EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 19, 2008

Planners, neighbors oppose rezoning proposal

By John Basilesco , Staff Writer

WINDHAM, N.H. - A proposal that would clear the way for commercial buildings on Route 111 near Mammoth Road is facing mounting opposition from neighbors and town planners.

Neighbors opposed to a commercial complex on land owned by developer Eric Nickerson are mobilizing in an effort to keep the land free from commercial development.

Three years ago, Nickerson proposed a similar zoning change for the land, which was successfully fought by the same group of neighbors on Faith Road. While that citizens petition warrant article drew the support of the Planning Board, voters rejected it in the March 2005 election.

This time, a similar rezoning effort has no support from the Planning Board, which unanimously voted to make an unfavorable recommendation last week. Voters once again will have the final say in the March election.

"That puts us ahead of the game," Faith Road resident Daphne Kenyon said of the Planning Board's vote against the proposed rezoning.

Kenyon is one of several neighbors opposed to the rezoning. Faith Road is across the street from the land that would be rezoned. The 43-acre parcel is known as the Clarke Farm north property.

Opponents believe a commercial strip there would hurt the rural character of that part of town and make traffic problems even worse, Kenyon said.

"Many of the people who are most opposed are looking at some of our nearby towns, including Route 102 in Londonderry and Route 28 in Salem, and they see the extensive commercial sprawl that detracts from the character of those communities," she said. "They want to prevent that type of commercial sprawl in Windham. They want Windham to continue to have a better quality of life."

Planning Board Vice Chairman Ross McLeod said the board voted against the rezoning proposal this time for several reasons. Those included traffic concerns, and the fact that another commercial strip on Route 111 would create a new intersection on the busy highway, he said.

Board members also viewed Nickerson's proposal for the land as almost identical to the one that voters rejected three years ago.

McLeod said it's a fairly large tract of land in an important part of town, and how it is developed should be considered carefully.

Nickerson could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Rep. Mary Griffin, R-Windham, who signed Nickerson's petition, said she supports the rezoning because the town needs to expand its tax base with commercial and industrial development. She said she realizes some residents in the area wouldn't be happy about commercial buildings there, noting that they have the right to vote against it in March.