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.
OSI Publishes 2017 New Hampshire Housing Supply Report
December 6, 2018
The Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) has published the 2017 edition of the annual housing supply report, Current Estimates and Trends in New Hampshire’s Housing Supply. The report shows that building permits were issued for 4,005 housing units statewide by New Hampshire's 234 communities in 2017 including permits for 2,252 single family homes, 1,570 multi-family housing units, and 183 manufactured housing units. This is the most housing units permitted since the 2008 recession, but still well below the levels observed between 2000 and 2007. For a breakdown of housing permits issued through 2017 by county and municipality as well as analysis of the 2017 data see Current Estimates and Trends in New Hampshire’s Housing Supply: Update 2010 – 2017.
Census Data Shows More Young People are Moving to New Hampshire from Other States
December 6, 2018
According to newly released American Community Survey 2013 - 2017 five year estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday, more young people are moving to the Granite State than were leaving it during the 2008 recession. The average annual domestic migration gain – meaning how many more people moved into the state than moved out – was 5,900 between 2013 and 2017 compared to only about 100 between 2008 and 2012. The biggest change was in the 20s demographic, which had an annual gain of 1,200 people between 2013 and 2017, compared to an average loss of 1,500 annually from 2008 to 2012 according to UNH senior demographer Kenneth Johnson. However, the news is not all good as the state’s overall population growth is the slowest it’s been since the 1920s and the net migration numbers are still modest compared to what the state saw in the 80s and 90s.
NHMA Releases Summary of NH Supreme Court Decision in Dartmouth College v. Town of Hanover
December 5, 2018
On November 6, 2018 the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in Dartmouth College v. Town of Hanover, reversing the Hanover Planning Board’s denial of Dartmouth College’s application for the construction of a 69,860 square foot Indoor Practice Facility located in Hanover’s Institutional Zoning District. In the decision, the Court concluded that planning boards cannot rely upon lay opinions and anecdotes refuted by uncontroverted expert evidence. Further, planning boards cannot supplant the specific regulations and ordinances that control the site plan review process with their own personal feelings. When a land use board is presented with uncontroverted expert evidence in support of an application, opposing views only supported by lay opinions and general information are insufficient to refute the experts’ conclusions.
Retirement community no longer in plan for Laconia State School Redevelopment
December 4, 2018
After pushback from Laconia city officials, a state panel is no longer considering a senior community as part of the plan for 200 acres of prime land once home to the Laconia State School for developmentally disabled people. The Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission listened Tuesday to a consultant’s report for a “hybrid option” that included about 200 homes, 120 apartment units, a sports facility, 10,000 square feet of retail, 10,000 square feet of office space, a 100,000-square-foot health care facility and a 150-room hotel. Some of the land would be left in open space and some would be put to agricultural use, with the possibility that produce could be sold in a farmers market or prepared in a farm-to-table restaurant. Consultants from Camoin Associates have said that constructing more housing, particularly starter homes, could help build a stronger local workforce and indirectly contribute to economic development.
A Refresher on New Hampshire’s Workforce Housing Law
December 3, 2018
RSA 674:59 simply requires that a municipality must provide “reasonable and realistic opportunities for the development of workforce housing.” RSA 674:59 further provides that “If a municipality’s existing housing stock is sufficient to accommodate its fair share of the current and reasonably foreseeable regional need for such housing, the municipality shall be deemed to be in compliance.” Municipalities and residents should then carefully evaluate existing housing stock and opportunities when considering any proposed development simply because it proposes “affordable” or “workforce” housing. In further determining whether the opportunities provided in any given community are reasonable and realistic, municipalities should also consider the many tax credits and subsidies available to affordable housing developers.
NH Office of Strategic Initiatives Publishes Biomass Study
November 30, 2018
Pursuant to NH Chaptered Law 156:228 (2017), the Office of Strategic Initiatives has completed the study on the economic viability of renewable portfolio standard Class III biomass electric generation resources in New Hampshire. The study concludes that biomass generation is less competitive than other renewable resources, partially due to the fact that the biomass market is largely stagnant while innovations continue to make solar and wind energy more economically viable. As a result in order to keep biomass plants in operation, New Hampshire’s ratepayers would need to continue to provide above market price supports or other subsidies, which is directly counter to recommendations made in New Hampshire’s 10-year State Energy Strategy .
