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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

Current News

Food group licking chops at prospect of State School land
January 23, 2020

The vision of redeveloping part of the old Laconia State School complex as a center of activity for making food was the focus of a meeting attended by those interested in the concept. Nearly 20 people were on hand last Wednesday to hear about plans for The Belknap Foodshed, a combination of land, resources, and channels designed to contribute to the flow of food from farm to fork. The various components of the vision were laid out by Mary Macdonald, co-owner of Genuine Local, which helps area farmers and other food entrepreneurs become stable, self-sufficient businesses. The project would involve using about 20 acres of the 235-acre state-owned property, Macdonald said. The land faces North Main Street (Route 106) near what once was the State School’s dairy barn. Between nine and 15 acres would be farmland. Macdonald said the next step is to put together a comprehensive plan and to hire a consultant who would draw up a proposal for how to implement the plan.

HUD Seeks Input On Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing By January 31, 2020 pdf file
January 22, 2020

For many Americans, the supply of available housing has not kept pace with the demand for housing by prospective renters and homebuyers, driving up housing costs. While some regulations are necessary, outdated regulations are time-consuming, costly, and delay the completion of new housing supply. The White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing chaired by U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson along with eight Federal member agencies is tasked with engaging governments at all levels—State, local, and tribal—and other private-sector stakeholders on ways to increase the housing supply so more Americans have access to affordable housing. As part of the work of the Council, HUD has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for members of the public to share examples of barriers to housing in their community and provide recommendations to HUD on how the council can work to increase the supply of affordable housing. The deadline to submit comments has been extended until January 31, 2020

Along The Rim of Alaska, The Once-A-Decade U.S. Census Begins In Toksook Bay
January 21, 2020

Near the iced-over Bering Sea, parka-clad workers for the U.S. Census Bureau are gathering in a remote fishing village along the southwestern rim of Alaska to resume a U.S. tradition seen only once a decade — a count of every person living in the country. After years of largely under-the-radar planning by the federal government and months of turmoil arising from the Trump administration's failed push to add a citizenship question, the 2020 census officially began Tuesday in Toksook Bay, Alaska — population 590, according to the 2010 head count. For most households in the country — including those in the Lower 48, Hawaii and the U.S. territories, as well as Alaska's major cities — the count is not set to roll out until March. But since Alaska became a state in 1959, the Census Bureau has started tallying Alaska's most remote residents in January, when the frozen ground makes it easier for the federal government's door knockers to reach far-flung communities. To get around the country's largest state by land area, the bureau's workers rely on bush planes, snow machines, or snowmobiles, and dog sleds to get to villages.

New Hampshire House panel hears governor’s workforce housing bills
January 21, 2020

Two bills heard by lawmakers Tuesday and supported by Governor Chris Sununu offer a carrot and stick approach to get municipalities to allow and encourage workforce housing. There wasn’t much opposition to the carrot (House Bill 1632), which offers a number of tax incentives for developers and municipalities engaged in construction of new affordable housing. But the stick, HB 1629, gave some lawmakers and municipalities pause, especially a provision that would mandate that those sitting on planning and zoning boards take a training course – and pass a test – if they want to vote on projects which come before their board. A House subcommittee will meet to work on crafting a compromise to present to the full committee on February 12th.

Dover waterfront project gains key approval
January 21, 2020

The City of Dover’s Cocheco Waterfront Development Advisory Committee (CWDAC) unanimously recommended that Cathartes’ site plan for Phase 1 of their proposed waterfront redevelopment project should move to the city’s Technical Advisory Committee. The development agreement between the City of Dover and Cathartes governs how 23 acres of what is now city-owned land near the intersection of Washington and River streets will be developed into residential, commercial and recreational space. The agreed upon purchase price for the property is $3.3 million. Cathartes, according to the agreement with the city, will create approximately 500,000 square feet of mixed-use development, including 25,000 square feet of street-level commercial space for office, retail, restaurant and potentially hotel and/or banquet facilities. There also would be around 475 residential units and/or hotel rooms. Phase 1 of the project calls for Cathartes to build two apartment buildings, one of which will include a roof deck with river views, with a total of about 165 units. The proposed mixed-use development will come back to the CWDAC after the Technical Review Committee finishes its review of the project.

