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)