New report boosts Pettengill Rd. development in Londonderry

The Pettengill Road extension project in Londonderry is the most attractive business park development opportunity in New Hampshire, and if it’s developed, it could create 10,000 jobs in the region and become the next Pease International Tradeport, according to a new report on the potential economic impact of the long-discussed project.”There’s nothing like it that I know of,” said economist Russ Thibeault of Applied Economic Research in Laconia.Thibeault prepared the report for the Londonderry Housing and Redevelopment Authority, a group that aims to increase the town’s tax base by developing under-utilized industrial land in the town.The report was the first of its kind to look objectively at the Pettengill Road project from an economic standpoint, and its results — especially its job estimates — were surprising, even for Paul Donehue, chair of the LHRA, which commissioned the report to have an unbiased look at the plusses and minuses of the project. “As I read the report, it became clear to me that it could be a boon for the region,” said Donehue, who hopes that it will help to at least put the project back “on the radar screen” in town. For more than 10 years, Londonderry has been looking at building out Pettengill Road from its existing terminus at Industrial Drive to connect with the new airport access road. The project, which calls for a four-lane roadway and sewer extensions, would cost the town an estimated $12.5 million. (Water and service roads off Pettengill would be funded by private users.)Proponents say completing the project would serve two purposes: It would provide easier access to the airport and Route 3 from Londonderry; and it would open up close to 1,000 acres of undeveloped land for business users in the area just south of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.While the proposal has been an ongoing discussion in the town for more than a decade, circumstances have changed dramatically since the airport access road finally opened a little over a year ago, said Thibeault.The new airport access road even has an interchange and signage where Pettengill could connect up.Thibeault said the parcel has virtually everything a large business park needs to thrive. The land is flat, readily developable and is large enough to accommodate buildings up to a million square feet. It’s owned by just a few experienced development entities. It has easy access to the turnpike, Manchester, the busiest airport in northern New England and a half-million well-educated workers within commuting distance.”Nothing’s missing,” said Thibeault. The park, he estimated in the report, could generate $200 million to $300 million in assessed value and generate $6.5 to $7.5 million in net annual property taxes for the town.As with any large development that has a multimillion-dollar price tag, the project has not been without its detractors. Londonderry residents have expressed concern that it would attract too much traffic and that the town would be on the hook for the bill if it’s unable to attract tenants.”There’s always risk. We are in a soft economy, I understand the reticence of the town,” said Thibeault.But, he added, “it’s a good deal for the town, I have no question about that. I’m a consultant — I don’t own the land, I’m not on the town boards — (and) my objective opinion is it’s a wonderful opportunity for the town that will have a regional economic benefit in terms of jobs.”But, he added, if Londonderry is to move forward with building the road, there are two compelling reasons to do it sooner than later. For one, interest rates are currently low, and two, permits for the road expire in July 2014, and the process to secure them again could be costly and time-consuming.In the report, he identified several funding mechanisms the town could use to finance the project. It could issue a general-obligation bond for the entire amount, or form a tax increment financing (TIF) district, where as new space is built in the area, the taxes are earmarked to pay back the bonds. The town could also apply for federal grants, or put into place a road impact fee, where as buildings are built they reimburse the town over and above property taxes.”The town government is in a difficult position,” said Donehue. “Everybody is still recovering from the economic disaster we all faced. Anything that’s going to add to the taxes of individuals in town, we don’t want to do that, I can appreciate that, and at the same time, if you look to the future, this is obviously a really good thing for not only the town, but the region.”Thibeault will present on the findings of his report at 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, at the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce offices on Hanover Street in Manchester.To view the full report, visit – KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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