N.H., Merrimack County still need more census workers
January 19, 2020

The Census Bureau is scrambling to hire enough people in New Hampshire, which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise in a state filled with “help wanted” signs. With the April 1 census less than three months away, only half of the openings in Merrimack County have been filled, said Lisa Moore, assistant regional census manager in New York, which covers the Northeast. “There are about 1,500 needed, and we’re about 50% recruited in the county as a whole,” she said. Statewide, Moore said, “We’re about 37% recruited, so we need to recruit 13,000 people.” Although census day is April 1, most of these jobs will run from mid-May through end of July, following up on places that have not filed questionnaires online or via the mail. The job of going door-to-door with census forms pays $20 an hour and has very flexible hours. To apply for a job, go online to 2020census.gov/en/jobs/how-to-apply.html.

Temple Planning Board votes to place affordable housing measures on March Town Meeting warrant

January 17, 2020

The Temple Planning Board voted last Wednesday night to take three proposed zoning changes to March Town Meeting despite calls from residents for more research on how best to tackle affordable housing. The proposed changes are aimed at increasing the number of more-affordable houses in town, by permitting further opportunities for denser, smaller configurations of houses. The hearing came after two public forums on the proposals were held in late 2019. The three proposed changes build on existing allowances in the zoning code. The first would effectively remove the current requirement that Accessory Dwelling Units be smaller than the primary residence they’re associated with. The second change would be to allow a density bonus for proposed Planned Residential Developments, which would result in more units built within the same development footprint. The bonus would allow one additional unit for every two built under 1,600 square feet, which is about two-thirds the size of the average size of houses built in town over the last five years. A third change would be to allow duplexes to be constructed in town.

APA to Host Sea Level Rise 101 Planning and Policy Webinar on February 28, 2020
The American Planning Associations (APA) Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Recovery Planning Division (HMDR) division will host the first in a series of webinars on sea level change, titled “Sea Level Rise 101: How to Select and Use Sea Level Rise Data for Planning and Policy Decisions” on February 28, 2020 at 1 PM. This session focuses on different choices for practitioners trying to use the best available sea-level change science for adaptation planning needs. A panel of experts will discuss the components of changing sea-levels, and identify areas where scientists are working to reduce uncertainty around major contributing factors like melting ice-sheets. Then, the panel will walk through some questions that users need to think about when planning for future inundation and using sea level projections. The panel will use examples from Washington, New Jersey, and elsewhere to illustrate different ways communities are answering the questions above, along with others that come up during the webinar. Webinar participants will leave with tools and examples for using the best available sea-level change science to suit a variety of exposure mapping and adaptation planning approaches. Registration is free, but required.

Previous News

NHDHR Seeking Input on 2021-2025 New Hampshire Statewide Preservation Plan
January 15, 2020

Every five years the Division of Historical Resources (DHR), as New Hampshire's State Historic Preservation Office, facilitates the preparation of the statewide historic preservation plan. The plan celebrates preservation success stories, highlights lessons learned, and lays out a vision for preserving our special places over the next five years. Granite Staters who share their thoughts on the topic of historic preservation in New Hampshire will help set New Hampshire's strategy for the next five years. DHR is beginning the process of collecting public input for the next plan update, and you can help by anonymously sharing your thoughts through a 16-question questionnaire, which should take less than 10 minutes to complete. There will be other opportunities throughout the first half of 2020 including listening sessions to participate in sharing your thoughts, successes and stories.

NH Floodplain Management Program Releases NH Flood Hazards Viewer
January 14, 2020

The New Hampshire Floodplain Management Program recently published a New Hampshire specific Flood Hazards Online Map Viewer that includes the same effective FEMA flood hazard information that you’ll find on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and FEMA’s online map viewers. However, the NH Flood Hazards Viewer also includes other map layers including Preliminary FEMA FIRM data where available (currently only available for coastal Rockingham County communities), 2-foot contour elevation lines, Tax parcel boundaries for many communities in the state, and Sea level rise scenarios along the coast. You can easily turn on and off different map layers, zoom to locations by typing in an address, and measure distances in the viewer. There is also a ‘Swipe’ tool that allows you to easily compare different map layers (for example, preliminary and effective flood hazard boundaries) in a particular location. This viewer includes information for all areas of the state except Belknap County that have digitally produced FEMA flood hazard information. If you have questions or feedback, contact Samara Ebinger of NHOSI at samara.ebinger@osi.nh.gov.

