Office of Strategic Initiatives - an official NH Government website
Smaller text size Reset text size Larger text size
link to website translation page

Planning News

Welcome to the NHOSI planning news page! This page is intended to provide planning related news for those involved with planning in New Hampshire.

Notifications regarding updates to this page will be sent out weekly through the Plan-Link Listserv. If you are not a subscriber to the Plan-Link Listserv, please visit NH OSI's Plan-Link webpage.

Current News | Previous News | Upcoming Events | Grant Opportunities

Current News

New data shows New Hampshire population is growing quickly, by the slow standards of New England
April 19, 2019

New Hampshire is growing either slowly or quickly, depending on how you look at it – but either way, it is people moving here, not people having babies, who are making the difference. New Census Bureau estimates released Thursday show that the state grew by 6,700 people between July 2017 and July 2018, to 1,356,000 fueled primarily by domestic migration, with only Massachusetts seeing more newcomers in New England during this period. The Census Bureau’s estimates also show that nine of New Hampshire's 10 counties experienced growth, with only Grafton County seeing a decrease. Hillsborough County saw the highest population gain in the state.

Senate passes Balsams bill; Sununu says he’ll sign it
April 18, 2019

Developer Les Otten’s vision for creating the crown jewel of resort hotels with the largest ski area in the Northeast at the Balsams got another major boost Thursday, this time from the NH State Senate. The Senate approved House Bill 540, which allows for Coos County to create a tax increment finance district in unincorporated places, like Dixville Notch, but would not require public backing of the bond. The bill will help Otten seek the funding he needs for the $173 million redevelopment of the Balsams in Dixville Notch. The bill was part of the consent calendar, which the Senate passed unanimously Thursday. Last month it passed the House by a wide margin as well. Governor Chris Sununu said he plans to sign the bill into law to help the economy of the North Country, noting no financial cost or risk will be incurred by the state.

Support growing for historic preservation in New Hampshire
April 17, 2019

At town meetings across New Hampshire this year, citizens voted in favor of historic preservation, approving funds for planning studies and capital funds to research, revitalize and restore community landmarks. These results reflect a growing understanding and appreciation of historic preservation’s vital role in community and economic development. The state’s newest Heritage Commission was created in Kensington, while Hampton residents voted to re-establish theirs, reversing their 2015 decision to disband it. Voters in Francestown, Loudon and Troy adopted use of RSA 79-E, a tax incentive program that offers tax relief for municipalities to encourage investment in downtowns and historic buildings. While a first attempt to pass 79-E failed in Kingston, nearly 40 New Hampshire towns now offer this tax incentive program. Despite these recent success stories, changing demographics and land-use patterns in New Hampshire are leaving farms and barns, waterfront properties, churches, meetinghouses and downtown buildings under-used and vulnerable. Suburban sprawl, “new is better” attitudes and intractable parking and complex property issues often lead to the loss of irreplaceable historic assets.

N.H. Launches Online Database for More Than 16,000 Historical Records
April 16, 2019

The New Hampshire Division of Historic Resources launched an online mapping tool Tuesday that gives users access to more than 16,000 historical documents. It's called the Enhanced Mapping and Management Information tool -- or EMMIT for short. Envisioned about 20 years ago, the system provides instant access to historical records. Researchers, local preservation commissions, cultural resource consultants, planners, public agencies, and engineering, environmental, land use and development firms can all benefit from EMMIT’s online accessibility, via subscription, without taking a trip to DHR’s Concord office. Documents are available as downloadable PDFs and include National and State Register of Historic Places nominations, historic districts, individual inventory surveys, project area forms and more. After a short registration period, users will be able to use the system as long as they have an internet connection. Although there is a fee for using the system, the department will determine the cost on a case-by-case basis.

