Senior Housing Meeting Continued

At the previous (25Nov2019) work session, the Planning Board began to come to terms with how difficult it is to design senior housing. (Link to the video…)

They spent the session setting criteria for a senior housing project: it could only be in the Lyme Common District, only 10 units, each must be less than 1,200 square feet, the total project may have only 12,000 square feet of gross floor area. They then began adding other restrictions regarding age and number of residents, whether units must be handicap-accessible, and construction techniques that would not be permitted.

Having made those decisions about what “senior housing must look like”, the Board hopes to attract a potential developer who will try to build reasonably-priced, marketable units with attractive amenities (common spaces, garages) within those constraints.

Or maybe not. It’s far simpler (and cheaper) for a developer to build in a town that doesn’t have such restrictive design parameters and rules.

Nonetheless, the Planning Board will meet again on Monday, 2 December at 7pm to continue to try to improve the current language to withstand legal scrutiny and meet their notion of what might be attractive senior housing.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

25 Nov Draft of Senior Housing Amendment

At its 25 November 2019 meeting, the Planning Board held a work session to discuss the language of a proposed Senior Housing amendment to the Zoning Ordinance. Although they made progress, there remain many outstanding issues. The Board decided to continue the meeting to 2 December 2019 at 7pm for further work.

Once again, this meeting has been scheduled on a date when it was known that I could not attend. Consequently, I will be posting questions on the newest language (below) with a request that the Board consider these issues at next Monday’s meeting.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

25Nov2019 Draft of Senior Housing Amendment

(Can’t read the PDF above? Download it at
https://RandomNeuronsFiring.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Senior-Housing-Proposal-ZA-for-2Dec2019.pdf
)

Linkblog

  • Senior Housing in the Valley News The Valley News discusses the upcoming special work session on Monday, 25 Nov to work on the language for senior housing. It’s interesting to note that the draft language still does not permit either of the kinds of development received as public input.
  • Senior Housing at Lyme Planning Board The draft that resulted from the 25 Nov meeting. This meeting has been continued, and the Board will meet again on 2 Dec 2019.

Toward Feasible Senior Housing

Can Lyme ever get Senior Housing? I hope so. I want to be clear that I strongly support the development of senior (and other kinds of) housing in Lyme. My concern about the current draft Senior Housing amendment is that it imposes so many restrictions and constraints on a possible senior housing development that a project might never be feasible, and therefore would never be built.

The current draft confines senior housing development to the (expensive) Lyme Common District. Existing homes or businesses would have to be torn down or renovated, either of which is costly. The language stipulates small apartment sizes with scant market justification for those unit sizes. In the name of preserving “the character of the neighborhood”, the language introduces enormous regulatory uncertainty about what might or might not be permitted in the district.

Finally, the Board’s professed plan to “create the rules, and relax them if they seem to be too strict” is a recipe for inaction. I am told it can take one to two years for a developer to pull a plan together: if several years elapse without receiving any proposals to build senior housing, how will we determine whether the rules are too restrictive, or if we “just need a little more time”?

To sum up my opposition, this language is unnecessarily restrictive. It may not ever be feasible to build under the proposed rules. (You can read my specific concerns here and here.)

Then what could be feasible?

But it’s not fair for me simply to point out flaws. The town is far better served by constructive proposals that can be implemented in a timely way. I advocate that we:

  • Permit senior housing elsewhere in town. Instead of forcing the development into expensive and crowded “downtown Lyme”, allow senior housing on any property with frontage on Route 10. This permits good and safe access without constraining the development by the size and shape of available parcels. It also avoids the acknowledged concern about limited septic capacity in our current Lyme Common District.
  • Use the existing language of the ordinance in a new situation. The ordinance already defines a Planned Development that allows multiple homes in a building, and multiple buildings on a lot. These principles are an ideal foundation for developing senior housing. And Planned Developments are already subject to exactly the same dimensional controls (footprint, lot coverage, gross floor area, setbacks, etc.) as any other type of building in that district, so we don’t need to draft new language.
  • Allow people in Lyme to envision the need, the design, and the price point of senior housing. An ordinance that provides flexibility to construct a variety of senior housing options will attract partners who wish to make it happen. Remember: the ordinance doesn’t “create” senior housing. Its rules can only enable (or inhibit). New housing in Lyme will require people to invest their time and money to create a plan. Regulations that introduce hurdles or uncertainty will cause interested parties to look elsewhere to towns that are more welcoming.

My earlier posts set out 10 Goals for Senior Housing and an alternative draft amendment for Senior Housing that provide additional details. I encourage the Planning Board to consider those thoughts while they seek new avenues to improve housing in Lyme.

