Planner ready for plan review

MERRIMACK – Starting out on its Master Planning process, Merrimack now has a new master planner.

Members of the Town Council voted last week to appoint Timothy Thompson, currently the lead planner in Londonderry, as the town’s new Community Development director.

Councilors selected Thompson, 37, who was named last month as one of the state’s two Professional Planners of the Year, from a field of 23 applicants, based on his range of experience and skills, they said. He plans to start work in Merrimack next week, succeeding former director Walter Warren, who died unexpectedly earlier this year.

“How do you beat the planner of the year?” Councilor Dan Dwyer asked this week, reflecting on the council’s selection. “That’s like getting a first round pick. … It made it easy, his resume and background were so impressive.”

A Concord native, Thompson began his professional career as a city planner in Rochester, where he worked for three years before moving on to Londonderry.

He has served as Londonderry’s planner since 2000, helping to develop the town’s 2004 Master Plan and to rewrite the town’s site plan regulations, among other accomplishments.

After 11 years on the job, he found it was time to move on to another community. And, just starting its Master Plan process, Merrimack proved to be the right town at the right time, Thompson said.

Members of the town’s Master Plan committee held several visioning sessions this spring in an attempt to start the planning. The planning document, updated every 10 years, is intended to guide community development.

“I’m really excited about the timing,” he said Monday, three days after the council confirmed his appointment. “It’s a good time to be starting in fresh, to see where the community wants to go in the next few years.”

With the Merrimack Premium Outlets mall currently under construction off Exit 10 of the F.E. Everett Turnpike, town residents and officials must determine whether to encourage further commercial development or focus more on the town’s rural character, they have said.

“It’s a really important time for the town,” Town Manager Eileen Cabanel said this week. “There are a lot of interesting things floating around out there, and we need to have someone in place to help us get where we want to go as a community. (Tim) has a lot of experience in this part of the state,” she said. “He has a lot of experience in the Master Planning process. … He’s going to be a great asset.”

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or