Laconia Begins Enforcement of Airbnb Policy
November 28, 2018
The City of Laconia Planning Department has started enforcement actions against four property owners operating short-term, Airbnb-type rentals that drew complaints from neighbors about trash, parking, and trespassing. The Planning Department checks on complaints and decides whether to move forward with an enforcement action requiring that the property no longer be rented out. Property owners who fail to respond could be taken to court and may be subject to fines of up to of $275 per day. These owners also have the option of requesting a variance or special exception to zoning rules to allow short-term rentals, and three are doing so.
EPA Brownfields Program Accepting Grant Applications until January 31, 2019
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting grant applications for assessment and clean-up of brownfield sites contaminated by hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants (including hazardous substances co-mingled with petroleum) and petroleum. Opportunities for funding include multipurpose grants funded up to $800,000 over five years; assessment grants for community’s or site-specific proposals funded up to $200,000 over three years; assessment coalition proposals funded up to $600,000 over three years; and cleanup grants funded up to $500,000 over three years. EPA will host a free webinar to go over the Multipurpose, Assessment, and Cleanup Grant Guidelines and application process on December 11th at 2 PM.
SEC Signals Partial Support For Seacoast Power Line As Final Deliberations Continue
November 30, 2018
After two days of deliberations, the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) has agreed that the Seacoast Reliability Project meets some of the criteria required by state law. They believe Eversource, the utility behind the project, has the financial means to complete it and that it won't unreasonably damage aesthetics, air quality or historic resources on its route – as long as the utility meets certain conditions for construction. The SEC still must decide whether the project is in the public interest; whether it will interfere too much with orderly development in the region; and whether it will harm natural resources or the environment. SEC deliberations will continue on December 3rd at 49 Donovan Street in Concord.
First Solar Array Completed at Manufactured Home Community in the Granite State
November 28, 2018
The first solar array of its kind at a manufactured home community in New Hampshire was unveiled during a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 28th. The solar project will benefit the 50-unit Resident Owned Community (ROC) of Mascoma Meadows, one of dozens of ROCs across the state. The power generated by the array enables each of the participating cooperative's low and moderate-income households to reduce their carbon footprint and save nearly $240 each year. The 132.48-kilowatt ground-mounted array includes 384 solar panels and is forecast to produce 176,507-kilowatt hours of electricity each year.
City of Portsmouth Passes Shared Active Transportation Ordinance
November 27, 2018
The City of Portsmouth can now regulate the rental and use of electric powered scooters in Portsmouth after passing third reading of the “Shared Active Transportation” ordinance. While no companies have yet to place any electric scooters in Portsmouth, several cities in Massachusetts were blinded sided by the influx of scooters earlier this fall and had no way to prevent them from cluttering up city streets. Portsmouth’s proactive shared transportation ordinance also applies to bicycles, e-bicycles, and non-motorized scooters and limits the places to where these types of vehicles can be parked to just a few locations, including bike corrals owned by the city. The City also plans to establish a fee for violating the ordinance.
Liberty Utilities seeks state’s first ‘bring your own battery’ program for N.H. homes
November 20, 2018
New Hampshire may soon become part of the home-battery experiment, as Liberty Utilities is nearing approval on a plan to help 250 of their customers install the systems, with hundreds more open to participation by other companies. Under the plan, which will be discussed December 29th by the Public Utilities Commission, 100 residential customers would be eligible to buy two Tesla Powerwall batteries from Liberty Utilities at a reduced cost, and another 150 would be eligible if the first phase is successful. The batteries will be able to provide electricity during power outages, replacing or augmenting generators. They can also trim a home’s electric bills by taking advantage of special time-of-use rates that Liberty wants to create, filling up with cheap electricity at night and releasing it during the daytime when rates are higher.
New Hampshire Facing Demographic Crunch as Population Ages
November 19, 2018
New Hampshire is the second oldest state in the nation behind Maine with a median age of 43.1 compared to a national median age of just 38. While it is expected that the over-65 population will outnumber the below-18 population nationwide by 2035, this shift may occur sooner in the northern New England states including New Hampshire. This aging population creates real challenges, and potentially an economic crisis: as workers retire, businesses are struggling to replace them. The Granite State also had the third lowest unemployment rate of any state as of September 2018 at 2.7%, which has resulted in companies across the state screaming for workers to try to fend off a larger job shortage in the future. Unlike the neighboring states of Maine and Vermont, New Hampshire has yet to enact any incentives to draw younger millennials to the Granite State or entice Granite State college graduates to remain in the state after graduation.
