New Urbanism in an old Farm Town

I did spent an hour an a half on the phone with the Town of Londonderry contract New Urbanism consultant from Franklin Tennessee doing much the same for him on the master plan project for the town, (He was too busy to meet in person during his visits to Londonderry.) so I thought a quick summary might be good for all concerned on both projects. New Urbanism is now the new normal in Londonderry these days.

Photo of Londonderry near Exit 4 in about 1900 looking to Derry Depot

Looking in the direction of Derry Depot from a location north of where Exit 4 now is in Londonderry, New Hampshire. On the far left at the horizon is the East Derry Meeting House.

From 1719 till about 1960 Londonderry was Londonderry.

Then three things happened:

Alan Shepard and wife under a truck ready to blast ledge on the I93 project

In 1963 I93 ended at the Massachusetts border. Alan Shepard with his wife in this photo blasting ledge near what today is Exit 4

I-93 came through town dropping off two exits.
The Air Force and Air National Guard decided to pull out of Grenier Field
The town planned a response to the first two events.

The town decided that because it had developed on old farm roads, without sewers and a municipal water system, plus town-wide ledge and wetlands, high density development was impractical.

The 2500 members of the town voted in one acre zoning, and industrial development commitment at the airport and a new school system. (Over a period of years, but all by plan.)

The result was that Londonderry transitioned from an agricultural base to a residential town, centered on education. Our largest taxpayers went from being orchards, to a power plant and industrial and commercial businesses. (The one at the airport, the others on the interstate exits.)

The schools became Londonderry’s new business, and its largest employer.

Attracted by this “masterful” master plan, 25,000 residents came and invested their savings, lives, and families in the fifty year build out of this concept.

The town center was not a green, although we have one, but rather the schools and the athletic fields that we built for our children.

Everyone accepted the fact that if you were going to purchase a one acre lot you were going to have to own an automobile. (Banks and gas stations were early builders to support these two elements.)

Those moving to Londonderry accepted the fact that in order to support this life style, commuting to work would be required. Bedroom communities are not bad planning nor a bad lifestyle. Automobiles are not evil. Station wagons, and now SUVs are good.
Doctors offices, grocery stores, the post office and everything else in our region of the country was built on this semi rural, school centered bedroom community model. It has served us well. Our orchardists did a masterful job of selling off small portions of their farms which became residential subdivisions and shopping centers.

Anderson Farm in 1965, today a 50 Acre Retail Center on 102 in Londonderry. Click on the image for the full story with before and after photos.

One large farm did transition into a self contained residential village (Century Village) but it did so without connecting to, or putting pressure on surrounding residences or on town roads or services. Although by town standards it was high density, it was made to work. It never did turn out to be the walking community as advertised even though support commercial development was within walking range of parts of the development. Social engineering is an inexact science.

Mixed residential/commercial is still far better suited to urban development than to bedroom/child centered communities. Young singles, like the cities, young families like Londonderry.

And so we are.

The profitability of high density for developers is without dispute. Smaller lots, driveway instead of roads, commercial mixed in, all make for compact living almost like a city, but with very low land costs. And thus New Urbanism! The profitability of high density without urban development land acquisition costs.

 

 

Image from the Woodmont Commons Master Plan PUD.

Not a bad idea or a bad concept, but one that must be made to fit the environment.

Woodmont Commons East side, showing Urban Center just off Exit 4A I93

Designs from last day of Woodmont design charrette. Entrance to East side from I93 Exit 4a. Roadway through planned urban center to Derry.

Open, easy to build on land, no neighbors except for surrounding fields, an adjacent interstate to bring all those committed to walking, (A bit of a contradiction, but everything can be made into a compelling story.)

A return to the glories of yesteryear. Your front porch is three feet from the sidewalk with a hitching post, (Decorative) and neighbors walking by all dressed up and tipping their hats to you as they do.

This can be a new (And profitable to develop and market) lifestyle.

Making it fit in the northeast as it has in the south and southwest is a bit of a challenge. Proposing a twenty year build-out requires a futurist on staff, both theirs and ours! Living as a neighbor to a twenty year construction project that is not encapsulated will drastically depress real estate values and investments.

