Why I want to be an elected member of the Planning Board

At last night’s meeting, the Planning Board discussed the statement regarding Article 2 that it would present at Little Town Meeting. Only three (of the usual five) full members present: John Stadler, Tim Cook, and Kevin Sahr. Two alternate members were present as well: David Van Wie and me (Rich Brown).

Since this was to be a formal decision of the Planning Board, I asked whether the chair wished to appoint any alternates to make up a full board for the discussion. John Stadler appointed David Van Wie to sit, but not me.

The video starts at the point I ask the question: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxyAzV7mlT0&feature=youtu.be&t=1335

I didn’t then, and still don’t understand Mr. Stadler’s reasons for not appointing me to have a full five-member board.

This is yet another reason I wish to be an elected member, so that my thoughts can always be included in Planning Board decisions. (You can read my other reasons in my earlier post.)


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 or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Renewable Sources of Energy article on the Warrant

I am pleased to present my first “guest posting” here on the blog. I support this article, and I hope you can cast your vote on the ballot at Town Meeting, March 10, 7am to 7pm.

Jim Nourse has been working over the last six months to gather support for an article on the Warrant in March to encourage the Town of Lyme to use 100% renewable sources of energy by 2030. Here’s his open letter to the Town, with the text of the Article 22 appended:

As we look forward to Town Meeting, I wanted to give you an update on where the effort to put forward a warrant article moving the Town and its residents away from fossil fuels and towards clean, renewable energy stands. The Energy Committed has voted 7-0 to support this article; the Select Board voted 3-0 to support the article. I have attached the article below.

I will be speaking in favor of the article at Little Town Meeting on Tuesday, March 3, 7 pm. I would love some support, if appropriate, from members of the audience. I would also encourage you to talk about the article with your neighbors and friends. It would send a very clear message if the votes at Town Meeting were overwhelmingly positive. A few talking points:

  1. This article is a non-binding advisory article to give a “sense of the Town” in moving in the direction of a non-fossil fuel energy future. As such it does not mandate any actions by either town officials or residents. It is assumed that town officials and residents will continue to be fiscally prudent as we make this transition.
  2. The Energy Committee sees this as the start of a town-wide conversation about how Lyme makes a transition to a non-fossil fuel, sustainable future.
  3. The article discusses the major reasons that this transition is both necessary and immediate. Fossil fuels are finite in supply and even as advances in technology make it possible to extract the remaining supplies (think fracking as an example), the cost of that extraction will continue to become more expensive. And, perhaps the most important reason, the need to solve rapidly intensifying climate change which in large part is driven by our burning of fossil fuels.
  4. People will ask what this transition might look like. If, as we expect, most voters support this article, it will give the Select Board and town committees a clear sense that this is the direction the town wishes to go in. It might mean a review and reshaping of energy guidelines for new municipal construction. It might mean the amending of zoning regulations to make it more conducive for community solar projects. It will guide the town’s committees as they update the Town Master Plan. It will most likely mean more community-wide initiatives like Weatherize and Solarize Lyme. It may lead to increased collaboration with area towns to aggregate electricity purchases in an attempt to both secure the most economical rate as well as purchasing from renewable sources of electricity. It may mean seeking state and federal grants for renewable energy projects. It will mean making sure that those residents who cannot afford to move to renewable energies are included in projects that provide access to those energies that are affordable.
  5. A final point for me is the recognition that this transition will not be easy or straightforward. There will probably be times when the town or residents choose a “better” alternative, but not the “best” alternative given financial or logistical limitations. People may wonder how we will ever arrive at 100% renewable electricity by 2030, or for heating and transportation by 2050. My response is that these are goals, that the sooner we begin to work towards them, the farther along we will be. If by 2030, only 65% of our electricity comes from clean, renewable sources then that’s still more than it is today.

And speaking of beginning right away – there are two town projects on the immediate horizon that should be influenced by a goal of transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. You will most likely hear about these at both town meetings. The pellet boilers that serve the town garage are in need of replacement and there are plans to construct a new fire station. There are choices in what type of heating source to install as well as design choices for the new fire station that will impact whether it can be easily retrofitted to renewables, i.e. PV panels, in the future. I hope that you will add your voices in calling for those in charge of making these decisions to move away from fossil fuels and towards a future of renewable energy.

Many thanks for your support of this transition. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Best,
Jim

Article 22-Renewable Sources of Energy

(Can’t read the PDF above? Download it at
https://RandomNeuronsFiring.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Warrant-Article-22-Final-02.20.2020.pdf
)

Report: Meeting on February 22

A neighbor wrote to me:

I plan to come tomorrow to the meeting in the Library. In preparation, can you tell me what objections – what possible downsides – have been mentioned so far?

I responded:

Saturday’s meeting had about 22 people. Rusty Keith did a terrific job of introducing the petitioned “Planned Development” amendment and facilitating the discussion without being overly partisan toward the amendment.

Half the participants were curious about the amendment – they didn’t know much about it and wanted to learn more. Some were categorically opposed to any development in town, and there were a couple people who were skeptical, and concerned about its impacts.

You can imagine the objections – unbridled development, unchecked traffic, a parade of horribles. Junk yards and tractor trailer distribution facilities were mentioned as possibilities.

But those objections fail to use common sense. Lyme’s not going to be a hub for any big business. There isn’t enough traffic or infrastructure (water, septic, electric power) to support it. Tractor-trailers don’t willingly drive this stretch of Route 10, since it’s so far from the interstates. And nobody buys land for a junkyard (especially at $100K per lot).

