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 in the room. 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 Community Development Committee or the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. By Town policy, I am not permitted to send messages on these subjects through the Listserv. However, 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 Community Development Committee or the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. By Town policy, I am not permitted to send messages on these subjects through the Listserv. However, 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 Community Development Committee or the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. By Town policy, I am not permitted to send messages on these subjects through the Listserv. However, 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 Community Development Committee or the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. By Town policy, I am not permitted to send messages on these subjects through the Listserv. However, 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)

Can ‘Planned Developments’ Help Lyme’s Housing Problem?

In an earlier note, I detailed some of the characteristics that make senior housing attractive. This housing could include a combination of:

  • Clustered homes and apartments with neighbors nearby for ease of access and social interaction
  • A mix of unit sizes, to serve the differing needs of Lyme residents
  • A variety of services: shared space for living and dining, on-site management and aides, garages, elevators, etc.
  • Attractive (but not necessarily low-income) pricing
  • Economic feasibility for a commercial developer
The Zoning Ordinance today only allows development like this in two places (“districts”): the Lyme Common District and the Commercial District near Pond View Apartments/85 Dartmouth College Highway. Could either of those districts support this kind of housing?
  1. Lyme Common District: Not really. The Planning Board’s recent build-out analysis shows that the Lyme Common District can only support a certain amount of “infill” development – adding one or a few units to the existing homes. There isn’t enough land, water, or septic capacity for significant new housing.
  2. Commercial District: Perhaps. But it’s more than two miles from the Lyme Post Office. Do we want to encourage development so far from the center of town?

What Could Lyme Do?

The Lyme Zoning Ordinance already defines a Planned Development that would allow the kind of housing envisioned above because it permits:
  • Multiple buildings on a parcel
  • Up to six business or dwelling units per building
  • As much footprint, lot coverage and gross floor areas as allowed in the district
A simple adjustment to the ordinance – permitting a Planned Development other places in Lyme, perhaps anywhere on Route 10 – would remove a significant regulatory hurdle to better 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 Community Development Committee or the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. By Town policy, I am not permitted to send messages on these subjects through the Listserv. However, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Senior Housing at the Planning Board — Two Years Later

Two years ago, the Lyme Planning Board hosted a Senior Housing Forum where community members spoke about their thoughts and hopes for senior housing. The quote below comes from the Planning Board minutes of 28 September 2017:

Item 1: Senior Housing Forum

… The Board discussed with the attendees the various forms that senior housing could take. The overall sense was that different people wanted different types of housing. The various forms below were discussed:

  • Smaller single resident homes allowed on a single lot.
  • Cooperative housing in larger buildings.
  • A mixture of small houses and apartment or town house style buildings.
  • Large assisted living facilities.

Almost exactly two year later, there has been no concrete action toward permitting any of these kinds of housing. The current draft of a Senior Housing amendment still does not provide a realistic way that these (or any other kind of moderate price/workforce) housing could be built.

Please attend the next Planning Board meeting on Thursday, 12 September 2019 at 7pm to give your views.


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 Community Development Committee or the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. By Town policy, I am not permitted to send messages on these subjects through the Listserv. However, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

10 Goals for Senior Housing

At a recent meeting (22 Aug 2019) the Lyme Planning Board discussed a Senior Housing amendment to the Ordinance. I expressed concerns about the draft proposal that had been circulated, and asked questions about the goals. Rather than spend time on that draft, other board members encouraged me to draw up my own goals for further discussion. You can view the entire Planning Board meeting on Youtube (below).

I created the following goals for discussion at the Planning Board’s next meeting on Thursday, 12 September 2019, at 7:00pm in the Lyme Town Offices.

My question: Should Lyme’s ordinance permit some kind of housing like this? Would the option for housing like this be valuable to Lyme? What concerns might you have? You can contact me at richb.lyme@gmail.com

10 Goals for Senior Housing

(Can’t read the PDF above? Download it at https://RandomNeuronsFiring.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/10-Goals-for-Senior-Housing.pdf)

View on Youtube

Here is the entire Planning Board meeting. [Click here] to jump to the discussion of Senior Housing.

