ZBA takes no action on two large housing developments

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Wellington Hills (red arrow) and South Mammoth Road (blue arrow) were discussed on Oct. 14, 2021 at the ZBA

MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Manchester Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) took up requests for variances on a pair of large developments on Thursday night, declining to take action in both situations.

The first came on South Mammoth Road just south of I-293 southbound just past the Mall of New Hampshire. There, the developers sought to construct 96 three-story residential units seeking variances from building story and lot frontage limitations.

Another request for variances was placed forward earlier in the year asking for larger buildings with more units that was denied. On Thursday, representatives of the proposal noted the decreased size of the size of the buildings and the overall development footprint in the new proposal, also stating that the nearest current neighbor to the development on the south side of the highway would be 1,000 feet away through dense tree cover and the closest neighbor across the highway was 500 feet away.

However, members of the ZBA believed that the proposal did not present a significant enough change from the previous request, ultimately refusing the approve or deny the request for variances, essentially killing the proposal.

Later in the meeting, the ZBA heard a request for three variances on a proposed 305-unit development on Wellington Hill between Smyth Road and Radburn Street that would stretch across 78 several parcels of land. The first variance requested relief to allow multi-family homes despite zoning on the land only allowing single-family homes, with the other two variances addressing the height of the proposed structures.

Members of the ZBA struggled with a decision on the request, noting that adjacent developments to the east and south along the Edward J. Roy corridor allow multi-family use, also noting that properties to the north along Smyth Road are single-family units and this proposal could significantly impact those homes in terms of land value, neighborhood character, potential regional impact given its proximity to Hooksett and other issues.

ZBA Chair Bob Breault on Oct. 14, 2021. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

Residents in the Smyth Road area expressed concern with a proposed connecting road between the Edward J. Roy Drive area and Smyth Road impacting their neighborhoods, although Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart and Alderman At-Large Joseph Kelly Levasseur said that a connecting road would be a requirement for their support for the Wellington Hill proposal. That requirement came due to concerns about the lack of a second means of egress from Edward J. Roy Drive, highlighted during discussions over a gas station at the corner of Edward J. Roy Drive and Wellington Road, stoking fears about traffic and potential safety concerns that could trap residents if the road were blocked.

Representatives of the applicants for the proposal said that single-family development on the hill was financially impractical, with members of the board agreeing with that point given the multi-family developments to the east and south and the fact that no proposals for single-family development there have arisen despite high demand for housing in recent years.

The representatives also noted that high demand as a reason to grant relief, citing support in general from Mayor Joyce Craig and the Manchester Chamber of Commerce for additional housing in the city to relief the current affordable housing shortage and that the developer would consider adding affordable housing units in the project, although this drew skepticism from some abutters given that the representatives would only say that they would consider it.

Members of the ZBA considered tabling the requests to obtain additional information, but determined that no additional information would likely be available beyond what was presented. They also saw points for and against whether the requests passed the five criteria they must consider for any variance as well as whether this request required a zoning change on the parcels instead of a variance, something that would require action from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Ultimately, representatives of the application said that could wait until the board’s next meeting in November for a decision, leading the board to table the matter until then.

If variances are requested, the project would likely require hearings from the Planning Board as well on traffic impact and other items, which would come at a later date yet to be determined.

Additional details on both developments can be found below.