Senior Housing on the Agenda – 10 Sep 2020

I sent the following request to John Stadler and David Robbins, asking to incorporate these topics into the Senior Housing discussion when the Planning Board meets on Thursday, 10 September 2020 at 7:00pm. You can join by Zoom using this link:

John, David,

The Senior Housing amendment is on the agenda for the Planning Board meeting of 10 September 2020. Since I have not seen a list of the issues we might entertain, I submit the following to help frame Thursday’s meeting.

Would you please distribute this note in its entirety to the members of the Planning Board to review before the discussion.

I would also request that you distribute this note through the Town Notification email system so that the members of the public may be informed that the topic will be on the table. Thank you.

Rich Brown
Alternate, Planning Board

Points for discussion regarding Senior Housing amendment
Lyme Planning Board Meeting – 10 September 2020

1) I request the Board discuss allowing Senior Housing elsewhere in town.

I remember an argument for “walkability” last year, presumably to the services on the Lyme Common. However a significant portion of the permitted district – Orford Road, High Street, and Dorchester Road – is eminently un-walkable. Residents of Senior Housing built there would all have to drive to town.

I advocate that Senior Housing be permitted on any state highway or major town road. This would allow people to build farther from town, yet ensure safe and adequate vehicular access.

2) I request the Board discuss the age requirements for Senior Housing.

I remember a comment, “55 is too young for me” from discussions last year. Why it would be bad for Lyme to have senior housing occupied by 55 year olds? I would also like to understand why this proposal limits units to a maximum of two residents, prohibiting a live-in family member or health aide.

I advocate we adopt the rules of the federal Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA) that defines senior housing as “at least 80 percent of the occupied units must be occupied by at least one person 55 years of age or older per unit…”  This would shorten the proposed amendment by incorporating those well-defined rules with a single sentence.

3) I request the Board discuss the restrictions on unit size for Senior Housing.

The proposed amendment limits units to no more than 1,200 square feet. This arbitrary constraint eliminates a lot of possible designs. For example, the well regarded and recently approved development on the Common could NOT have been built under this ordinance.

I advocate that the design of Senior Housing units be left to the creativity of local developers to create units that are attractive, marketable, and meet the other regulations of the ordinance.

I look forward to speaking to you on Thursday night.

Rich Brown

Transmission of Covid-19

A friend (thanks, Ted!) directed me to a nice science-based article that assigns some probabilities of risks of transmitting a disease like coronavirus. The author highlights two major scenarios:

  1. Warm body transmission: how far apart should you be from other people if you want to avoid transmission from another “warm body”
  2. Surface-based transmission: what precautions should you take when you go somewhere that others have passed through recently.

You won’t be surprised by the takeaways:

  • 6 foot distancing is good
  • wearing a mask is good
  • washing hands is good

…but some of the discussion and details are interesting. View the full article at Medium.

Get a better microphone…

Now that we’re computer conferencing all the time, I needed a better microphone, (My MacBook Pro’s built-in microphone doesn’t work well. The volume is too low – perhaps there’s something wrong.) I suspect many others would benefit from a better microphone, too. Not only do they give a better sound, but a microphone close to the mouth minimizes other nearby sounds.

So I went on a quest to find a better solution. I found a variety of options, and tested several. I put my notes here so I can remember:

  • Bluetooth earpieces Any Bluetooth headset/earpiece that is advertised to work with your cellphone will probably work. They’re lightweight, have decent microphones, and boast a certain amount of noise cancellation. (Look for ones that can be paired to two devices, so you can use it with both your computer and your cell phone.) I own the Plantronics M70 – it works fine, and has 11-hour talk time (and when I don’t use it, the charge lasts for weeks). Apple AirPods or knock-offs should also work well, although I have not tested them.
  • Earbuds with cables Apple EarPods (corded) ($15 with shipping from MacSales) or from Amazon work fine for videoconferencing.
  • External microphone if you want to include multiple people on your end, or if you don’t want to be “cabled” to the computer… I own the Amazonbasics Desktop Microphone because it was highly-rated in a Wirecutter article. It works great.
  • USB Audio In Since not all computers have a combined headphone and microphone jack, you can add a USB “sound card” to virtually any computer. I checked out the TROND External USB AudioAdapter Sound Card and it works fine with all the 1/8 inch (3.5mm) audio inputs.
  • Gaming headsets These large (and heavy) headphones have a microphone on a stalk to pick up your voice. I own one, and it works just fine. But it’s obtrusive (viewers see those “cans” on my head) and not terribly comfortable. There are a zillion options: you can Google “gaming headset” to see the range.
  • My favorite For years, I used a Plantronics headset with my cordless phone. It’s lightweight, has good sound, and it’s cheap ($20). But it has a 2.5mm plug – so I bought an adapter cable ($8). This plugs right into the headphone jack of my MacBook Pro (both headphone and microphone work perfectly). But if this doesn’t work on your computer, get the TROND adapter.