For a town to absorb several thousand new residents and to develop the infrastructure they will require is not inexpensive. Either the developer has to come up with a substantial financial package or the current residents have to. None of this is free.
Many are comfortable driving a pick up, going to school events and work, and living in relative privacy.

They do not resent those who wish to live more contained, higher density lifestyles. They have allowed many such developments in Londonderry.

There is however great concern that scaling up these projects can not be done without great care. So far there has been little indication that great care is being exercised.

New Urban and Old Urban street scene with brick sidewalk and store fronts

Portland Maine Street on a Sunday morning

New Urbanites are a committed group.

Those of us who have committed to building Londonderry on its current model are not to be put down because of our accomplishments by a few who believe they know better.

We should be able to work together. And so that is the challenge we have been facing for the last few years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

There is more to Londonderry than just being a site for multiple high density villages.

“Jack Falvey Et al:” provides a hometown analysis of Woodmont Commons. Since attending the design charrette offered by the developers of the project Jack has been asking questions, you too have been asking questions, many to Jack himself. He has provided thoughtful analysis from his point of view and shared it back to the questioner and a growing list of Londonderry residents wanting of more information.

As they become available we will provide these questions to our readers and the search engines. We hope to provide a broader view of the project through the eyes of someone that came to town in the 1960′s. Jack raised a family here, volunteered in local government and founded his company “Making the Numbers” after a career at Gillette. As a motivational speaker and a prolific writer with major media outlets his views on the project may take you by surprise!

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  1. -6 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug

    Thanks Jack, for the history lesson of the Town of Londonderry. As you can see, by your own words, from a small town with many farms, those farmers sold off parcels of land. With development and government influence, to become what Londonderry is today, a great place. The new Draft Master Plan, with help from the PUD, will make Londonderry, a great place now, into an exceptional place with alternatives. We need these to stop the graying of New Hampshire.

    I like the Village Concept. Londonderry will have to innovate to attract new business that will appeal to young professionals.

    The Draft Master Plan is in a word, “innovative”.

  2. +8 Vote -1 Vote +1Mac

    There is nothing innovative about this plan. It’s just big business bulldozing thier way into a community for thier own profit. They do not have the best interests of the town in mind. If they did, they would have spent some time trying to make this housing project in to something that fit in to the town. Instead, they are choosing to force feed themselves down the throats of the Londonderry taxpayers.

    NH is not the only place in the Northeast that is graying. The truth is, it is increasingly becoming too expensive to live in this part of the country. People are moving to places where the jobs are and where housing and taxes are affordable.

    1. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug

      We have enough that fits the town, we need a new feel. And a new way for the state to fund itself. True Londonderry is not the only place in the Northeast that is graying, all of New England is. So we just what, continue to do what? The same old, same old. Mix it up and innovate.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Mac

        This development (along with all the others that will start popping up all over the place) will do nothing to solve the issue of the aging population. Taxes will still be high (and probably go even higher to pay for the burdens on the system). The jobs created will be low paying retail jobs that cannot sustain a community.

        The northeast is its own enemy. Instead of learning from the other parts of the country that manage to function with lower tax rates and more friendly business environments, it continues to make the same mistakes over and over again.

    2. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug

      Is it wrong to make a profit in this country.

      1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Mac

        There is nothing wrong with making a profit. But is there is something wrong with making a profit at the expense of others. And that is exactly what the Woodmont Housing Projects is, profit for one at the expense of everyone else.

        1. -4 Vote -1 Vote +1Martin Srugis

          Not for me. Can you explain what kind of expense?
          Didn’t the one acrea plots come at the expense of others?

          1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Mac

            Come on Martin, you’re a smart guy. You know full well that Londonderry is stretched financially. Adding all the resources needed to support this monster is just going to add to the burden. And who has to cover those expenses? The tax payers that are already stretched beyond thier limits. This is coming at the expense of our wallets and our lifestyle.

      2. -6 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug

        New Hampshire needs property tax relief, in the form of a ______, tax.

        1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Bill

          New Hanpshire needs property tax relief in the form of smart spending cuts. Not a new tax.

