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 2018 Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment Handbooks for Local Officials
February 15, 2019
The Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) has published the 2018 editions of The Planning Board in New Hampshire: A Handbook for Local Officials and The Board of Adjustment in New Hampshire: A Handbook for Local Officials. The handbooks are designed to serve as an introduction to the organization, powers, duties and procedures of planning boards and zoning boards of adjustment in New Hampshire. They are great resources to acquaint board members and other interested persons with the basic responsibilities of the planning and zoning board and to suggest procedures by which the work of the board can be carried out in a fair and effective manner. Both handbooks contain new legislation and amendments enacted during the 2018 Legislative Session. Hard copies can be ordered here.
OSI Planning Division Publishes 2018 Year End Summary
February 14, 2019
The Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) Planning Division has published a summary of its 2018 work across the Granite State. In 2018, the OSI Planning Division fielded 900+ inquiries related to municipal planning and zoning issues, census data, and floodplain management from 75% of New Hampshire’s 234 communities. Other highlights included attendance of 350 local land use board members and planners at the 24th Annual Spring Planning and Zoning Conference and a 99% response rate from municipalities and village districts with zoning to the 2018 Municipal Land Use Regulation Survey.
Local Experts Testify on Housing Crisis
February 12, 2019
Businesses in the Mount Washington Valley are struggling to find workers because of the lack of affordable housing, local experts recently told a Senate committee that is considering a bill aimed at addressing the issue. The bill, SB 15 would add $10 million to the Affordable Housing Fund and $5 million per year from the Real Estate Transfer Tax into the housing fund. The fund makes below-market rate loans to developers so that affordable housing projects will be affordable for them to build. This contrasts to the last two years in which $2.5 million was put into the fund per year. Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition Director Victoria Laracy testified that young families are getting squeezed out of their homes, which are getting turned into short-term rentals, so there is a lack of stock for those families to move into while local employers are struggling to staff their businesses due to a lack of affordable housing for their employees. The bill is presently in the Finance Committee, and the committee has a March 19th deadline to move it out of committee.
Portsmouth Boards Mull Short-Term Rental Policy
February 11, 2019
Portsmouth officials tossed around a variety of ideas about how to regulate - or whether to regulate short-term rentals - but did not seem to come away from Monday’s work session between the Portsmouth Planning Board and City Council with any consensus. Right now short-term rentals, defined as rentals for less than 30 consecutive days, not including hotels, bed and breakfasts and inns are not allowed in any of the city’s residential zoning districts. It will ultimately be up to the policymakers if they want to change the way the city enforces or regulates short-term rentals. The Portsmouth City Council currently has the ability to regulate short-term rentals through its zoning ordinance, but the state Legislature has yet to adopt any licensing requirements for short-term rentals.
Southern NH Planning Commission to Host Tiny Homes Legislative Outreach Session on February 20, 2019
The Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission (SNHPC) will be hosting a 2019 Legislative Outreach event related to Tiny Homes in New Hampshire on February 20, 2019 at 5 PM at the NH Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown. The discussion will cover the benefits of tiny houses, permitting issues related to tiny homes, why tiny homes are gaining in popularity, what a tiny house on wheels is, and what the legislative routes are for regulating tiny houses in the Granite State. Speakers will include Isa Bauer of Tiny House Northeast, Joe Mendola of the NAI Norwood Group, and Ben Frost of New Hampshire Housing. The event is free and registration is not required.
Local Energy Solutions to Host Low Income Solar Projects Webinar on February 26, 2019
Clean Energy NH’s Local Energy Solutions Program will host a webinar on low income solar projects on February 26, 2019 from 12 to 1 PM. In 2018 New Hampshire launched a new Low-Income Solar Program. The program was designed in accordance with a state law directing that no less than 15% of the Renewable Energy Fund go toward benefiting low-moderate income residential customers. The first round of funding resulted in the development of three unique projects. Learn about how these programs are spreading the benefits of distributed solar to low-income communities across New Hampshire and additional details about this year’s funding round. The webinar is free, but you must register ahead of time. The PUC has issued an RFP detailing this year’s low income solar project funding round with proposals due on March 11, 2019.