All this assumes your computer has either USB, Bluetooth, or 1/8 inch/3.5mm headphone inputs. (All modern computers do.) I’ve included links to Amazon, but most items are available from lots of places.

Let me know what you’re using for your videoconferencing pleasure – Thanks!

Enable Virtual Public Meetings is hosting a petition calling on Governor Chris Sununu of NH to allow for “virtual meetings” for the normal business of towns and municipalities. I would include Select Boards as well as those listed below. As I said on the petition page:

It will be months before we are “back to normal”. Most town boards or committees might be able to “skip a meeting” because of an emergency. But real residents have real needs, and cannot realistically wait for boards that have been shut down for a protracted period of time.

Specifically, the petition requests the Governor to:

  • Allow and encourage for both state and local municipal boards to continue with standard timelines and regularly scheduled board hearings through a virtual meeting template, such as Zoom. This includes, but is not limited to, historic district commissions, conservation commissions, planning and zoning boards.
  • Allow and encourage board members, city staff, design professionals and the public to participate through an open video forum and email regardless of city or town charter.
  • Provide state guidelines on how the local municipalities should conduct meetings and insist that mandated timelines for board decisions be maintained.

If you agree, please go to the petition at: and pass the word to your friends. 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 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

Thank you to all my supporters

I have already sent a note of congratulations to Tim Cook on the race for the seat on the Planning Board.

I also want to thank everyone who voted for me. I still plan to advocate for reasonable housing options in Lyme as an alternate member of the Planning Board.

Over the next several months, I will be asking, “What are your plans?” for housing now, and as you move through life. I would be interested to hear your story.

Thank you again.

Rich Brown

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

How Big Could A Planned Development Be?

On the Listserv, a neighbor asked…

If someone bought up a 10 acre parcel, could they put up 75 or 100 2-3 bedroom condos? … or a 300 room hotel?

The simple answer is No. A big condo or hotel would require an enormous parcel (something like 165 acres) due to Lyme’s strict lot coverage and gross floor area regulations for the Rural District (calculations below).

This, coupled with the lack of municipal water and sewer and the already-conserved properties along Route 10, means there is no way to acquire the land or finance such a project.

But what could be built? If the opponents of the article really think about how restrictive and exclusive the Lyme zoning ordinance is, they will agree with the following statement:

Under the proposed amendment, that 10-acre parcel could support either a small business with at least one residence, or a handful of homes. The total impact – the land covered, and the total permitted size of the buildings – would be about twice that used by the Lyme Country Store.

Here are the details. (Please bear with me: the language of our ordinance is really complicated.)

  1. Lyme Zoning requires the Lot Size within 1,000 feet of Route 10 to be at least three acres. If the lot extends even one foot over the 1,000 foot line, it must be five acres.
  2. Lyme Zoning also computes the Lot Size after subtracting conservation overlays: agricultural soils, wetlands, wetland buffers, and steep slopes. Typical land along Route 10 subtracts half the area. The rest of this analysis assumes a 10-acre parcel that would yield a Lot Size that only has 5 “buildable acres”.
  3. Lyme Zoning permits lot coverage (buildings, parking lots, etc.) of 12% of the Lot Size, or a maximum of 26,000sf. Twelve percent of a 5 acre Lot Size (217,800 sf) is slightly larger than the 26,000 sf, so that is the limit. The entire Lyme Country Store (LCS) lot is 0.31 acres, or 13,054 sf. So twice their parking lot is the entire lot coverage permitted on any single parcel.
  4. Lyme Zoning permits the maximum building footprint to be 2% of the Lot Size, or a maximum of 7,000sf. Two percent of five acres is 4,356 sf. The Lyme Country Store (LCS) footprint is about 2,688 sf – so the proposed building footprint could be about half-again as large.
  5. Lyme Zoning also permits the Gross Floor Area (the sum of all the floors of a building) of 14,000sf in the Rural District. The LCS Floor Area is 8,257 sf. Again, the proposed buildings could be about half-again as large.

