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 richb.lyme@gmail.com.

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 richb.lyme@gmail.com.

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 richb.lyme@gmail.com.

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
)

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

 

What is Workforce Housing?

People “in the workforce” – teachers, nurses, firefighters, police – have good and important jobs. They are an asset to the town where they live and work. The NH legislature recognizes their value and requires that towns with zoning “provide reasonable and realistic opportunities” to develop workforce housing.

Workforce Housing is not “cheap” or undesirable housing. Under the law, home prices must be affordable for a family of four earning 100% of the county’s median income, or for renters earning 60% of the median. In Grafton County, those caps are $292,000 for homes, or a rent of $1,210 per month.

Doesn’t Lyme already meet the Workforce Housing law?

No. Our town’s Regional Planning Commission (UVLSRPC) reports that the region has a shortage of between 3,000 and 5,000 housing units just to serve its current needs for workers, let alone any future growth in demand. By law, Lyme must “accommodate its fair share of the current and reasonably foreseeable regional need for such housing.” Based on its fraction of the regional population (1.9%), we would need to add 55 to 90 units of housing immediately.

A couple years ago, a Planning Board study concluded that about a quarter of the roughly 750 homes in town fall under the Workforce Housing price threshold. But that report fails to recognize that hardly any of those units are actually available – vacancy rates throughout Lyme and the Upper Valley are very low, in the 1-2% range. Because of the lack of homes in that price range, Lyme does not meet its fair share of housing, as required by state law (RSA 674:59).

Furthermore, that law goes on to require that an ordinance “provide reasonable and realistic opportunities for the development of workforce housing, including rental multi-family housing” and “opportunities to develop economically viable workforce housing.”

Land in Lyme is expensive: a buildable lot costs $100,000 or more. And Lyme’s ordinance requires single-family homes everywhere except a small portion of town. These two facts make it difficult to build homes for less than the workforce housing caps.

How could Lyme solve this?

A good way to decrease the cost of housing is to permit multiple homes, and thus multiple families, to share the cost of the land and the improvements. A change like this has notable advantages:

  • It decreases the housing costs by splitting the up-front costs between the units.
  • It helps Senior Housing to be economically feasible, since those living arrangements call for homes clustered together with shared amenities and support services.
  • It decreases the risk (and and potential expense) to the Town for defending against a Workforce Housing lawsuit

Permitting multiple smaller, affordable units on a single lot is a start toward making Workforce Housing feasible.


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.

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.


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.

What are your plans?

Back in October, I was fortunate enough to run into Mike Kiess from Vital Communities at the NHHFA Housing and the Economy Conference. Mike suggested that I could ask people what kinds of housing would serve their needs. His questions:

  1. What are your plans? At some time in the future, you may choose not to live in your current home. Where do you plan to live? What will that home look like?
  2. What services do you think you’ll need over time? 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?
  3. What’s going to happen to your current home? Are there Lyme residents who might move in? Or will you hope/expect that it will be someone from out of town?

So, what are your plans? I’d like to hear them – richb.lyme@gmail.com or maybe we can have coffee. Thanks!

Update – 11 March 2020: Condensed the post to its essentials.


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.

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 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.