2019 NH Water and Watershed Conference on March 15, 2019
The 2019 NH Water and Watershed Conference will be held on March 15, 2019 at Plymouth State University. The New Hampshire Water and Watershed Conference (NHWWC) is an annual forum for sharing water resource information. Each year, over 175 academics, regulators, non-profit organizations, water resource professionals, land use planners, elected officials, and others gather to share information on regional water resource issues including water quality and supply. For 2019, the event will focus on regional topics such as economy, technology, community partnerships, fish and water fragmentation, sediment, and water quality and quantity. The conference agenda can be found here. Registration is $55.
New Hampshire Housing to Host Homeownership Development Conference on March 19, 2019
The New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority (NHHFA) will be hosting its 2019 Homeownership Conference on March 19, 2019 in Manchester. This year’s homeownership conference will explore solutions to developing an adequate mix and supply of homes throughout the Granite State. A panel of home building stakeholders will engage with the audience to identify solutions that event attendees and others can implement. Registration for the conference is $35 and includes breakfast. In preparation for the conference, NH Housing is asking anyone interested to complete a brief survey about potential solutions to the Granite State’s lack of moderately priced housing.
Seacoast Coalition to Hold Housing Advocate Training
February 6, 2019
The Workforce Housing Coalition of the Greater Seacoast has partnered with New Futures to host an upcoming advocacy training that will emphasize planning issues, including zoning for workforce housing. The training will take place at Exeter Town Hall from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on February 16, 2019 and will focus on how to better understand how local government functions and learn how to become a more effective advocate. The event is free and open to the public. As part of the training, representatives from local boards and other elected officials will offer their perspectives on the issue. The goal of the session is that attendees will walk away feeling inspired to participate in their local government and confident about how to be an effective advocate.
Conway Planning Board Declines to Endorse Workforce Housing Warrant Article Over Short-Term Rental Concerns
February 5, 2019
The Conway Planning Board held a hearing on local consultant Shawn Bergeron’s petition to amend Conway’s Zoning Ordinance to increase lot density via special exception in the commercial districts of North Conway, Conway and Center Conway in dwellings built prior to 1930 that are served by approved septic and preferably municipal sewer and water.
The board expressed support for the intent of his proposal, but voiced concerns about the potential of it not safeguarding local workforce interests while possibly opening the door to more short-term rentals such as Airbnb. The vote on whether to recommend the article was split 2-2, along with two abstentions. Bergeron's petitioned article will now go to voters at town meeting in April, appearing on the warrant as "not supported by the planning board, 2-2-2”.
Lebanon Awarded “SolSmart Bronze” for Advancing Solar Energy Growth
February 3, 2019
Lebanon is the first municipality in New Hampshire, and only the second in northern New England, to receive a Bronze designation from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SolSmart program. This designation recognizes Lebanon for taking steps to encourage solar energy and remove obstacles to solar development. SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. More than 200 cities, counties, and towns have achieved SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016. Burlington, VT is the only other municipality to receive SolSmart designation in Northern New England. The Bronze SolSmart award recognizes Lebanon for helping solar companies to greatly reduce the cost of installations, allowing them to pass those savings on to consumers. This includes Lebanon’s work streamlining the solar permitting process, providing appropriate training for inspectors and fire and safety personnel on the installation and use of solar PV systems, and ensuring that accessory and non-accessory solar installations are allowed in all zoning districts.