A completely counted census will benefit everyone in New Hampshire
January 13, 2020

It’s that time again. As required by Article 1, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution, the decennial census will take place in New Hampshire and across the country this spring. For New Hampshire, the importance and impact of the census is consequential. More than $3.7 billion in federal funds are allocated to New Hampshire based on census data, including everything from funding for highway planning and construction, the federal Pell Grant program and low-income home energy assistance to block grants for the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and water and waste disposal systems for rural communities. Beyond federal funding, the census determines the allocation of congressional districts and the electoral college. The Legislature will use the 2020 census data for redistricting. Undercounts in certain areas of the state may lead to inaccurate representation in the Legislature and the Executive Council. For businesses, the data derived from the census serves, at most companies, as the foundation for data-driven business decision making. It provides them with crucial demographic information about customers, the workforce and the economic landscape.

Ruger Mill redevelopment in Newport nixed
January 13, 2020

A second attempt to convert the former, long vacant Ruger Mill on Sunapee Street in Newport to residential housing has been scrapped due to inability for the developer to secure financing, illustrating the funding challenges of developing new units of workforce housing in the Granite State. Last Friday, Kevin Lacasse, CEO of New England Family Housing said in an email his company could not secure adequate financing to meet the selling price of the owners, 169 Sunapee Street LLC, and was therefore abandoning his plans for the four-story brick building, a former woolen mill along the Sugar River. Lacasse said in his email that his goal of creating 68 workforce housing units in the mill included a number of different funding sources such as historic tax credits, a community development block grant and low-income housing tax credits along with bank financing. Other work included environmental and historic reviews, energy efficiency measures and the production equipment at the dams on the property. In June 2017, the Newport Planning Board approved a site plan for 66 apartments in the building.

Berlin banks on wrecking ball to revitalize downtown
January 10, 2020

Before winter’s snow disappears from downtown Berlin, Berlin city officials want two other things gone: the former Princess movie theater and the F.W. Woolworth building. The effort is part of a plan by several entities to put together a collective plan for Berlin’s Main Street that will help revitalize the downtown. City councilors on Monday issued a request-for-proposal for the demolition of the buildings, saying both are in dangerous condition and beyond saving. Each was taken by the city for non-payment of taxes. City councilors are expected to finalize demolition plans next week.

NHPR’s Second Greatest Show on Earth Explores Why There Isn’t Inter-City Bus Service or Commuter Rail in N.H.?
January 10, 2020

In some parts of the state, like Manchester, inter-city service is already happening. Thanks to the help of 2011 federal stimulus funds, the Manchester Transit Authority (MTA) started an intercity service called the Zipline, connecting Manchester to Nashua. Three years later, the MTA added a second line to Concord. Besides the intercity service, MTA has also extended the hours of some of its in-city routes by up to four hours; launched services to Hooksett and Goffstown; and as of October 1st, merged with and taken over the operation of the public transit service in Derry, Londonderry, and Salem. What makes these service expansions all the more unexpected is that MTA has been doing this without receiving any state money for more than a decade. New Hampshire ranks 44th in state spending per capita on public transit. Lack of funding has also plagued efforts to bring back commuter rail service to Nashua, Manchester, and Concord, but last year for the first time in a decade the legislature appropriated $200,000 for regional transit systems and authorized inclusion of a new commuter rail economic impact study in the state’s 10-year transportation plan.

OSI Planning Division Publishes 2019 Year End Summary pdf file
January 7, 2020

The New Hampshire Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) Planning Division has published a summary of its 2019 work pdf file across the Granite State. In 2019, the OSI Planning Division fielded 850+ inquiries related to municipal planning and zoning issues, census data, and floodplain management from 68% of New Hampshire’s 234 communities. Other highlights included a record attendance of 360 local land use board members and planners at the 25th Annual Spring Planning and Zoning Conference and the publishing of the 2018 Municipal Land Use Regulation survey results in several forms including an interactive map viewer, community snapshots pdf file, and subject specific tables.

Treasury Department releases final regulations for Opportunity Zones
January 7, 2020

On December 19, 2019 the U.S. Department of the Treasury released final rules pdf file for implementation of the Opportunity Zone program. Established under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (P.L. 115-97), the program encourages private investment and economic development in distressed communities. Many counties contain Opportunity Zones that are eligible for targeted investment. The new regulations provide clarity for Opportunity Zone investors and offer guidelines on topics ranging from how much funding investors must provide to receive the tax benefits to regulations on development of vacant properties. One important clarification in the final regulations would allow developers to use brownfield sites to satisfy the “original use requirement” under Opportunity Zone rules, making these projects eligible for the program’s tax incentive. The rules also outline performance metrics to determine whether participants are meeting Opportunity Zone requirements. Guidelines will take effect on February 18, 2020.

