of flood hazards on the town’s water bodies, natural and historic resources.”

One attendee suggested that the wind power project proposed for Glebe Mountain 15 years ago was denied because of the town’s by-laws. Crossman and former Select Board member Kevin Beattie said the real reason was that the developer withdrew the proposal because town sentiment was against the project. Dale said that protection of natural resources set forth in the Town Plan also played a part.

About a dozen residents turned out to the public hearing.

Crossman said the new Town Plan has revised the land use section to encourage development on higher elevations in the village centers to avoid damage from future water events. This would also concentrate development in the villages and discourage development between the villages.

Cynthia Gubb asked how the Town Plan could be used to try to move higher speed through-traffic from secondary roads such as Middletown and Thompsonburg roads onto Route 100. Another resident asked about the goals of encouraging more pedestrian and bicycle use and safety. Crossman replied that one of the commission’s projects is connectivity to develop trails for pedestrian use. Dale said unless the town chooses to set local speed limits, the speed limit on Thompsonburg Road is 50 mile per hour, yet one goal is increased pedestrian safety.

Answering one question about the proposed land use maps, Crossman said that new designations of Village Commercial and Service Commercial have been added to strips of the village areas to encourage commercial development along Routes 11 and 100. These are now zoned residential, but the goal is to encourage economic development while still maintaining a rural character.

Cynthia Gubb said, “Let’s support the businesses we have here.” Dunbar added the suggestion to the town plan draft.

The Planning Commission, from left Joshua Wengerd, Larry Gubb, Dick Dale, Emmett Dunbar and Sharon Crossman.

Gubb also praised the Planning Commission for its two years of work and bemoaned the fact that more people did not attend the hearing. Crossman thanked Gubb and said it was the bylaws that tend to get people’s attention.

When Select Board chair Paul Gordon  said he had “a significant problem” with Goal 1 of the Energy Chapter, quite a discussion began. Gordon said he objects to a goal of a 40 percent reduction in total per-capita non-renewable energy consumption, preferring to leave off the numerical goal. He asked, “At what cost to Londonderry” is that reduction? “By specifying how much and when without a plan does not compute to me.”

Lawrence Gubb said, “It was a guideline, a target we are trying to read. It is not a mandate you must reach. In order to do something you have to have a goal, and that goal has to have a number.” Crossman said the Planning and Energy committees will check on the state progress on its goals before committing to a specific numerical goal.

Dick Dale addresses the audience.

Select Board member George Mora said the Williams Dam has been determined to be in very poor condition yet Goal 1 under Flood Resilience is to save life and property. “I know this topic is radioactive” and suggested looking at the cost of repairs since most in town want to keep the dam.

Kim Ray asked if commercial solar development could be prohibited from residential areas. Crossman said the Town Plan could make suggestions but the decision is made by the state Public Service Board. Dale said the aspiration is for solar energy projects that fit the rural character of the town. Gubb said the Energy Committee will continue to discuss the issue.

The Planning Commission will revise the plan based on the discussion at the hearing, then present a final version to the Select Board. The Select Board will then hold another public hearing before it can vote to adopt the new Town Plan.

The enhanced energy portion will be amended once the Energy Committee agrees on draft language. The Planning Commission will then be able to review that before passing it on the the Select Board.

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  1. Kelly Capen says:

    I have some serious concerns about being legally able to drive 50 mph on Thompsonburg and Middletown roads. These roads have no shoulders and are full of blind hills and/or corners. These are not bike paths. Could we put up a speed sign or take down some trees? Unless the town is willing to put up signage and/or at least thin the brush, I am NOT for sending any more bicyclists or summer skiers down this road. Could someone please direct me to the proper people to speak with? I would not dare drive this road at 50.