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

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

Current Draft of Senior Housing Amendment

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

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