  3. -9 Vote -1 Vote +1Martin Srugis

    Question, can we “ever” change the orginal plan for Londonderry? I get the feeling that many have set the life style of Londonderry in stone without any regard to asking the future generations whether they want this.
    I agree with Doug, this is an inovative plan, keeps many parts of Londonderry as is (for those who want no change) and allows for some new ideas and living space without overwhelming the town.
    There seems to be a lot of fear being spread around that has no basis in fact. Kind of reminds me oa the AES debacle.
    Anyway, there is still time to have your input into this plan. We still have workshops and public hearings to go thru. But we need you to participate!

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Mac

      Sorry, but there is nothing innovative about bulldozing down farmland to build a high density housing development. The only people that will benefit from this are the builders. This kind of thing is happening all over America and the results are not always as rosey as the developers want you to believe.

      The idea that the rest of the town will stay “as is” is a pipe dream. Once this housing project starts going in the doors will be open for more of this very kind of thing. You are blind if you don’t see that.

      This isn’t like AES because there was a lot of speculation about that project without a lot of solid evidence. New Urbanization has a long enough track history that we can make some assumptions based on the many failure and few successes of those othe developments.

      1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug

        Time for someome to pack-up and head for the hill. This project is coming and will be in a much different form than anything in this area. Like it or not its coming. More of the same would be a waste. I agree about the farm, but it is a great location. And it is not an Invasion from Mars.

        1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Mac

          Yes Dougie I am in the process of figuring out how to escape this monstrosity. I am already pushed to the limits on my budgets. I do not need big tax increases to accomidate this resource hog. I hope someday my home will be marketable again so I can move to a place where I can afford to live in peace (like I originally though when I came to Londonderry). I don’t understand why I have to sacrifice my lifestyle because some greedy company (Demoulas) wants to make a huge profit. This is a case of the last person in tellign the rest of the town how to live.

          And who said anything about more of the same? You’re once again putting words in the mouths of those that oppose this mistake. This development could have been handled in such a way that it benefited Londonderrry. But alas, it will only create burden and burden on a town already stretched to his limits.

          1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Nick

            Mac, quick question: If it were up to you, what would you propose we do with this land?

    2. -3 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug

      Thanks Martin, you are right we still have workshops, hearing, and we all can have our say. We need to participate, be heard. Just as in an election, vote, make a choice. Go to meetings, hearings tell them how you feel about, send ae email, its your right. Its our right.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Louis

        Marty, it’s already been decided. The new Master Plan was written by the same people that proposed Woodmont.

        Read the About section http://www.tpudc.com from the people you selected.

        1. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug

          Great info thanks.

        2. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1Martin Srugis

          That is not true. If you look up who TPUDC is they are not one and the same company.
          however the head of the company at one time did work for the (I forgot his name) spanish guy who did the presentation down in Florida.
          But the two companies are not connected financial.

          1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Louis

            Martin, did you read the ABOUTsection?

            “TPUDC is a boutique New Urbanist town planning and urban design firm specializing in the design and implementation of projects accross the United States”

            I never said they were connected financial. I said the new Master Plan is being written by the same people that brought us Woodmont. Maybe it would have been more correct to say ‘some’ of the same people that brought us Woodmont.

          2. -4 Vote -1 Vote +1Steve Homsey

            Martin; forgive me but the post sounds like the Romney and Bain capital saga. Or sound I have said Wrongney?

  4. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Lewis

    Just an advertisement for a another schlocky and poorly conceived project.

    Hope they enjoy the interstate and air quality and traffic issues.

    No doubt the tax rate will go up to accomodate the services and schooling.

    It’s not about innovation, it’s about profit and salesmanship.

    If you want to know what residents think, get a referendum so they can throw you and your shills out of town

  5. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Brian

    Just a question for those complaining about the Northeast and jobs. Have you ever looked at a state by state unemployment percentage? Three of New England’s states are in the top 25% for jobs. That says to me the Northeast is doing something right. Also, I live near the proposed Woodmont Development and am looking forward to it starting. New construction is still down, this would be a huge boost to our area employing many different trades over the 20 years it’s set to take to build out.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Mac

      So we should sacrifice our way of life in town to keep a developer and his cronies employed?