First draft of Concord’s renewable energy plan focuses big on efficiency, electricity
February 2, 2019
In the not-too-distant future, all of Concord’s municipal energy may be generated by local energy sources, your neighbor’s house could be built with rooftop solar in mind, and your public transportation could all be electric. At least, that’s the world the Concord Energy and Environment Committee envisions in its first draft of a strategic plan to have Concord get all of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. The plan was released last week, and it’s ambitious: 27 pages covering everything from energy efficiency and electricity, transportation and thermal energy. The committee’s July deadline to have a full plan may seem far away in the middle of winter, but there is plenty of work to be done. The first stakeholder meeting was held last Wednesday, and two more sessions are planned before a final iteration comes before the Concord City Council. Concord also has a goal to obtain all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
SEC Releases Seacoast Reliability Project’s Final Order with Conditions
February 1, 2019
The Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) has released its final written order approving the Seacoast Reliability Project for Eversource to build a 13-mile transmission line from Madbury to Portsmouth. The committee had voted on December 10, 2018 to grant Eversource a certificate to construct the $84 million power line, mentioning frequently during deliberations that it is a reliability project, one that is deemed necessary to provide the Seacoast’s growing demand for electricity. The SEC found that Eversource has adequate financial, technical, and managerial capability to build and run the project. The final orders states that the project will not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region, will not have an unreasonable adverse effect on aesthetics, historic sites, air and water quality, the natural environment, and public health and safety and lastly determined that the project is in the public’s interest. The final order also lays out firm commitments to Durham, UNH, and Newington for the protection of natural and historical resources, the disposal of materials, hours of operation, and conflict resolution.
Laconia to take closer look at short-term rental regulations
January 30, 2019
Laconia City Council members want to take a closer look at what regulations are needed for the many short-term Airbnb-type rentals that have been popping up around the city. Present zoning ordinances ban short-term rentals in most residential areas, but the council has decided not to enforce those ordinances unless someone complains. When the Zoning Board of Adjustment considers appeals from people who want to run a short-term rental in a residential area, the panel has very little latitude under state law to grant that request. City Manager Scott Myers said Tuesday that a City Council committee will look into the short-term rental issue in a process that could ultimately lead to a public hearing on whether zoning ordinances should be changed to further regulate short-term rentals if new state legislation is passed. Senate Bill 69, currently making its way through the New Hampshire Legislature if passed would allow municipalities to conduct fire-safety and health investigations of short-term rentals. The legislation also would allow the municipality to charge a fee for inspections.
NHDOT awards $512,000 to Franklin revitalization
January 30, 2019
The City of Franklin’s ongoing revitalization efforts has gotten a big boost with a NH Department of Transportation award of $512,000 in Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funds that will be used to build a pedestrian walkway on an existing trestle view bridge connecting Mill City Park to the base of the Winnipesaukee River Trail. The TAP funding “will provide structural shoring for the safe access from the land portion of the park to Central Street while preserving another piece of history at the base of Franklin’s downtown. Mill City Park is a public-private partnership that is envisioned as including white water kayaking on the Winnipesaukee River that proponents hope will draw enthusiasts from around the region to the city. Also included will be a community garden, pavilion, mountain bike pump track, trails and camping. Engineering, design and permitting of the white water park is underway. Construction of some of the land portions are expected to begin this year.
Claremont Contemplates a Pleasant Street Revival
January 30, 2019
Residents and business owners brainstormed about how to help revive Claremont’s Pleasant Street, once the shopping mecca for the Upper Valley at a Wednesday night forum. The forum was the first step in pre-engineering and design work for Pleasant Street, Claremont’s main street that cuts through the historic downtown. Today Pleasant Street is home to a mix of restaurants and retail shops that in many cases operate next to empty storefronts. The focus of the discussion was on traffic and in particular, parking, which many believe has become a deterrent to attracting shoppers and allowing building owners to develop their second and third stories for residential housing. There was a consensus to prohibit truck traffic while the idea of making the street one-way and creating diagonal parking on one side got mixed reviews. There will be additional forums planned in the coming weeks and a proposal for a redesign of Pleasant Street is expected to be presented in late April based on public input. Additional information about the project is available at www.rethinkpleasantstreet.com.
