|IV. IMPLEMENTING INNOVATIVE LAND USE CONTROLS: A CASE STUDY - THE CITY OF DOVER
Founded in 1623, Dover is the oldest continuous settlement in New Hampshire. To represent that, and to represent Dover's commitment to being innovative and ground breaking the City has adopted the slogan, "First in NH, First with You." This extends to all aspects of Dover's government functions, including its land use controls.
The City of Dover has had many of New Hampshire's "firsts." Included in that list is the State's first Form Based Code, which Dover adopted in 2010. This innovative style of zoning is an example of the thoughtful planning that Dover has strived to put in place.
In 1926 the first zoning code was adopted in the United States. Just over 20 years later, in 1948, Dover adopted zoning as a way to govern its land use. This early zoning created various districts segregating Dover into residential, industrial and commercial areas. That early zoning code was all of 23 pages long and, interestingly, the City's current zoning code - at a healthy 120 pages - still includes portions of that 1948 code showing that, while change is good and evolution is necessary, there are some techniques that never become obsolete and never stop being useful.
5. Form Based Code
In 2008 the City recognized that its zoning for downtown had existed for over 25 years with only minor tweaks. The 2007 Land Use Chapter of Dover's Master Plan suggested that the zoning be reviewed and that a "smart code" style of zoning be considered. This started the process of creating Dover's form based code for the downtown.
The form based code is intended to foster a vital main street both for itself and for adjacent neighborhoods through a lively mix of uses - with shop fronts, sidewalk cafes, and other commercial uses at street level, overlooked by canopy shade trees, upper story residences and offices. Redevelopment within the Central Business District (CBD) is regulated by the form based code in order to achieve the City's vision set forth in the 2007 update to the Land Use Chapter of the Master Plan.
The form based code was developed through a process where citizens were asked to describe what they appreciated about Dover's downtown and what they viewed as the defining characteristics of the CBD area. To allow further refinement consistent with individual areas, the district has been divided into sub-districts, with special requirements for each sub-district to allow for context sensitive development along certain corridors and neighborhoods.
All of the areas within the CBD share a common goal of increased emphasis on the form and placement of structures, and a decreased emphasis on the function(s) contained within them. The form based code therefore sets careful and clear controls on building form - with broader parameters on building use - so as to shape clear, attractive public spa (good streets, neighborhoods and parks) with a healthy mix of uses. With proper urban fom, a greater integration of building uses is natural and comfortable.
The CBD district exists like every other district, and development within it is intended to be reviewed and approved as any other district. Appeals from the form based code requirements are treated as any other zoning appeal and are directed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, if a Conditional Use Permit cannot he issued. Projects submitted follow the City's site plan review process.
Applicants must follow prescribed standards within the ordinance. These include height, massing aud location of structures, as well as streetscape standards designed to promote an urban layout and pedestrian friendly environment. The ordinance includes optional architectural guidelines, which if followed allow the developer to take advantage of certain incentives affecting the timeline for review of the plan.
While there are standards for height and massing, there are few regulations in place to restrict uses in the district. Previously there had been 42 permitted uses in downtown Dover. Today there are seven, including lodging, residential, and civic. There is also a provision where the Planning Board can allow a use not covered by the permitted uses table if the use meets the spirit and intent of the district.
Using This Technique
To date, two projects have been developed under this technique. One project was a high-end multi-family residential project where an existing duplex and four-plex will be removed and replaced with a project that will house 42 units and have parking for half of the tenants located within the structure as well. The second project is the conversion of 120,000 square feet of office space within a former mill to 120 units of residential housing in three phases.
This concept was developed to assist with the redevelopment of Dover's downtown and the preservation of the character within that downtown area. Residents pointed to growth and development patterns with multi-story buildings built to the back end of the sidewalk as being representative of that character. Residents were also concerned about single use buildings, which are built solely for their initial occupant and don't lend themselves to re-use. As with most zoning, the ideas behind this newer concept need to be conveyed, and property owners need to understand that while the title is not as well-known as cluster subdivisions, the concept has its roots in pre-WWII development.
Additionally, planners are wise to incorporate flexibility through the allowance of conditional use permits as well as to consider that if site plan approval is not involved the ordinance may not be triggered. For instance repairs to property and maintenance do not require adherence to the ordinance.
This technique was considered under the allowances for intensity and use incentives, perfortnance standards, and flexible and discretionary zoning.