How much space would a 100-unit development require?

The Lyme Zoning Ordinance permits large parcels to be subdivided to provide more Gross Floor Area, Lot Coverage, Footprint, etc. for a development. But the ordinance requires development to be spread out, so getting a large number of units requires a large amount of land. Actual subdivisions also require significant additional space to account for subdivision roads, setbacks, and other requirements. That might add another 50% to the size of the parent parcel. (As I said, it’s complicated.) Nonetheless, here’s a simple analysis:

Let’s assume 100 two-bedroom condos at 1,200 sf. The project requires 20% additional space for “circulation” (hallways, stairways, etc.) This would require (100 x 1,200 x 120%) sf or 144,000 sf of floor area. Since the maximum Gross Floor Area per lot is 14,000 sf, the condo buildings would require at least 11 “five acre” buildable lots. Given the typical conservation overlays plus the extra space for subdivision roads, setbacks, etc. a builder would need eleven 15-acre lots or 165 acres.

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

Someone finally said it out loud…

After Rusty Keith’s thoughtful presentation at Little Town Meeting about Article 2 (the Planned Development amendment), another member of the public said,

… this would be the town’s worst nightmare. It would allow apartment development everywhere…

Really? Could someone state clearly why apartments would be bad for Lyme?

Professional planning experts now encourage a variety of housing options in a town. Single family homes remain important, but so is the ability to construct smaller units that are close together, for social interaction, for mutual support, for convenience, and to improve the tax base. Some thoughts:

  • The Planning Board just spent the last four months of 2019 working to specify the look of senior apartments
  • People who want to downsize (who are not always elderly) want smaller units (apartments) where someone will mow the lawn and shovel the walkway.
  • Young people: unless we want our town boards and committees, fire department, FAST squad, etc. to be populated by septuagenarians, we need to attract younger people. Singles and new couples value small, clustered homes, often called apartments.
  • People in the “work force” – teachers, nurses, first responders – all have good jobs. Can they afford to live in town with our median $400,000 home? Apartments could help.
  • Families. Yes, families. Despite the scare tactics, actual facts indicate that in both NH and Lyme’s experience, single-family homes have 0.4 school-age children per home (about one child for every two homes). Apartments with five or more units average under one child per six homes – a far lower burden on the school system.
  • Improved tax base. Six $250,000 apartments on a 10 acre lot contribute $1.5 million to the grand list, almost four times a $400,000 home.
  • Finally, the existing stringent Site Plan Review regulations – still required by Article 2 – would keep any apartments well in the check.

With all these positives, I am curious to hear how apartments would contribute to “Lyme’s worst nightmare”.

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

Article Two Helps People

The hyperbole you’ve seen over the last week on the Listserv and in your postal mail regarding Article 2 has been focused on fear of losing “the way Lyme looked” years ago. Those notes bring incredible (that is, not believable) projections of traffic, development, and population increases.

But what about the PEOPLE in town? Can the opponents acknowledge that the amendment’s benefits – enabling smaller clustered homes and the opportunity for new local businesses to provide services and jobs in town – might have value? Or are they simply pulling up the drawbridge after “getting their own”?

I had hoped the Planning Board might take the lead on these issues, but some citizens decided start the ball rolling instead.

I support Article 2. It will allow us to see how business and housing opportunities might evolve if we loosen the reins a little bit. And if it appears that things are moving too quickly, we can dial things back next year.

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

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:

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

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.


Article 22-Renewable Sources of Energy

(Can’t read the PDF above? Download it at