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.
NH Supreme Court denies Northern Pass appeal
July 19, 2019
The state’s highest court pulled the plug on Northern Pass. Supreme Court justices ruled unanimously to deny a request by project officials to order a state committee to reopen deliberations on the proposed $1.6 billion transmission power line, according to their ruling released Friday. In the 31-page ruling the five justices concluded that the Site Evaluation Committee’s “findings are supported by competent evidence and are not erroneous as a matter of law”. The state Site Evaluation Committee unanimously rejected the Northern Pass project in February 2018 and later turned aside a request to reconsider its decision and resume deliberations. The 192-mile Northern Pass route would have run from Pittsburg to Deerfield through more than 30 communities, bringing hydropower from Quebec into New England.
Plans for Laconia State School site discussed
July 17, 2019
The Lakeshore Redevelopment Commission charged with determining the best use of the former Laconia State School campus discussed its master plan findings and recommendations on Tuesday during a public hearing with 75 members of the public present. The plan recommends a hybrid mix of development options that include a wellness facility with 40,000 to 100,000 square feet of space for clinical care, a 150-room hotel, 225 single-family and duplex homes, 120 market-rate apartments or townhomes, 10,000 square feet of retail space, a 5,000- to 7,500-square-foot restaurant, up to 15,000 square feet of commercial office space as well as a 40,000-square-foot indoor sports complex with four regulation basketball courts that can be converted to eight volleyball courts. A final report will be completed by September 30th.
Amherst plans to create safer roadways for walkers, bikers
July 15, 2019
A new master plan is being developed to help pedestrians and bicyclists maneuver local roadways in Amherst. There are currently 210 miles of roadway throughout Amherst, and more than 25 miles of off-road trails. Public input sessions have taken place and surveys have been completed to garner information from local residents on how to improve the local roadway network for pedestrians, cyclists, dog walkers and others. The information is being used to create a document that the committee hopes will be included in the town’s overall master plan. It will include different projects designed to make the plan a reality. The ultimate vision is to build a town-wide network compromised of both roadway and off-road solutions.
Somersworth, Rochester tax breaks aim to spur growth
July 13, 2019
Redevelopment and revitalization have been buzzwords for years in the downtowns of both Rochester and Somersworth. As each city embarks on processes to potentially greenlight the RSA 79-E tax incentive program for three key vacant buildings -- one building in Rochester and two in Somersworth -- officials say those buzzwords are seeming much more like reality. RSA 79-E is a state law that encourages investments in town centers and the rehabilitation of underutilized buildings. It allows a governing body to grant property owners looking to improve a structure a period of relief from the increased property taxes they’d pay due to their upgraded structure’s new assessed value. The Rochester proposal, if City Council approves it this summer, will be the city’s first 79-E project since the One Wakefield Street mixed-use project five years ago.
Plans still early, but vision clear for Keene downtown arts corridor
July 11, 2019
Several months after news of a proposed “arts corridor” in downtown Keene began to circulate, the vision for the space is starting to come into focus. In May, the Monadnock Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), presented conceptual plans for the project, which would include an outdoor performance venue, spaces for artists to live and work, a welcome center, a new skate park and a pedestrian mall. The corridor would stretch along Gilbo Avenue between Main Street and School Street and extend to the Railroad Square area on the other side of Main. Over the next few months, consultants hired by MEDC will hold meetings with small groups of community stakeholders, such as abutting property owners, local arts groups and economic development organizations, to get feedback on the project. Then, in the fall, they’ll hold a charrette for the larger community to gather more public input
NH DES Soliciting Feedback about Updated Model Groundwater Protection Ordinance through July 26, 2019
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NH DES) created and periodically updates, the Model Groundwater Protection Ordinance to serve as a reference for communities seeking to adopt local controls to protect groundwater that may serve as a source of drinking water. The model ordinance was last updated in 2015 and is scheduled to be updated this summer. Please take a moment to review the model ordinance , review your own ordinance, or think back to a recent planning effort in your community, and let DES know how the model ordinance can be improved upon. Please complete the survey by COB July 26, 2019.