If our population isn’t growing much, why is it so hard to find a house to buy?
April 13, 2019

This article looks at the main reasons why housing prices statewide continue to grow while the housing shortage intensifies despite the fact that population only grew by 2% last year. The article attributes the booming housing market to both demand side forces including an aging population, the formation of smaller households, and a growing population as well as supply side forces including cost of building materials increasing, a growing labor shortage, and local land use regulations. Despite these forces, Dean Christon, the Executive Director of New Hampshire Housing believes that attitudes are slowing beginning to shift in favor of loosening land use regulations to allow additional growth.

Inclusionary Housing: Harnessing Market Forces Webinar on April 24, 2019
The Grounded Solutions Network will be hosting a webinar on Inclusionary Zoning Best Practices on April 24, 2019 from 2 – 3 PM. More than 900 communities across the country have adopted inclusionary housing policies with many more under consideration. Join Namon Freeman, State and Local Policy Senior Specialist from Grounded Solutions Network, and Abdi Hamud, Affordable and Workforce Housing Program Administrator from Fairfax County, Virginia, as they define and discuss inclusionary housing policies—how they leverage market forces, how they can be structured and what they can do—as well as trends and best practices learned from programs on the ground. Registration is free, but required.

Webinar on Strategies for Food Systems, Health, and Economic Development on April 24, 2019
The U.S. EPA's Office of Community Revitalization will host a webinar on April 24, 2019, at 2 PM on how the office has developed strategies and programs to help communities use their assets to identify visions for growth that support a better environment and healthy living. The webinar is geared toward local and regional government officials, not-for-profit economic and community development organizations, and others working to promote economic development in communities. Attendance is free, but registration is required.

NHPA Brownbag Series: Municipal Regulations for Tiny Homes on May 10, 2019
The New Hampshire Planners Association (NHPA) will host an event about Municipal Regulations for Tiny Homes on May 10, 2019 at the New Hampshire Municipal Association’s offices in Concord. The event is part of NHPA’s Brownbag Series and attendees are encouraged to bring their own lunch to the event. The event will focus on a discussion of the need for municipal regulations of tiny houses in the Granite State. Speakers will include Ben Frost, Legal and Public Affairs Director at New Hampshire Housing; Steve Paquin, Vice President of the NH Building Officials Association; and Robert Tardif, NH Department of Environmental Services Subsurface Systems Bureau Administrator. Registration is free, but is required.

Previous News

SEC Denies Rehearing Its Approval of the Seacoast Reliability Powerline
April 12, 2019

On Thursday, the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) denied motions to rehear and reconsider their approval of the Seacoast Reliability Project that the Town of Durham, the Durham residents group and the Conservation Law Foundation filed in March. The SEC voted on December 10, 2018, to grant Eversource a certificate to construct the $84 million, 13-mile transmission line from Madbury to Portsmouth and issued its written approval for the project on January 31, 2019. As part of its approval the SEC found that the Seacoast Reliability Project met all four criteria laid out in the law. Intervenors haven’t ruled out an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Committee of Lawmakers to Study Tiny House Regulations
April 11, 2019

The NH State Senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved an amended version of HB 312, creating a study committee about the much-discussed, but seldom built tiny houses. The House of Representatives has already approved the idea and the full Senate is likely to go along. The study committee, consisting of three state representatives and one state senator, will study “issues associated with state and local permitting of tiny houses suitable for year round occupancy, including both tiny houses on permanent foundations and tiny houses on wheels”. To do so the committee will first determine what constitutes a tiny house on a permanent foundation vs. on wheels. The committee will report its findings and any recommendations for proposed legislation by November 1, 2019.

‘Sportcation’ potential examined for State School property
April 10, 2019

Hotel capacity, potential competitors, prospective customers and the lay of the land will all be examined by a company doing a marketing study on building a major sports complex at the former Laconia State School property. Robin Scott Hunden, president of Hunden Strategic Partners, the company conducting the study spoke to the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission Tuesday about the property’s suitability for “sportcations,” or major youth sports tournaments that attract athletes and families for competitions and tourism. Hunden said that, like convention centers, there needs to be adequate overnight accommodation space to make major sports complexes feasible. One possibility to examine is whether athletes could be housed in dormitories on the State School property, while their families stay elsewhere, even at local short-term rentals. The company will also see how many fields or indoor facilities could reasonably be supported by the land at Meredith Center Road and North Main Street, including space needed for parking.