Winchester Discusses Economic Revitalization at Town Forum
January 29, 2019
Nearly 100 residents in the town of Winchester attended a Monday night forum to examine progress made since the town’s 2008 charrette. The forum was hosted by the Winchester Downtown Economic Development Corp. and the Winchester Revitalization Economic Development Committee. In June 2008, a team of architects, engineers and other design and development professionals met with town officials, residents and business owners during a two-day planning session coordinated by Plan NH. The event focused on determining Winchester’s future with proposals focused on enhancing waterfront access to the Ashuelot River and maintaining the historic facades of downtown buildings in renovations. Forum moderator and former Swanzey town planner, Sara Carbonneau — cited Winchester’s enhanced water infrastructure, high home ownership, the growth of the Ashuelot River rail trail, a low-tax business climate, and the annual pickle festival as areas of progress or continued strength since 2008. The consensus by the end of the forum formed around Winchester embracing its environmental resources and business landscape as a border town, while continuing to build on progress from 2008.
Dover Waterfront Project Inching Closer to Reality
January 29, 2019
Dover’s waterfront development process hit another milestone Tuesday when the Cocheco Waterfront Development Advisory Committee voted to approve a term-sheet agreement with its preferred developer for the 29-acre city-owned waterfront parcel. The agreement calls for approximately 475 units that could either be multi-family residential units and/or hotel rooms. It also calls for about 25,000 square feet of street-level commercial space out of a total of 500,000 square feet of development on the property. The city would sell the property to Cathartes for $3.4 million. The total cost could be less if Cathartes completes parts of the public infrastructure improvements the city is required to undertake as part of the development. The agreement still needs to be approved by the Dover Housing Authority’s board of directors followed by the Dover City Council. If those two boards also agree, the city and the developer, Cathartes, would enter into negotiations to produce a much more detailed development agreement that would also have to be approved.
Portsmouth Seeing Boom in Housing
January 27, 2019
Portsmouth city officials have been talking for years about the need for more housing in the city. The good news is that developers have heeded their call, and over the past few years hundreds of new housing units have been created throughout the city, including downtown, the surging West End and off Lafayette Road. Several hundred more are being proposed, including at the West End Yards, which includes a proposal to build 250 apartments and 27 townhouses. Overall there have been about 1,091 new housing units built or planned in the last few years, representing more than 10 percent of the city’s housing stock. The bad news is that most of the housing is high-end apartments with precious little housing being built or planned that working-class or downtown employees can afford. The addition of apartments as housing options may best serve the city’s largest single age group, those 18 to 34, which represents 27 percent of the city’s population.
Big Institutions Must Take the Lead in Solving the Upper Valley’s Housing Shortage
January 26, 2019
Dartmouth College is considering developing housing for graduate students on 53 acres in Lebanon, which is an acknowledgment that the Upper Valley’s major institutions have a big role to play in solving one of the region’s most pressing problems: a chronic, acute shortage of affordable and mixed-income housing. Fully two-thirds of Dartmouth’s more than 2,000 graduate students live off campus, putting them in direct competition for housing with young families and professionals. The site in question, at 401 Mount Support Road, is less than a mile from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, making a possible collaboration with the region’s largest employer a real possibility. Dartmouth-Hitchcock, which is planning a $130 million expansion that will require recruiting 300 new employees, has previously expressed interest in making an effort to boost the housing supply. Twin Pines Housing Trust, a nonprofit based in White River Junction, is the largest provider of affordable housing in the Upper Valley, managing more than 400 rental units and currently developing nearly 125 more. Despite its heroic efforts, much more needs to be done, and that will require the resources and commitment that only the region’s largest employers, including both non profits and businesses, can bring to bear on the task.