The Lyme Planning Board meets again at 7pm on Monday, 25 November to discuss Senior Housing. Please attend if you have thoughts or questions.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Questions for the Planning Board

The Planning Board is working on a proposed Senior Housing amendment to bring to vote at Town Meeting in March 2020. (The current language is at the bottom of this post.) They plan to continue to work on the draft at a special meeting on Monday, 25 November at 7:00pm at the Town offices.

Regrettably, this meeting has been scheduled for a time when I (an alternate on the Board) am out of town. I will submit these questions in advance, with a request that they be addressed at Monday’s meeting.

  1. Does the proposed Senior Housing language solve problems for Lyme residents? Several Lyme residents brought feedback to Planning Board meetings. For each of the suggestions below, could their vision be developed within the language of the proposed senior housing amendment?
    • Ellen Thompson advocated for condo’s or apartments clustered together, with access to key services. She suggested something like The Greens (in Hanover, 28 homes) as a successful combination of independent living and support.
    • Virginia and Mike Beahan noted that the condo’s at 85 Dartmouth College Highway (about 21 homes) are attractive, and highly regarded. They asked whether other areas on Route 10 might be more available, less expensive, and yet still suitable for senior housing.
    • One resident mentioned 10-20 small “Vermod Homes” perhaps clustered near Pond View apartments (to decrease land acquisition cost) could provide affordable living spaces for seniors.
    • Another resident recently discussed a Senior Housing development on the Common (five units at 1,100 sf each).

    If any suggestion above would not be permitted by the proposed language, please explain why such a development would not be good for Lyme.

  2. Has the Board received other input during the drafting the current proposal? What is the nature of that input? Would the current language permit those suggestions?
  3. The proposed language confines senior housing development to the Lyme Common Zoning District (LCZD). Toward that end, a board member identified a handful of properties in that district that have potential as sites for Senior Housing. See the list of Maximally Feasible Senior Housing Properties. This raises a number of questions:
    • Economic feasibility: The average appraised value of the “Very Likely” and “Likely”properties is over $600,000. Has the Board analyzed the effect of the land acquisition cost on the price of the proposed units? Could the price of Senior Housing Developments be lower if they were allowed elsewhere in town?
    • “Walkability” is an attractive characteristic for any type of housing, but many of the parcels identified are far from the “center of town”. In fact, about half are greater than a half-mile away from the Lyme Post Office, up a challenging hill (Dorchester Road) or down a heavily-traveled road (Route 10 north of the Common). Given that residents at those properties will almost certainly drive to town, why can’t the Board consider Senior Housing elsewhere in town?
    • The list above includes Dowd’s Inn. Does the Board believe that developing Senior Housing on that property is a good idea? If so, why shouldn’t the list include the Lyme Inn, Lyme Country Store, or other commercial establishments around the Common?
  4. The proposed language only permits 10 units of Senior Housing in a development. How was this limit determined? How has the Board factored in the economic advantage of spreading the fixed costs of land acquisition, design, water and septic systems, etc. over a larger number of units?
  5. The proposed language requires one person in each unit to be 62 years or older. How was this limit determined? Is there a reason not to adopt the Federal Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA) standard that requires 80% of the units to have one resident aged 55 years or more?
  6. The proposed language limits senior housing units to 1200 square feet, with an average of 900 square feet. How was this limit determined? Does the Board have any information about the desirability/marketability of such units?
  7. The proposed language also limits the Gross Floor Area to 12,000 square feet. How was this limit determined? Can a development of 10 units of 900 square feet (9,000 sf)  accommodate additional space such as dining and living rooms, hallways, stairs, elevators, activity and storage space, garages, and other amenities within that Gross Floor Area limit?
  8. The proposed language appears to grant the Planning Board broad powers to waive dimensional controls of the district. What objective criteria will the Board use to determine appropriate lot coverage, building footprint, property and road setbacks, etc? How would a developer know what might or might not be allowed for a particular property without the expense of creating a detailed plan for the Board to review?
  9. The proposed language has strong restrictions based on “the character of the land and neighborhood” and requires that the senior housing shall be “harmonious and consistent with the present character of the neighborhood.” Again, how would a developer know what might or might not be granted? What assurance could they get that, say, a 12,000 square foot building will always be deemed to “fit the character” of a neighborhood of single-family homes on relatively small lots?
  10. This proposed amendment is five pages long. Why must it be so long?

The Board will continue to work on the draft language below on Monday, 25 November 2019 at 7pm in the Town Offices. If you have thoughts about senior housing, or questions about the details of this proposal, please attend. If you cannot, please send your thoughts to the Planning and Zoning Administrator at zoning@lymenh.gov.