      1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug

        Yes, the cronies, the college kid working part time to help pay college expenses. The landscaping crew working in the small parks, The new owner of a small restaurant, cooks and waiters, The young professionals at a new business that moved to town, new start ups with entrepreneurs with new ideas. The builders, engineers, construction crews, truck drivers and heavy equipment operators, welders and steel workers. Right down to the sweat laborers, and all the other cronies. Projects like Woodmont and the Pettengill Road will create jobs during and after buildout. Are those the cronies your talking about.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1Bill

      The unemployment rate in the Northeast Is lower than the national average. That’s because people either come her to be educated and then go back home to work. Or they are raised here and go to other parts of the country to live that are cheaper. It’s not because we created more jobs, it’s because of a population shift.

  6. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Bill

    How is “New Urbanism” different from the “Old Urbanism” of the 50′s and 60′s. The idea then was to build high density housing & retail areas as a way to deal with issues of low income people. Instead of being the nirvana it was advertised as, they fostered high crime and drops in property values. NO ONE wanted to live near them. Eventually, most of those experiments were torn down. An expression was in vogue during the last presidential election. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Mac

      The big difference between new and old urbanism is that the new urbanists are usually private companies using thier money to develop something that is in thier own interests and not the best interests of the community. Old urbanism was more organic and grew out of community need.

      I have written on these pages many times about the many failures of the new urbanist movement. The results have been studied in other places and the results are not what the developers are selling. But people like Doug drank the cool-aid and as long as there are suckers like that around, the big money manipulators will win.

      1. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug

        I guess Mac, we will have to wait 20 years to find out.

      2. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug

        Ok, Mac, see you in 20 years, to see if you are right.

    2. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug

      The problem was that it was for low income and that there was little or no retail. No business of any kind, no jobs. It was destined to fail, New Urbaniam takes that into account. Woodmont is not a low income housing project, this is not the 50′s or the 60′s. Keep trying.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Bill

        So what happens if either of these 2 scenarios play out?

        1. The town imposes to many restrictions/demands on the developer that he throws his hands up and decides that he will put in “workforce housing” or an apartment complex ala The Fairways in Derry? I believe that the current zoning allows this.

        2. The first phase is built out and the economy still is stagnant. The developer is left with quite a few unsold/leased residences and retail space. His only alternative is to build apartments ala The Fairways in Derry.

    3. Vote -1 Vote +1Jonathan

      Bill and Mac, “Old Urbanism” is never used to reference the development style of the 50s and 60s, which was an incredibly new and modern social experiment gone awry that made normal human life wholly dependent on automobiles. “Old Urbanism” is a term generally used to recall the way cities and villages had always been designed for eons prior to that new experiment we’re currently hung over from. “New Urbanism” is an attempt at comprimise by people like Andres Duany and others to recapture the age-old vehicle-autonomous standard of place-making without making it too “Europy” to suspicious baby-boom Americans set in their (relatively new) ways.

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1Steve Homsey

    For the record I am against it. Our state (which hates it’s residents) passed the workforce housing bill. With the full known intent it would increase tax burdens. Developers have rights and YOU AS RESIDENTS HAVE NONE is what it boils down too. Wyndham tried to fight it and lost! I hope the residents of Wyndham march up to the Court house and hand the Judge the BILL for the increased education burden!

    The Court GRANTS Sun Coast’s request for a “builder’s remedy” as
    follows: Sun Coast shall be permitted to build its project without meeting the pertinent zoning requirement, but it must now return to the Planning Board (which shall accept its site plan/subdivision applications as complete) and obtain fromthis Board requisite approvals. In addition, the project shall have five units for
    workforce housing instead of four.7 The parties shall negotiate in good faith over assurances that the workforce housing components of the project will bemaintained for the long term and the Court retains jurisdiction in that regard. See RSA 674:61, III

    The Court declines to grant Sun Coast’s request for an award of attorney’sfees. The Town’s actions and conduct here in dealing with the relatively new
    Workforce Housing Act do not call for any such award

    So Ordered.
    DATED: February 29, 2012 __________________________
    John M. Lewis
    Presiding Justice

    1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Bill

      Steve,

      I support Al Baldasarro and voted for him last week. However, I have a bone to pick with him on this issue. Two years ago when the election was heating up, Al stood in front of a council meeting and said that if the Repubs take back the legislature the workforce housinglegislation would be the first ordder of buisness to be repealed. Well, The repubs did take back the legislature. What has been done with workforce housing the last 2 years? I hear crickets. I hope Al reads this and responds.

