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

 

Public Hearing for Senior Housing

The Planning Board holds a Public Hearing on the proposed Senior Housing amendment on Thursday, 30 January at 7:00pm at the Town Offices. Update: The final language is shown below.

This will be an opportunity for the residents of Lyme to ask questions (for example, Questions for the Planning Board) about the proposed amendment.

I hope to see you tomorrow night.


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.

Final Language for Senior Housing amendment

(Can’t read the PDF above? Download it at
https://RandomNeuronsFiring.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Senior-Housing-zoning-amendment-Final-March-2020.pdf
)

Senior Housing Meeting Continued

At the previous (25Nov2019) work session, the Planning Board began to come to terms with how difficult it is to design senior housing. (Link to the video…)

They spent the session setting criteria for a senior housing project: it could only be in the Lyme Common District, only 10 units, each must be less than 1,200 square feet, the total project may have only 12,000 square feet of gross floor area. They then began adding other restrictions regarding age and number of residents, whether units must be handicap-accessible, and construction techniques that would not be permitted.

Having made those decisions about what “senior housing must look like”, the Board hopes to attract a potential developer who will try to build reasonably-priced, marketable units with attractive amenities (common spaces, garages) within those constraints.

Or maybe not. It’s far simpler (and cheaper) for a developer to build in a town that doesn’t have such restrictive design parameters and rules.

Nonetheless, the Planning Board will meet again on Monday, 2 December at 7pm to continue to try to improve the current language to withstand legal scrutiny and meet their notion of what might be attractive senior 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 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.

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 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.

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.


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.

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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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)

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 would you like to live? What options would you want?
  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!


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.