And there was no acknowledgement of the good that could come from the amendment. The town could support plenty of local businesses that provide goods, services, and jobs in the town.

Rusty has focused on the fairness/enforcement aspect of the amendment: that the existence of a grandfathered business can negatively affect the property values of the neighbors. And when he was on the Select Board, he faced an impossible situation of trying to determine whether the business across the road has “increased in intensity more than 50%” from when the ordinance passed thirty years ago.

As a follow-on question: suppose the Select Board could prove in court that it had exceeded that limit. What’s the remedy? Shut the business down? How does that help Lyme?

And what signal would that send to anyone else who might be considering opening a business that provides goods, services, or jobs? “If you grow too much, we’re going to shut you down…”

It would be better simply to acknowledge that Route 10 has changed in the last 30 years. In the parlance of planning experts, it’s called “dynamic rezoning”. Allow the zoning rules to reflect the on-the-ground reality and the expressed needs of town residents.

The other argument for the amendment (that wasn’t discussed as much) is that it enables something besides “single family homes on separate lots” which is the sole form of development the Master Plan envisions for the Rural District.

I don’t need to tell you that you can’t get smaller, modest price homes if you have to start by purchasing a 5-10 acre lot for each one. And we can’t afford to continue to chop up our limited open land with more separate parcels that house one family.

I’ll be glad to see you tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb 25 at 7pm in the Lyme Library). Please let others know about this important discussion. Thanks again.


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 or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Public Meetings, February 22 & 25

There will be two public meetings at the Converse Library in Lyme to discuss the petitioned Planned Development amendment. Not only does it provide a measure of fairness for landowners near commercial properties on Route 10 but it enables new housing opportunities here in Lyme.

I support this Planned Development amendment. We all know that Lyme (and the entire Upper Valley) have a housing problem. Seniors can’t downsize in Lyme, many people who work here can’t afford to live here, and there’s no economical way to build modest price housing.

We are looking for a lively but civil conversation on this important topic. Please attend and let your friends know about the meetings. Thank you.

Saturday, February 22, 11am, Converse Library
Tuesday, February 25, 7pm, Converse Library

 

Why I’m running for Planning Board

To the Residents of Lyme:

I have filed to become an elected member of the Planning Board. As many of you know, I have lived in Lyme for five years, been a property owner in Lyme for 14 years, and a resident of the Upper Valley for 40 years.

I believe that a lack of housing options in Lyme is the most important issue the Planning Board must address.

I have been working on housing issues for a long time, starting with my interest in developing cohousing here in Lyme. I have been going to housing conferences and workshops for many years. I have regularly attended Planning Board meetings for the last four years, and have been an Alternate for the last year.

In addition to the “normal business” of the Planning Board, these are the housing issues I want to address:

Housing for Seniors: The Planning Board recently abandoned their own amendment that might have permitted a small amount of Senior Housing in the Lyme Common District. The concern was that a pending NH bill might make similar housing to all non-seniors. That decision is disappointing because it comes after years of Aging in Place meetings, followed by two and a half years of work on senior housing language.

Housing for people who want to downsize: It is extremely difficult for long-term residents to downsize in Lyme. I believe the ordinance makes it difficult to build smaller, modestly-priced homes so those people must think about moving away.

Housing strategy: The Lyme Master Plan is unusual in NH. It does not have a chapter on Housing, despite the Board’s stated intention to work on it for the last two years.

Housing for people in the workforce: NH Law requires that towns with a zoning ordinance (like Lyme) “provide reasonable and realistic opportunities for the development of workforce housing…” Our ordinance is so restrictive that building workforce housing is impractical. Lyme is at serious risk of having to defend (and likely lose) a workforce housing lawsuit.

Housing that adjusts to Lyme’s needs: Best practices in planning circles are to review zoning rules regularly in the face of a town’s changing needs. The Lyme Ordinance has not had any real change since it was instituted over thirty years ago.

The Town must talk about and permit reasonable housing options to be built. I will bring my knowledge and energy to address this pressing issue.

Finally, I will welcome everyone’s thoughts, either via email, phone, face-to-face, or at scheduled Planning Board meetings.

Join me, and let’s work together to institute real change for housing options in Lyme. Please vote for me on the ballot in March. Thank you.

Rich Brown
795-2525


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 or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

A surprising turn of events

At their meeting last Thursday, the Planning Board decided to withdraw their Senior Housing amendment from the ballot at Town Meeting in March. Here is a link to the full video of the meeting: https://youtu.be/5E2TF9-81-M

The discussion hinged on a bill (HB 1629 – see links below) working its way through the NH legislature. The primary concern at Thursday’s meeting was that a municipality that provides incentives to age-restricted developments (such as senior housing) would also be required to make those same incentives available to workforce and other types of housing.

My understanding is that the legislature is trying to address the significant housing problem everywhere in the state by providing incentives for more clustered, dense, and thus less expensive housing for all residents of NH.

In the end, the Board voted 5-0 to withdraw the senior housing amendment for this year, and wait to learn how HB 1629 will turn out. (I could not vote, because I am still an alternate on the board.)

My thoughts…

I don’t understand this decision. The bill would not have changed the town’s ability to permit senior housing. And it’s not even certain that the bill would pass.

And if that bill is re-introduced next year – does the Board intend to wait yet another year?

But most importantly, I don’t understand the Board’s concern that, if this bill passed, it would somehow “be bad for Lyme” to make similar housing available to non-seniors.

After so many years of urging from residents, followed by two and a half years more work to produce this amendment, the board’s lack of urgency is disappointing.

Updated 6 Feb 2020 to add question about re-introduced bill in 2021…


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 or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.