Seacoast Struggles to Produce Adequate Affordable Housing to Keep Up With Demand
November 18, 2018
Communities along New Hampshire’s Seacoast including Portsmouth have struggled to keep up with soaring demand for affordable housing as the region’s home market continued to become costlier throughout 2018. While Portsmouth has an inclusionary zoning ordinance which encourages the development of workforce housing units by providing density bonuses in exchange for developers committing to reserving 20% of their units be affordable to households earning at or below 60% of Area Media Income, few developers have taken advantage of this incentive. In fact, some including the developers of the proposed 325-unit West End Yards development have argued that the 20% provision is too financially onerous. Still other projects including the 64-unit Court Street workforce housing project, which the Portsmouth Housing Authority won approval for earlier this year, have not been without their own controversy.
Manchester Seeks to Make Streets More Bicycle and Pedestrian Friendly
November 17, 2018
During an Economic Development and Infrastructure Summit last week in Manchester, nationally known urban planner and writer Jeff Speck gave several suggestions on how to make the Queen City more pedestrian and bicycle friendly including making Beech and Maple Streets (currently one-way, two-lane speedways) two-way; placing parking lots and garages behind buildings; and installing more dedicated bike lanes. In an interview after Speck’s talk, Leon LaFreniere, Director of Manchester’s Planning and Community Development Department announced that his department is studying making Maple and Beech Streets safer by eliminating one of the lanes on the two-lane, one-way Maple and Beech streets between Webster and Bridge Streets. The pilot program also would locate a dedicated bike lane between the street curb and parking spaces to protect bicyclists.
New Hampshire Floodplain Management Program Publishes Updated Floodplain Management Model Ordinances
November 14, 2018
The NH Floodplain Management Program has released the State’s updated Model Floodplain Management Ordinances. In addition, an accompanying notes document for each ordinance and a companion Menu of Higher Floodplain Regulation Standards were developed. All of the documents can be found on OSI’s Regulations page.
First Granite State Community Solar Array to Benefit Low Income Families in Plymouth is Completed
November 14, 2018
History was recently made at the Frosty Scoops ice cream stand in Plymouth when, under a unique-to-New Hampshire partnership, a photovoltaic (PV) array began generating electricity from sunlight for low income families in the Pemi-Baker Region. Known as NH Solar Shares, the idea for the nonprofit initiative — which hopes to build and operate three other arrays in the Plymouth area — evolved from a 2016 community outreach initiative by the Plymouth-based NH Electric Cooperative (NHEC). The 28.9 kilowatt array will generate 36,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually. The power from the array is purchased by the NHEC at an undisclosed rate, with the co-op then applying a monthly credit to the bills of ten local low-income families.
New Hampshire State Data Center Begins 2020 Census Preparations
November 12, 2018
The NH State Data Center, which works in collaboration with the U.S. Census Bureau to collect and disseminate data, has unveiled its 2020 Census web page. The 2020 Census page provides a timeline of key events leading up to the April 1, 2020 Census; available job opportunities at the Concord, NH 2020 Census field office, which is scheduled to open in February/March 2019; and information on how communities can form complete count committees.
DES to Hold Wetland Rulemaking Hearings Throughout State from December 3rd to December 13th
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) has been engaged in a significant, multi-year initiative to improve the technical review standards as well as the operation and decision-making processes used by the NHDES Wetlands Bureau. This is referred to as the "Wetlands Program Rule Making and Process Improvement Effort", and addresses a variety of administrative rules including the rules regulating coastal and tidal waters, prime wetlands, stream crossings and the certified culvert maintainer program. On September 28th, NHDES filed the proposed rules with the Office of the Legislative Budget Assistant to begin the formal rulemaking process. NHDES will hold 7 formal rulemaking hearings on the proposed wetland rules in Concord, Keene, Laconia, Lancaster and Portsmouth between December 3 and December 13, 2018. The deadline for submission of written comments is 4:00 p.m. on Friday, January 18, 2019.