Nashua Seeks Partners on Rail Project
January 25, 2019
The long process of connecting New Hampshire to Boston via passenger rails continues, as Nashua officials are exploring options to make this a reality. Nashua Director of Economic Development Tim Cummings spoke about the process during last Wednesday’s Committee on Infrastructure meeting, while reviewing portions of the Nashua Rail Transit Committee Report. Cummings noted that while the City of Nashua is moving ahead with Boston Surface Railroad Company’s public-private proposal to launch rail service from Lowell, MA through Nashua to Bedford by 2023, the city is not in a mutually exclusive type of scenario, citing an alternative path he calls the public option approach. The publically-funded approach known as the Capitol Corridor project is a partnership with the State of New Hampshire being the lead, partnering with the State of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), running from Concord to Lowell, MA. The next phase of the Capital Corridor project is funding of the project development phase which would take the Capitol Corridor analysis to the next level, while pursuing funding, understanding project costs and the engineering behind putting something such as this together and so forth.
Gilford Senior Apartments, Topped With Solar, Certified As 'Passive House'
January 22, 2019
A new apartment building in Gilford is the first in the state to be certified as a “passive house.” It uses airtight construction and energy efficient insulation that aims to sharply lower residents’ bills. The building is the third phase of an affordable senior housing development called Gilford Village Knolls. It includes 24 one-bedroom apartments, with a small rooftop solar array to cut residents' energy costs through net metering. Passive houses on average use 86 percent less electricity for heat, and 46 percent less for cooling. The nonprofit Lakes Region Community Developers built the multi-million dollar complex with state funding and tax credits.
Rising Seas Are Already Costing New Hampshire Millions in Property Value, Study Finds
January 22, 2019
Researchers from Columbia University and the First Street Foundation, a national nonprofit, analyzed 2.5 million coastal homes in four New England states. They found increased flooding due to sea level rise caused those homes to miss out on more than $400 million in relative value between 2005 and 2017. The impacts to New Hampshire's tiny coastline are most concentrated in Hampton Beach, where the study found some homes are worth more than $200,000 or $300,000 less than they would be without rising seas. The study says Hampton Beach property values have suffered more due to increased tidal flooding than any other single community across Maine, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. The researchers are adding newly studied states to an online tool where homeowners can plug in their address and find out how their property values have been – and will continue to be – affected by climate change-related flooding.
PUC Approves Battery Program in Upper Valley
January 21, 2019
The state has approved an innovative program to let people in the Upper Valley install home batteries partly controlled by the local utility, both to trim their electric bills and to help the power grid cope with the changing realities of electricity production. Last Thursday, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the pilot project proposed by Liberty Utilities. Liberty Utilities will subsidize the cost of between 100 and 200 Tesla Powerwall batteries to be installed in customers’ homes as a test of how well they can be used by Liberty to help cope with peak loads, such as on hot summer afternoons. Liberty says the pilot program is the first in the United States to combine battery storage with time-of-use rates, in which electric charges differ over the course of the day. If all goes well, up to 500 more batteries will be allowed into the program later. The PUC also approved a “bring your own battery” component, which will let private companies such as Sunrun and ReVision Energy install home batteries and participate in the program – often with solar panels added to the mix.
Plan NH Workshop on March 14: Nature & Economy- Recognizing and Leveraging Natural Assets for Economic Vibrancy
Plan New Hampshire will host a workshop titled, Recognizing and Leveraging Natural Assets for Economic Vibrancy, on March 14, 2019 from 8:30 AM to 12 PM at New Hampshire Audubon in Concord. This workshop will be led by Shannon Rogers, Nature Based Economic Development Specialist & Associate Extension Professor at University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. Through case studies and interactive activities, participants will learn about connections between the environment and the economy. Attendees will sketch out their own community’s natural assets and see how they can be utilized to advance community and economic development goals. All will leave with action ideas and potential next steps - for their communities and/or their organizations. Registration is $45 for Plan NH members and $50 for non-members.
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.