By Doug Ireland
---- — Local developers and towns looking to market commercial property and bring more jobs to the area could get a big boost through a new program.
ReadySetGo!, launched by the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission, targets potential buyers worldwide and makes it easier to sell properties for development, according to commission chief planner Jack Munn.
The program is now being introduced to town planning boards and developers, Munn said. Three developers already have signed on, he said
Derry and Londonderry are among three local towns eligible to participate because they fall within the commission's jurisdiction.
The third town is Windham, where community development director Laura Scott said participating would be an excellent way to attract businesses and bring jobs.
"It's a great opportunity," Scott said. "It brings national attention to the town of Windham and economic development opportunities."
The commission will introduce ReadySetGo! to Windham officials at their Planning Board meeting Feb. 6, Scott said. The board would have to decide whether Windham participates.
Derry planning officials provided input on local land-use regulations over the last few years, but the town has not decided if it will participate, town planning director George Sioras said. A presentation to the Planning Board probably wouldn't take place until spring, he said.
The program offers certification for commercial, industrial or mixed-use zones sites larger than an acre.
It's the first certified site program of its kind in New England, and optional for developers and communities that want to participate, Munn said.
Certification is a great selling point for potential buyers, he said. Various planning requirements must be met to receive the three levels of certification.
"It gives additional recognition that this certified site is important to the economic growth of the community," Munn said.
Another key aspect of the program is it gives property owners approval for five years instead of a year or two, providing more time to market the sites, he said.
There's no cost to join the program, funded through private donations from corporations such as Public Service of New Hampshire and FairPoint Communications, Munn said. Towns retain local control over the planning process, he said.
The program especially benefits communities with large tracts of commercially zoned land available for development.
But Derry has few large properties left to develop, Sioras said. The town's focus is promoting economic development in the downtown and off Route 28, he said.
Sioras said the program is more beneficial to communities such as Londonderry because of the large amount of undeveloped commercially zoned property near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
Londonderry planner Cynthia May said the town will consider ReadySetGo! But that won't happen until it completes its department reorganization following the recent departure of longtime community development director Andre Garron.
"lt looks like a good program," she said.
Properties marketed through the program can be found on the website, ReadySetGo!, once its launched later this month, Munn said.
If the program is successful, Munn foresees other New Hampshire planning commissions participating. Most local communities are represented by the Rockingham Planning Commission.
The Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission also represents Manchester, Auburn, Bedford, Candia, Chester, Deerfield, Goffstown, Hooksett, New Boston, Raymond and Weare.