Biomass Plants Appeal to NH Supreme Court Amid Stalemate with Eversource, PUC
April 8, 2019

A group of wood-burning power plants wants the state Supreme Court to intervene in a dispute over a controversial new state law. The law, in part, would require Eversource to buy power from the state’s biomass plants at a discounted rate for three years. Soon after the law was passed, a lobbying group called the New England Ratepayers Association filed a complaint against the law with federal regulators arguing its structure violates national energy policy. Until that complaint is resolved, Eversource and the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) say the law can’t take effect. In recent weeks, absent contracts with Eversource, some New Hampshire biomass plants have reportedly scaled down operations. Those plants filed an appeal of the latest PUC order with the state Supreme Court last Thursday, seeking a ruling that tells the PUC to make Eversource start buying their power. There’s no hard deadline for the Supreme Court to decide whether to take up the appeal.

Hanover Moves Closer to Renewable Energy Goal
April 5, 2019

The Town of Hanover is making progress toward its goal of using 100 percent renewable energy for electricity by 2030 through new solar panels, a planned green energy co-op and other measures. It’s also upgrading some police vehicles to hybrid models as part of its goal to reach 100 percent renewable for transportation and heating by 2050. Both Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover have additional solar installations planned depending on the passage of a bill currently in the New Legislature which would increase the net metering cap for individual projects from 1 to 5 megawatts. The Town of Hanover will be hosting its 2nd Annual Energy Forum pdf file on April 24, 2019 to mark the 2nd anniversary of Hanover’s vote to transition to 100% renewable energy.

New Hampshire Healthy Aging Data Report Released
April 2, 2019

The New Hampshire Healthy Aging Data Report went online on Tuesday. The Healthy Aging Data Report takes the information on 244 New Hampshire communities including neighborhoods in Manchester and Nashua and breaks it down into 166 indicators that give some insight into how well we are doing meeting the needs of our senior population. Towns and cities can use the resources in the report to inform decisions about economic development, public health, housing and transportation. The data report is also helpful in determining if your hometown is doing better or worse than the state average. The Granite State has the second-oldest population of all the states in the nation. The report is part of an effort by Tufts Health Plan Foundation that has already featured data on Massachusetts and Rhode Island. New Hampshire now becomes the third New England state to have its data dissected, with more than 40,000 pieces of data making up the charts and maps on the website.

Strong Towns gives ‘brutally honest’ take on city issues
April 1, 2019

Rochester and communities like it need to make it easier for residents and local businesses to lead the charge in reviving stagnant neighborhoods and vacant storefronts. That was one of the key messages Strong Towns founder Chuck Marohn relayed to Rochester on Monday during two different sessions focused on how to overcome pressing housing and development challenges. During each session, Marohn said Rochester should “lower the bar of entry.” One way, he said, would be to allow a startup or developer to focus almost entirely on making viable the ground floor of one of downtown’s many large, vacant buildings, then incrementally use that floor’s profits to fix the property’s upper levels. He said that’s a more effective and feasible vehicle for downtown growth than the current approach to codes and zoning, which in most instances require an entire building to be addressed up front. In addition to empowering success for the “grungy pioneers” who are interested in improving their communities, Marohn said municipalities need to do more to meet people where they are. Marohn said some of the best investments towns can make to improve property values and overall confidence in their neighborhood is installing things like trees, sidewalks, crosswalks and narrower travel lanes, as does increasing the connectivity and involvement of the neighbors.