NHMA to Host Zoning Board of Adjustment and Planning Board Basics Webinars on August 14th and September 4th
NHMA Legal Services Counsel Stephen Buckley and Municipal Services Counsel Natch Greyes will be presenting two webinars for new members of Zoning Boards of Adjustment and Planning Boards. The ZBA Basics webinar will take place on August 14th from 12 – 1 PM and including a basic overview of the organization, powers, duties, and relevant statutory and case law authority related to ZBAs. The Workings of a Planning Board webinar will take place on September 4th from 12 PM to 1 PM and include discussion of what is a completed application, the timeline for planning board review, conducting meetings and public hearings, the use of third-party consultants, the zoning amendment process, scattered and premature development, off-site exactions, innovative land use controls, driveways, the Right-to-Know Law and more. Registration for both the August 14th and September 4th webinars is free, but limited to NHMA members.
NH DES Accepting Applications for Local Source Water Protection Grants until November 1, 2019
Funding is available from the Department of Environmental Services to develop and implement programs to protect existing sources of public drinking water. The grants are available to water suppliers, municipalities, regional planning agencies, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, conservation districts, and state agencies. Applicants can receive up to $20,000 for projects that protect drinking water sources, including watershed planning, delineation of protection areas, assessment of threats to water supply sources, “on the ground” implementation projects, and source security. The application packet is now available online to provide sufficient lead time for applicants to work with stakeholders to determine what protections are necessary to address potential contamination threats, coordinate with working partners, and determine a budget. NHDES is happy to confer with potential applicants in advance of the development of an application. Applications are due on November 1, 2019.
New Hampshire to Form Commission on Aging Issues
July 8, 2019
Governor Sununu signed into law last week, HB 621 (2019 Chapter Law #152), which establishes a statewide commission to advocate for the needs of New Hampshire’s aging population. The Granite State has the second oldest population in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Previously, the main voice for elderly residents in government was a small committee in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), composed mostly of volunteers. The new commission is replacing the DHHS committee. It will now add representatives from seven state agencies and a full-time director to better support the group’s efforts.
Wilmot begins zoning discussion to classify tiny houses
July 3, 2019
On July 1 the Wilmot Planning Board decided that it would pursue integrating tiny houses into the town zoning ordinance. Selectboard Chair Gary Palumbo introduced the topic and the discussion was informed by comments by Adam Ricker, a planning consultant from the Upper Valley Regional Planning Commission. In the end the planning board decided to learn more about tiny houses and press forward toward a new ordinance. There was much discussion about the definition of a tiny house, which grouped them with recreational vehicles (RVs) because they are both potentially mobile dwellings. In Wilmot the existing zoning ordinance allows for multiple auxiliary units on a single parcel if there is one main unit. A shared hook-up to septic is required. The planning board explored the criteria that would designate the main unit as distinct from the auxiliary units, but it seemed an area that would need to be further discussed in the context of tiny house as compared to RVs.
Trump Administration To Print 2020 Census Without Citizenship Question
July 2, 2019
The U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross have confirmed that the Trump administration has decided to print the 2020 census forms without a citizenship question, and the printer has been told to start the printing process. The move comes shortly after the Supreme Court ruled to keep the question off census forms for now and just a day after printing was scheduled to begin for 1.5 billion paper forms, letters and other mailings. A federal judge has ordered Justice Department attorneys and Maryland-based plaintiffs in the citizenship question lawsuits to reach a written agreement by July 8 that formally confirms those plans.
Franklin turns to river, renovations to rebuild economy
July 2, 2019
The city of Franklin once relied on rivers to power its economy, and modern businesses are harnessing the power of whitewater rapids once again. Outdoor New England is changing the fabric of Franklin. Plans are underway to construct a park to attract whitewater athletes and create a steady flow of tourism. Franklin officials said that when it's completed, one of Mill City Park's major highlights will be a wave for river surfers that will be ridable for up to 10 minutes. Organizers hope to begin building in-river features as early as next summer. It's one of a number of efforts to revitalize the city. Todd Workman, of Perma City Life, has also been working with other community members to use federal grants and tax credits to finance the purchase of once-dilapidated buildings and create affordable housing and new business space.
Growing Younger: What are Communities Doing to Reverse the Aging Population Trend?
July 1, 2019
Over the course of the last several years, one would be hard pressed to find a planning professional who is not keenly aware of the issues that New Hampshire faces due to its aging population. According to the 2017 American Community Survey, the Granite State has the second highest median age in the country – trailing only our neighbor to the east – Maine. Roughly 20 percent of the state’s entire population is 60+. This means there are approximately 300,000 older residents living in New Hampshire; however, new estimates show that from 2013-2017 a modest net inflow of younger people have migrated into New Hampshire from other states. Younger communities, like Manchester and Dover, are coordinating with their regional planning commissions to implement policies and practices including affordable housing options, complete street projects, urban parks, mixed-use development in downtown areas, and using third places such as coffee shops as community amenities that are designed to attract and retain young people.
