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Author Topic: LT - Perkins Road Workforce Housing Faces Zoning Board Again  (Read 1087 times)
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« on: March 29, 2013, 06:12:34 AM »

From the Londonderry Times

Perkins Road Workforce Housing Faces Zoning Board Again
Matt Rittenhouse, Londonderry Times
The developer of and attorney for the proposed Wallace Farms workforce housing project on Perkins Road argued its case once again before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA), seeking variances for size, phasing and workforce housing percentage.
The ZBA re-heard testimony from the attorney representing Thomas Monihan, who wants to develop the two parcels on Perkins Road. The development would be rental units and as such, according to Atty. Thomas J. Leonard, would incur costs not associated with private sale workforce housing.

Leonard and Monihan have been at the ZBA before regarding the property and the three variances they seek – three-year phasing of construction instead of the five years required, 50 percent workforce units where 75 percent is required, and 10 buildings with 24 units each where 16 units are the requirement per building. Under their proposal, the project would have 15 buildings to achieve their desired 240 units.
The variances were denied in November. The Wednesday, March 20 meeting began with board member Larry O’Sullivan suggesting it be continued, as appraisers the town wanted to hire to conduct an independent appraisal of the costs associated with the project could not be hired yet.
Monihan has said the reasons behind his variance requests are economic, saying that 10 buildings instead of 15, 50 percent workforce housing instead of 75 percent, and three-year phasing instead of five years would be more cost effective. He has said the project would not be “economically feasible” if the variances were not granted.
O’Sullivan’s motion to continue failed, as no one seconded. “The board is requesting the costs and also the rate of return, and we’ve contacted numerous people and we’ve yet to come up with somebody who can help us come up with a evaluation of those two questions,” ZBA chairman James Smith said.
Leonard began his presentation by noting that the proposed buildings are smaller in scale and footprint than buildings in the nearby Vista Ridge development and in a nearby hotel.
 He said the phasing portion of the variance request should be granted because the phasing ordinance was a growth management ordinance and was not “in play – there is no restriction because there’s no need for it.”
Leonard explained that the town averages about 20 building permits a year and that growth is not unmanageable – thus the growth management ordinance, which takes effect when growth increases to the point of impacting town services, is not in effect.
Leonard said that as long as Wallace Farms is not contrary to the objective of the zoning ordinance, it would not be contrary to the public interest and would be consistent with the spirit of the ordinance.
He said the board needed to consider the situation now, and said the future would be handled at a later time, but as the building in town is not in an unmanageble state at present, the variances should be granted.
O’Sullivan said that as a board, they are all about the future. What the board does affects what happens in the future and several developments have already been approved, with some just starting. “And I haven’t even mentioned the elephant in the room, which is Woodmont,” he said, referring to the proposed Woodmont Commons Planned Use Development on 600-plus acres.
 Leonard said the permits already approved still only amounted to about 20 a year over the last three years, and added that Woodmont was not built yet.
“The real answer to your questions is that the State of New Hampshire has told all the communities that they must provide workforce housing, and none of the projects you talked about are subject to that,” Leonard said.
Concerning workforce housing, Leonard said the town has an “expressed interest in promoting workforce housing and that is what we’re trying to accomplish.” And he noted the town “even in its new master plan references and allows for it.
“It is one of the most difficult workforce housing projects from an economic perspective because it is rental project,” Leonard said of Wallace Farms. He said that with a building sold as a single family workforce housing dwelling, the costs are paid at the time of purchase and are complete, whereas a rental property must remain workforce, with a yearly audit made to ensure that fact.
The issue of how many units per building was also addressed by Leonard, who said the footprint and scale of the buildings were smaller than nearby building and that having 24 units per building vs. 16 units would not be discernable from the outside. He noted that cost was the most important factor, as constructing 10 buildings with 24 units each was more cost effective than erecting 15 buildings with 16 units each.
The buildings would house three floors of eight units each. Board member Neil Dunn asked why, if economics was the main reason for the request for variances, the developers by their own statements are not securing tax credits and low-interest loans.
Monihan said the loans and tax credits were very difficult to secure and that the financing that he was using allowed for a 40-year payback, something he has used on previous projects.
 The board decided unanimously to continue the meeting until the next regular meeting to allow time for the board to contact and receive input from an independent appraiser on construction and rate of return costs.

Glenn Douglas
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