Outdated building codes a ‘big problem’ in NH
March 28, 2019

New Hampshire’s building codes are a decade out of date. Buildings in the Granite State are constructed to 2009 standards. A 2012 update has come and gone without New Hampshire adopting it, and now the state is shooting for 2015, just as other states are getting ready to adopt the 2018 update. Indeed, when it comes to commercial codes, New Hampshire is the most out-of-date state in the entire Northeast, according to the Building Codes Assistance Project, and it shares that distinction with Maine. While many communities haven’t gone as far as Durham in adopting the 2018 energy code, some are starting to adopt amendments and updates of their own. How many? Nobody really knows, since there is no central depository of local building codes, though there is legislation to create one. Updated codes are not just needed to help structures withstand disasters, such as the recent flooding in the Midwest, they are required under Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations.

Chesterfield Ok’s Granite State’s First Municipal Broadband Network
March 28, 2019

The Town of Chesterfield, which sits on the Vermont border west of Keene, has become the first community in New Hampshire to take advantage of a new state law that allows communities to set up a municipal broadband network. Towns were given the authority to issue bonds for broadband infrastructure when the state passed Senate Bill 170 last year. As a result of a town meeting vote, the Town will be entering into a public-private partnership with Consolidated Communications to build a high-speed, fiber-to-the-premises Internet network directly to all homes and businesses in the town. The network will provide highly reliable, broadband connectivity, which will be a significant boost to Internet speeds currently available in the rural town of Chesterfield. It is not known yet if there will be a fee for residents to join the broadband network.

Concord Planning Board Recommends Revisions to Solar Ordinance
March 26, 2019

The Capital City may soon have one of the more unique solar ordinances in the state. After months of talk, revision and a lengthy public hearing last month, the Concord Planning Board has recommended changes to its zoning ordinance regarding solar development. Those recommendations will soon go before the Concord City Council. There are three key changes: (1) one aspect would make solar a principal use in all districts except the immediate downtown area and the opportunity corridors district with a conditional use permit. (2) The city would apply a unique solar land coverage calculation which utilizes the perimeter of the development including the space between the panels and allow 40% - 85% lot coverage by solar panels depending on the zoning district. (3) The proposal would cap solar developments at 25 acres except in the industrial district.

Upcoming Events

NH LCHIP Grant Workshops on April 9, 29, and 30, 2019 in Concord and Littleton
The New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) has announced the schedule for 2019 grant requests. A workshop for state conservation grant applicants is scheduled for April 9th in Concord. Workshops for historic resources grant applicants are scheduled for April 29th in Concord and April 30th in Littleton. Workshop attendance is required for first time applicants and recommended for repeat applicants. The 2019 LCHIP Grant Round opens on May 1, 2019, with Intent to Apply Forms due May 17, 2019 and complete applications due on June 28th at noon. Registration for the workshops is required.

NHMA to Host Exactions & Open Space Legal Education Workshop on April 24, 2019
The New Hampshire Municipal Association (NHMA) will be hosting a workshop titled Exactions & Open Space: Avoiding Mistakes on April 24, 2019 at its offices in Concord. The workshop will be presented by Amy Manzelli, an attorney with BCM Environmental & Land Law, PLLC and Dr. David Patrick, Director of Conservation for the Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire. The workshop will cover: (1) an overview of law associated with exactions and dedications, (2) analysis of the consequences of climate change for nature and people, (3) how municipal planning can help communities both contribute to mitigating the drivers and adapt to the consequences of climate change, (4) defensible strategies and techniques to create connected and resilient open spaces; and (5) dedication and exaction practices designed to meet legal standards. The cost to register is $40.

2019 Webinar Series: Free Online Trainings on How to Access and Use Census Statistics
The U.S. Census Bureau will conduct a series of free data access webinars to all interested data users from April 1, 2019 to June 28, 2019. Attendees will learn how to access demographic, socioeconomic, housing and business data from the Decennial Census, American Community Survey, Local Employment Dynamics, Economic Programs and more. This webinar series will offer a variety of thematic sessions using data tools such as American Fact Finder, QuickFacts, Local Employment Dynamics, Business Dynamics Statistics, Voting Hot Reports, etc. All sessions are conducted by a representative from the Census Bureau and will last between 30 minutes to one hour. If you are not familiar with the American Fact Finder tool, the Census Bureau recommends that you attend an introduction to American Fact Finder or the Quick Data Reports webinar prior to participating in advanced sessions.