Keene Publishes Analysis of City-Wide Roof-top Solar Potential
July 1, 2019
In January of 2019, the City of Keene passed an ambitious resolution that establishes two goals: (1) that all electricity come from renewable energy sources by the year 2030; and, (2) that all thermal and transportation energy come from renewable energy sources by 2050. As part of the implementation of this resolution students in the Department of Geography, Outdoor Recreation, and Planning at Keene State College with assistance from the City of Keene Community Development Department assessed the feasibility of residential solar as a meaningful contributor to the attainment of these goals. The study concludes that while Keene has an older housing stock with slate roofs that are not ideal for rooftop solar and also has many areas which are prone to long term periods of shading, all residential buildings in Keene could get their electricity from solar installations by 2030 with all residential heating and transportation in the city solar powered by 2045.
Improving transit seen as key to Strafford region’s future
June 30, 2019
Planning, transportation and housing officials throughout the region and state zeroed in this past week on ways to use development to solve some of New Hampshire’s most pressing transportation issues. When the 50-plus attendees of last Thursday’s Strafford Regional Planning Commission luncheon titled “Integrated Planning Approaches for the Future: Linkages between Transportation, Housing, and Conservation” were asked where the region’s limited resources should be prioritized to address the Seacoast’s lackluster transportation infrastructure, they overwhelmingly indicated pedestrian safety, road conditions, transit services and traffic safety measures should be the focus. George Reagan of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and Steve Bird of the Dover Planning Department lent their subject matter expertise to the conversation along with the other members of the panel. The panel, moderated by SRPC, weighed in on concentrated development techniques, regulations surrounding tiny homes and accessory dwelling units, land-use regulations, low rental housing vacancy and other topics.
Downtown Concord: Main Street changes in the pipeline
June 30, 2019
It seems like the jackhammers never stop in the Capital City now that it’s summertime. In downtown, there are plenty of different developments in the pipeline. Projects include the refurbishment and expansion of the historic Phenix theater hall, the tear down of the former OutFitters Thrift Store next to the new Bank of New Hampshire stage to make way for a new diner, and face lifts for several formerly vacant first floor storefronts, which will expose the original façades hidden since brick facades were added in the 1960s.
Temple Planning Board tackles affordable housing question
June 27, 2019
The Temple Planning Board is forming a committee to take on the growing problem of the lack of available and affordable housing for young families in town. A problem that is putting the vibrancy of the town and its elementary school at risk, they say. Consolidating costs has been a continuing conversation for the ConVal Regional School District, with closing elementary schools becoming a commonly proposed solution. As a school with one of the smallest student populations, Temple Elementary School has been on the chopping block more than once. The Planning Board has been discussing ways to encourage residential development through zoning, including allowing two-family units, which the town currently doesn’t allow, or adjusting its existing planned residential development ordinance. The Planning Board has yet to discuss any proposed zoning amendments it might put forth for voting next year, but this will be an ongoing discussion over the summer and the board will likely hold a second community discussion in the fall about solutions to the affordable housing problem.
President Trump Signs Executive Order Establishing a White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing
June 25, 2019
In response to an increasing amount of evidence showing housing markets that suffer the most from a lack of affordable housing have the most restrictive state and local regulations, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that establishes a White House Council tasked with identifying and removing regulatory barriers hindering the development of affordable housing. The council will comprise members of eight federal agencies and be chaired by Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. The council is charged with meeting with state and local leaders to identify issues impeding the development of affordable housing, and to assess the impact of state, federal and local regulations on the cost of such development. Regulatory barriers which the council will examine include overly restrictive zoning and growth management controls; rent controls; building and rehabilitation codes; energy and water efficiency mandates; maximum-density allowances; historic preservation requirements; wetland or environmental regulations; manufactured-housing regulations and restrictions; parking requirements; permitting and review procedures; tax policies that discourage investment or reinvestment; labor requirements; and impact or developer fees. The council will make regulatory recommendations designed to spur the development of affordable housing by June 2020.