[Note: There is an error in the date of the video above – it was made on 22 Aug 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 Community Development Committee or the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. By Town policy, I am not permitted to send messages on these subjects through the Listserv. However, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Planning News – Great Resource from NH

Noah Hodgetts, Assistant Planner for NH Division of Planning publishes a weekly summary of Planning News. It summarizes and links to a handful of stories from around the state each week.  Here is this week’s list:

  • NH Supreme Court denies Northern Pass appeal
  • Plans for Laconia State School site discussed
  • Amherst plans to create safer roadways for walkers, bikers
  • Somersworth, Rochester tax breaks aim to spur growth
  • Plans still early, but vision clear for Keene downtown arts corridor
  • NH DES Soliciting Feedback about Updated Model Groundwater Protection Ordinance through July 26, 2019
  • NHMA to Host Zoning Board of Adjustment and Planning Board Basics Webinars on August 14th and September 4th
  • NH DES Accepting Applications for Local Source Water Protection Grants until November 1, 2019

Read each week’s Planning Newssummary at: https://www.nh.gov/osi/planning/planning-news.htm


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 Community Development Committee or the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. By Town policy, I am not permitted to send messages on these subjects through the Listserv. However, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Vital Communities-Zoning for Great Neighborhoods Survey

Mike Kiess from Vital Communities has sent out a request for responses to a short survey set up by the VT Department of Housing and Community Development. The deadline’s short, but they’re looking for responses from both VT and NH

The VT Department of Housing and Community Development is starting a project to create templates for bylaws and zoning regulations that will allow people to do more things with their properties. Use by towns would be voluntary.

Please share your opinions in this short survey. URL is https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/23JC5XL

NH opinions matter, too! Housing is a shared regional challenge, and planners from NH will be involved.

Your response by Friday, July 5, 2019 is appreciated.


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 Community Development Committee or the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. By Town policy, I am not permitted to send messages on these subjects through the Listserv. However, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

What’s this thing called “Current Use”?

The Current Use law in New Hampshire provides a tax break for certain property owners who choose not to change the “current use” of their property to a higher level of development. However it shifts the tax burden to property owners who do not have property in “current use”. Here are some details.

  • In 1973, the NH Legislature created the Current Use law to “encourage the preservation of open space” by giving property owners a break on their taxes. (NH RSA 79-A:1)
  • The NH Current Use Board sets the level of “encouragement”. Today, current use landowners receive as much as a 98% discount on their property taxes.
  • This means that the other residents in town have to pay higher property tax to make up for the taxes not collected from properties in “current use”. (It’s a zero-sum game. If the legislature mandates a discount on taxes for some properties, the taxes have to go up for other residents.)
  • Many property owners have already permanently conserved land. Consequently they do not need additional encouragement (through a tax break) to preserve open space since development is already precluded.
  • In my town of Lyme, NH, it appears that 94% of all land in Lyme is either conserved or in current use. Discounts for current-use properties total over $1.5 million and add about $5 to our $27.19 per thousand tax rate.
  • Forty-five years later, we now understand the true effect of the Current Use law: in rural towns with lots of open space, it drives up the tax rate for all residents. The law has relatively little effect in more densely-developed, urban towns, since there are few current use properties.

The NH Current Use Board has opened a public comment period (for this year) about the proposed Current Use Assessment Ranges. Comments may be submitted in writing to Tracey Russo, Paralegal Department, NH Department of Revenue Administration by mail at PO Box 457, Concord, NH 03302; by fax at (603) 230-5932; or by e-mail at Tracey.Russo@dra.nh.gov. The deadline for the submission of written comments is Thursday, June 20, 2019.

I just sent an email to Tracey.Russo@dra.nh.gov along the lines below:

To the NH Current Use Board:

I am a resident of Lyme NH. I wish to submit a public comment to the Board regarding their regulations regarding Current Use.

Sincerely,

/s/ Your name

The NH Legislature could rewrite the Current Use law to make it more equitable. This is a long term project. However, I request the Current Use Board to consider the following changes to their regulations:

1) Add the requirement that land may not qualify for current use treatment if it is already has a permanent restriction from development.

2) Decrease the base discount on Current Use property, to create meaningful incentives for creating a stewardship plan or making the land available for the public to access.

3) Set different discount rates for current use land and permanently-conserved land. Permanently conserved land can be assessed at its market rate, while current use land can receive a temporary discount for the time that the land is in its current use.

I would encourage you to send your own message, using any (or all) of the points above. I would also like to know what you wrote: you can cc me at 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 Community Development Committee or the Lyme Planning Board, to which I may belong. By Town policy, I am not permitted to send messages on these subjects through the Listserv. However, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.