Upcoming Planning Board Training on April 27, 2019 in Stratford pdf file
The North Country Council is sponsoring a Planning Board Training for community planning officials on April 27, 2019 (attach PDF from Danica) at the Stratford Town Hall from 9 – 11:30 AM . The goal of the training is for planning officials to learn the necessary basics to run effective and efficient planning board meetings that are in compliance with state law. To register e-mail Danica Melone at dmelone@nccouncil.org with the subject line “Planning Board Training.”

UNH Extension to Host Main Street Academy in Concord, Franklin and Bristol in April and May
Communities’ value having a vibrant main street that has character, contributes to the economy, and provides opportunities for people to gather. Main Street Academy is an interactive three-day Academy led by experts at the University of New Hampshire and the University of Maine. Designed for community leaders, volunteers and professionals, the Academy takes place in three communities in different stages of downtown revitalization. Participants will learn from local speakers about their experiences, challenges and best practices in revitalizing their main street. Each session will include opportunities for discussion, practice using tools, and an afternoon walking tour. The Academy provides training in economic development, community engagement, and strategies for bringing vibrancy to your main street. Sessions will be held on April 30th in Concord, May 7th in Franklin, and May 14th in Bristol. The cost to attend is $350 by April 1, 2019 and $450 after April 1st.

NH DES to Host Annual Drinking Water Source Protection Conference on May 16, 2019 in Concord
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) will host its annual Drinking Water Source Protection Conference on May 16, 2019 at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord. The all-day event is a forum for presenting innovative water resources research, sharing information on local protection projects, and training municipal and water professionals. It is designed for water industry professionals, land use planners, members of environmental and watershed organizations, conservation commission members, town selectmen, municipal staff and elected officials. Registration is $65 and attendees have the option of choosing among four tracks: (1) surface and groundwater, (2) land conservation, (3) innovation & resources, and (4) emerging contaminants.

NHMA to Host A Guide to Effective Code Enforcement Workshop on May 17, 2019
The New Hampshire Municipal Association (NHMA) will host a Guide to Effective Code Enforcement Workshop at its Concord offices on Friday May 17, 2019 from 9 AM – 12:30 PM. NHMA Legal Services Counsel Stephen Buckley and Attorneys Matt Serge and Christine Fillmore from the law firm of Drummond Woodsum will lead this half-day workshop, which will provide municipal officials with practical guidance on how to navigate the nuanced procedures associated with code enforcement, as well as practical advice in pursuing an enforcement action against non-compliant property owners. The workshop will address some of the most difficult issues under the law, including junkyards, dilapidated buildings, and health codes. All attendees will receive a supplement to NHMA’s Guide to Effective Enforcement: Investigating and Enforcing Code and Land Use Violations. Registration is $60 and includes a continental breakfast.

Planning for All Ages Event in Concord on May 30, 2019
PlanNH will be hosting an event on planning for aging communities on May 30, 2019 from 8:30 AM – 12 noon at NH Audubon in Concord. The forum will focus on questions such as what would an Age-Friendly Community look like, what sort of services would be available, and how would residents of all ages be able to enjoy their community to its fullest? Staff at Southern NH Planning Commission (SNHPC) that are tackling these questions will also share their findings on age-friendly assessments and surveys, and how communities have responded to the age-friendly pilot program: their successes and lessons learned in their efforts towards creating an age-friendly region. Registration is $45 for PlanNH members and $50 for non-members.