Updated 6pm, Thursday, 21Nov to include a few additional questions.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Current Draft of Senior Housing Amendment

(Can’t read the PDF above? Download it at
https://RandomNeuronsFiring.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Senior-Housing-Proposal-ZA12_3_19-.pdf
)

Senior Housing Limited to Lyme Common District

The Lyme Planning Board is working on a Senior Housing amendment for vote at Town Meeting in March 2020.

The Board has stated strongly that the development of Senior Housing should be limited to the Lyme Common Zoning District (LCZD).

The Board’s current proposal identifies a handful of properties as being Very Likely (VL) or Likely (L) to support Senior Housing, despite their high market values and the difficult “walkability” – many parcels are over a half-mile from the Lyme Post Office. I created the table and map below so that I could understand which parcels were under consideration.

The Planning Board next meets on Monday, November 25 at 7:00pm in the Town Offices. If you have thoughts about senior housing, or questions about the details of this proposal, please attend. If you cannot, please send your thoughts to the Planning and Zoning Administrator at zoning@lymenh.gov.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Parcels identified as feasible for Senior Housing

(Can’t read the PDF above? Download it at https://RandomNeuronsFiring.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/JStadler-Estimates-for-Sr-Housing-19Nov2019.pdf)

Lyme Common District, showing parcels identified as feasible for Senior Housing
Parcels identified as feasible for Senior Housing

(Can’t read the PDF above? Download it at https://RandomNeuronsFiring.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/LCD-Parcels-identified-as-Senior-Housing.pdf)

What are your plans?

At today’s NHHFA Housing and the Economy Conference, a number of people spoke about housing policy, economics, the projected demographics of our nation over the next thirty years, and what we might do to prepare for those changes. All this bears on the  subject of “senior housing”. (I’ll post my notes to the blog soon.)

I was fortunate enough to run into Mike Kiess from Vital Communities at the conference. Mike suggested that, rather than talking in the abstract, or trying to create some kind of  survey, we could start by asking what would serve the people reading this post. His questions:

  1. What are your plans? At some time in future, you may choose not to live in your current home. Where do you plan to live? Will it be in Lyme?
  2. Who’s going to buy your current home? Are there people already living in Lyme who would be happy to move to your (presumably larger) home for their family? Or will you hope that some other family moves to Lyme from out of town?
  3. What services do you think you’ll need? Who will provide them? Will they live in Lyme? If not, how far do you expect they will have to travel to get to you?

So, what are your plans? If you would like to have them considered by the Planning Board, please send your thoughts to the Planning and Zoning Administrator (zoning@lymenh.gov) and please cc: me – richb.lyme@gmail.com Thanks!


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Senior Housing at Planning Board-10 October 2019

At its upcoming 10 October 2019 meeting, the Planning Board will discuss proposed Senior Housing language. The draft language was distributed to Board members yesterday, and is appended below. I plan to make the following comments at Thursday’s meeting.

First some general comments:

  • The Planning Board agrees that the Lyme Zoning Ordinance must be changed to permit any sort of Senior Housing development. However, it is important to note that neither the Ordinance nor the Planning Board will actually create Senior Housing – only a builder or developer can do this. Consequently, the ordinance should focus on making it possible to do so.
  • This proposal seems to be a complex, overly prescriptive set of rules that constrain the choices for anyone who might want to develop senior housing. There is no provision for flexibility: even if a good idea were proposed, there is no mechanism whereby a developer could get a special exception or other relief from these strict rules.
  • The wording of the proposal seems to say that the Planning Board is responsible for making decisions regarding design, size, adequacy of soils, and traffic safety. It is not clear how the board could obtain the technical or financial expertise to make these decisions.
  • In this proposal, the Board retains the power to deny a project based on its suitability to “the character of the land and neighborhood” and “present character of the village,” even if it meets all other standards. The likely effect of those subjective  judgements will be to inhibit, rather than to promote senior housing developments.
  • It is my belief that no developer would consider a Senior Housing development in Lyme under these rules because of the uncertainties described above.

Questions regarding the specific wording of the proposal (original language in italics):