      1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Changesaregood

        Bill,

        Don’t waste your breath. Al will not answer you question here. The owners of the site challenged him. Now they are on his hit list of personal destruction. Great character this man has. Wants freedom of press, but when it goes against his view, forget it. Just like a young solider protecting this great country that is gay, doing his job humbly. Unlike the big mouth Al B. You would have thought he win all the wars by himself. Such a humble warrior. It made me sick that Londonderry supported him like they did this pass election!

        1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bill

          So you want Al to respect everyone’s point of view, but you are made sick by people expressing their point of view by voting for Al?

        2. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Rep AL Baldasaro

          Fellow Londonderry Residents,
          I have nothing against the owners, it’s the personal attacks I have to deal with from anonymous posters I have to deal with when I have better things to do.

          Normally I do not post here but I do read post every once in awhile because there are allot of good stories here. You are correct about my comments on Work Force Housing and I kept my promise.

          For Steve, if you check all your State Reps vote on the Work Force Housing under the Democrat leadership, we all voted against the bill.

          In 2011, A bill was filed (HB 368) and it passed the House of representatives which I spoke in support of but the Senate killed the bill. See: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2011/HB0368.html
          HB368 -FN-L
          Session Year 2011
          Title: relative to workforce housing and the definition of community.
          G-Status: SENATE
          House Status: PASSED / ADOPTED
          Senate Status: INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE
          Next/Last Comm: SENATE PUBLIC AND MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS
          Next/Last Hearing: 04/05/2011 at 09:15 AM LOB 101

          Now since the bill did not pass in 2011, we went back in 2012 with another bill (HB 1282) that I Co-Sponsored which had changes that the Senate said they could support and it passed the house but once again the Senate killed it. See:http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/m_billtext.aspx?billnumber=HB1282.html
          HB1282
          Session Year: 2012
          Title: relative to workforce housing and the definition of community.
          General Status: HOUSE
          House Status: PASSED / ADOPTED
          Senate Status:
          Current/Last Committee: HOUSE MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT
          Next/Last Hearing: MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT on 1/31/2012 1:00 PM at LOB 301

          I am a man of my word and will not give you any false answers, just ask me and I will give you the straight scoop. I hope that this clears up Bill’s confusion on what your State Rep tried to pass.

          If you have any questions or concerns on legislation, please do not hesitate in calling me at 425-6997 for the truth versus hearsay.

          Thanks,

          AL

          Representative Al Baldasaro
          Rockingham County
          District 5 (Londonderry)
          Chairman
          State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee
          Election Law Committee

          41 Hall Road
          Londonderry, NH 03053
          Cell 603-858-3535
          Email: Representative@Baldasaro.com

          www,baldasaro.com

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1Steve Homsey

    Bill,

    I believe you are correct; as I was at the TC meeting on this issue.One has to wonder if towns were not for it, Reps were not for it, then how did it get pushed down our throats? Smells like good ole boy, hands in the pocket stuff. Did I say that? You bet I did!

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Martin Srugis

      Prove it!

  9. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1Steve Homsey

    Hello Al, Thanks for setting the record straight! I am very worried as everyone knows this can and will increase education funding. As we have recently read in our town paper the State EDU budget cuts continue. So what will it be? CAN’T have both!
    I am curious why our Senate cares nothing for the residents who already have the mis fortune of choosing Southern NH to reside in??

    As already stated: as most work out of State; With #2 on RE taxes, high other State tax and Federal etc. I believe we can claim the highest taxed people in the United States. If this is true; does NH economics work??

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