Peterborough zoning lawsuit settled with zoning ordinance passed in 2017 invalidated in court
January 6, 2020

Hillsborough North Superior Court dismissed two lawsuits regarding the Peterborough town zoning ordinance last week and invalidated one provision of it, the town’s Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone II, which voters had approved at the 2017 Town Meeting. Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone II (TNOZ II) allowed more infill building for more housing in the center of the town. When TNOZ II along with TNOZ I were passed, planners said the new zoning would encourage more affordable housing and discourage sprawl in the rural areas. A group opposing the new zoning sought to repeal the new zoning, through passage of Article 15 at Town Meeting in May 2019. The repeal failed to garner the necessary two-thirds vote which was required after a protest petition was filed by adjacent land owners in favor of the new zoning, which increased the threshold for passage from a simple-majority. However, Superior Court invalidated TNOZ II based on a deficiency in the zoning amendment public hearing notice which resulted in a failure to provide essential information antecessor to comply with the statutory notice requirements of RSA 675:7.

State School buildings to be surveyed for hazardous materials
January 6, 2020

A panel studying the future development of the old Laconia State School complex has voted to authorize a study on the extent of hazardous materials that may exist in buildings on the site. The Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission authorized RPF of Northwood to conduct the survey in order to determine the presence of asbestos, lead paint, PCBs, mold, and other hazardous substances which may be in buildings that once housed the state institution for the developmentally disabled, and later a prison. The study is one of two slated to be conducted in advance of marketing the 235-acre property for redevelopment. The other study, which will take place soon, is a comprehensive land survey which will include a detailed study of wetlands on the property as well as a comprehensive description of contours of the land. The commission is expected to vote to authorize the land survey at its next meeting, scheduled for January 28th.

Berlin's closed Brown School may have future as housing complex
January 5, 2020

Closed at the end of the 2018-2019 academic year, the Brown School, which was the City of Berlin’s last public elementary school, may have a new life as a housing complex. The Brown School Committee was subsequently formed by the City Council to dispose of the Brown School, which is located at 188 Main St. on a 1.2-acre parcel in the Norwegian Village section of the city. The committee recently considered two requests for proposals — one from New England Family Housing and one from Wildcat LLC — and has recommended moving forward with the latter’s plan for 17 market-rate apartments. Each apartment would have its own storage unit and the school’s gymnasium would be converted into a fitness center with meeting space for the public. There would also be a small commercial space, possibly for a coffee shop.

Hanover shows signs of accommodating short-term rentals
January 4, 2020

The Town of Hanover currently prohibits homeowners from listing their homes for rent on Airbnb or related short-term rental websites. That may finally change. The town of Hanover will host public forums later this month to get input from residents about revising or lifting the town’s 33-year-old ordinance prohibiting property owners from renting rooms on a short-term basis — i.e., for a period of less than 30 days. Hanover, with the particular demand for accommodations posed by a college town and the presence of a group of property owners who would like to rent their homes to visitors, will hold what the town bills as “listening sessions” later this month “to hear feedback from residents and neighbors on the pros and cons of short-term rentals,” said Rob Houseman, Hanover’s director of the planning and zoning. The sessions will be held 7:30-9 p.m. on January 21st, and 10:30 a.m.-12 on January 25th in Room 212 at the Richard W. Black Community Center at 48 Lebanon Street in Hanover.

Hartland, VT nonprofit maps potential of rural economies
January 3, 2020

When designing a massive free online mapping tool to foster high-tech investment in rural America, software programmers at the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) in Hartland, VT aggregated more than 400 different government databases, culling information that details everything from broadband capability to commuting times and proximity of colleges for thousands of communities across the country. Introduced during a “project demonstration day” at the U.S. Census Bureau late last this month, CORI describes the Rural Opportunity Map as a “suite of data visualization and mapping tools” that is designed to assist community leaders, national policymakers, investors, nonprofit funding groups and economists in identifying rural areas around the country that have the right mix of attributes to locate a high-tech enterprise or other businesses.

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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