  • Senior Housing shall be allowed in the Lyme Common Zoning District. Why is it important to confine this kind of development to the Common District? Are there concerns about bad outcomes that might result from allowing Senior Housing elsewhere in town?
  • Furthermore, the Planning Board’s own unfinished build-out analysis casts great uncertainty on the capacity of the Lyme Common District (for example, acreage, water, septic) to support new development.
  • … to provide housing that is suitable for the needs of an aging population that will provide independent living with an emphasis on safety, accessibility, adaptability, and to provide the opportunity for a network of support from other residents. This is laudable. Does it provide any legally enforceable guidance to developers who might want to develop a senior housing project? More importantly, could this language ever be used to deny a Senior Housing development that met some, but not every one of these goals?
  • Senior housing should be consistent with the present character of the village. Per the Master Plan, the character of Lyme seems to be “Single family homes on separate parcels.” Is there some other definition of the “present character”? How and where would these characteristics be defined? Does Lyme have a history of these kinds of decisions that a developer could look to?
  • All residential units will be limited to two residents where one resident must be age 62 or older. This needs further explanation:
    • Why reject the Federal HOPA (Housing for Older Persons Act, 1995) guidance that says that housing can have age restrictions if “…at least 80 percent of the occupied units must be occupied by at least one person 55 years of age or older per unit…”?
    • What bad outcome would occur from using the younger Federal standard?
    • What happens if a qualified couple needs to take care of a parent? Do these people need to move out?
    • How will the limitation on the number of people in a unit be enforced?
  • Residential units may be no larger than 1,200 square feet. How was this size determined? What evidence exists that this size is in any way attractive or economically feasible, either for potential developers or for residents?
  • Dimensional Controls… shall be established by the Planning Board… based on the character of the land and neighborhood… How would a developer know what might or might not be permitted? What legally-binding guidance could be provided regarding “character of the land and neighborhood”? Are there any precedents or decisions to look to?
  • …the adequacy of the soils to support on-site wastewater disposal and wells; safety of access and traffic circulation… As noted above, how shall the Board obtain the expertise to assess the property’s support for wastewater and wells or for traffic safety?
  • … and other issues relating to the future use and enjoyment of the property. What subjects might this language include? What bad outcome(s) is this language intended to preclude? Are there other ways to solve those problems?
  • The maximum number of units (mixed use) shall be established by the Planning Board through Site Plan Review. In no instance shall the maximum number of residential units exceed 10. Although this number was offered as a placeholder, what objective criteria would be used to set the value? Is this number large enough be financially feasible for a developer? What bad outcomes would occur from a development with more units?
  • All residential units shall be located on the ground floor. What is the justification? There are plenty of senior housing developments on two, three, or more floors.
  • Ownership: All units shall be owned by a single owner. What is the motivation behind this restriction? What bad outcome would result from independent ownership of the units (say, as condominiums?) Is this even an appropriate planning and zoning restriction?
  • The subdivision of the lot to separate the residences is prohibited through the grant of a zoning easement to the Town of Lyme. What is the motivation behind this? Why is it ever necessary to grant the Town an interest in private property? Is the plain language of the ordinance not a strong enough guarantee?

If you have thoughts on the above, I hope you can come to the Planning Board meeting on Thursday, 10 October 2019 at 7:00pm in the Town Offices. If you have opinions, but can’t make it, please send a note to the Planning and Zoning Administrator (zoning@lymenh.gov) and please cc: me – richb.lyme@gmail.com


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

55 is too young for me

At the last meeting, the Planning Board discussed potential changes to the Ordinance to permit some form of senior housing in Lyme.

The first proposal was to use the Federal HOPA (Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995) definition of, “at least 80 percent of the occupied units must be occupied by at least one person 55 years of age or older per unit…”

The immediate judgement from the Board was that 55 years was too young to be used for Lyme’s definition of senior housing. You can view the discussion at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhDsnEmhrTw&t=6516

If you have opinions about this, please consider attending the next Planning Board meeting on 10 October 2019, at 7:00pm in the Town Offices. If you cannot attend and wish to express your thoughts, you can send a note to the Planning and Zoning Administrator to be read at the meeting at zoning@lymenh.gov and please cc: me – richb.lyme@gmaiil.com


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Proposals for Senior Housing

The Planning Board is considering changes to the Lyme Zoning Ordinance to permit the development of Senior Housing. I propose to use the existing Planned Development language to permit a broad range of housing for seniors.

Planned Development allows placing multiple buildings on a single parcel, multiple dwelling units within a building (up to six), and retains the dimensional controls of the district, which means that construction under Planned Development could not be any larger than would already be allowed on the lot. The three proposals are:

  1. Create a new definition: Senior Housing is a living arrangement where at least 80 percent of the occupied units include at least one resident who is over the age of 55.
  2. Change the definition of Planned Development 4.49A to say, “Planned Developments may be 100% residential. At least 15% of the floor area shall be reserved for residential use. “
  3. Change Article IV so that a Planned Development for Senior Housing is permitted on any parcel with frontage along NH Route 10.

I submitted the following document to the Planning Board for review at their next meeting on Thursday, 26 September 2019. If you can, please attend the meeting to give your input at 7:00pm in the Town Offices.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Proposals for Senior Housing

(Can’t read the PDF above? Download it at https://RandomNeuronsFiring.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Proposed-Senior-Housing-Amendments-25Sep2019.pdf)