OSI to Host Census 2020 Complete Count Committee Kickoff Meeting on June 20, 2019 in Concord pdf file
The Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) will be hosting an initial meeting of the 2020 Census NH Complete Count Committee on Thursday, June 20, 2019 at the NH Municipal Association, 25 Triangle Park Drive in Concord, starting at 9:00 am. This will be a kickoff meeting to talk about the lead up to next year’s decennial census and what we in New Hampshire can do to ensure that everyone in the state is counted, including people in hard-to-reach demographics. Registration will open in April 2019. Anyone interested can attend.

Certified Stormwater Inspector Training for Rural Communities on October 2-3, 2019
The Granite State Rural Water Association will be hosting a Certified Stormwater Inspector training sponsored by the National Stormwater Center, geared toward professionals in rural communities on October 2-3, 2019 in Concord. Back in May of 2018, EPA announced its updated plan for stormwater management in New Hampshire. Six towns were added to the list of now 44 towns that are required to hold a stormwater permit. This two-day training will help individuals understand the complexities of stormwater permitting and permit enforcement and educated rural communities about the development of stormwater discharge controls. The training is required to become a certified stormwater inspector. Registration pdf file for the two-day conference is $550 for members and $750 for non-member and includes lunch both days.

Grant Opportunities

USDA Seeks Applications for the Community Connect Grant Program through April 15, 2019 pdf file
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is accepting FY 2019 applications for the Community Connect Grant Program. The Community Connect program helps rural communities extend access where broadband service is least likely to be commercially available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for people and businesses. The projects funded by these grants help rural residents tap into the enormous potential of the Internet for jobs, education, healthcare, public safety and community development. As announced on the USDA webpage and in a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) pdf file, applications will be accepted through April 15, 2019.

AARP Is Accepting Applications for 2019 Community Challenge Grant Program through April 17, 2019
AARP is accepting applications for its 2019 Community Challenge grant program to fund “quick-action” projects that spark change in local communities. The grant program is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative, which aims to make communities great places to live for everyone. The Community Challenge is open to 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) non-profits and government entities. AARP will give priority to projects designed to achieve one or more of the following outcomes: (1) deliver a range of transportation and mobility options in a community through permanent or temporary solutions that increase walkability, bikeability, wayfinding, access to transportation options and roadway improvements, (2) create vibrant public places in the community through permanent or temporary solutions that improve open spaces, parks and access to other amenities, (3) support the availability of a range of housing in the community through permanent or temporary solutions that increase accessible and affordable housing options, or (4) demonstrate the tangible value of “smart cities.” The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, 2019. All projects must be completed by Monday, November 4, 2019. Applications must be submitted through the AARP Community Connects website.

Plan NH Municipal Technical Assistance Grant (MTAG) Program Applications due May 6, 2019
Does your community need more choices in places to live – but zoning is preventing them? Perhaps you want a mixed -use downtown or neighborhood, or multi-family homes – but your current zoning prevents it. Or people may be looking for denser neighborhoods of smaller homes, but current zoning does not allow it. Plan NH's MTAG Program provides funding, on a competitive basis, for communities to hire a planning consultant to assist with identifying the need(s), looking at the zoning regulations, and then re-writing or creating new ones to support what the community wants. Grants range between $5,000 and $20,000. A municipal cash match of 25 percent is required, as is community participation in the program. Applications for this year’s funding round are due on May 6, 2019. Additional information about the program and application instructions can be found on the MTAG website.

U.S. EPA Seeks Applications for the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities Grant Program through May 31, 2019
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Community Revitalization, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Northern Border Regional Commission are offering planning assistance through the new Recreation Economy for Rural Communities program. Partner communities will work with a planning team to foster environmentally friendly community development and Main Street revitalization through the sustainable use of forests or other natural resources. The application pdf file deadline is May 31, 2019.

Portable Document Format Symbol Portable Document Format (.pdf). Visit nh.gov for a list of free .pdf readers for a variety of operating systems.

NH Office of Strategic Initiatives
Governor Hugh J. Gallen State Office Park
Johnson Hall, 3rd Floor  |  107 Pleasant Street  |  Concord, NH 03301
(603) 271-2155  |  fax: (603) 271-2615