Monday, November 29, 2010

Rezoning Public Hearing Announced

I'd like to talk (write?) a bit about the upcoming public hearing to provide feedback on the posted zoning amendments that the City Council will be holding. The public hearing is scheduled as part of the Wednesday, December 8, 2010 City Council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. The meeting will take place in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.

The proposed amendments were presented to the City Council at their work session on September 1st after 9 months of drafting and review by the Planning Board. At the meeting on the 1st, the City Council asked the Planning Board to clarify an amendment regarding customary home occupations. The Planning Board reviewed the request on September 14th and made the adjustment, rescinding a removal of antiques dealer as a home occupation.

The amendments are the result of a comprehensive effort by the Planning Board to review the land use regulations for the community. Planning Board members and interested volunteers developed these amendments with staff. Unlike the effort in 2008 and 2009, these amendments are more housekeeping in nature and work to clarify existing regulations. The amendments will promote development that will have a positive tax impact, protect natural resources, and better manage growth.
As a result of the 2008/2009 efforts, an addition was made to developing areas to review. In November of 2009, the planning staff asked the City’s land use boards to evaluate the regulations and suggest areas for review. Staff then organized the recommended areas into one list for the Planning Board. At its January workshop, the Board prioritized the list, removing some items, and adding new ones of its own liking. According to Christopher Parker, Director of Planning and Community Development, the process was opened up to request input from multiple areas.

We have tried to broaden the net, so to speak, looking for feedback from land use boards who have to work with the regulations on an ongoing basis. Much like the quarterly public input sessions we have, planning staff recognize that board/commission volunteers have a lot to offer and we have benefited from their feedback.

The complete text of the proposed amendments are available here. Additionally, hard copies are available at the Public Library and the City Clerk's Office and Planning Department at City Hall.

The amendments represent over 9 months worth of work by Planning Board members, volunteers and City Staff. The twelve amendments, fall into two categories, “Non-use” and “Use”, and overall most can be considered housekeeping.

The “non-use” proposals reflect changes to the Code that are clarifying the intent of zoning is not to direct morals, revise the definition of abutter to include owners of condominiums, expand and clarify definitions for Conservation Lots, Farm Animals for Family Use. Additionally, purpose statements have been created for each zoning district, and names have been updated as well (including the Central Business District and Gateway District) Finally, lighting requirements for signs have been clarified as have the height limitations on fences.

The “Use” changes adjust the uses allowed under the customary home occupations, as well as uses contained with the definition of civic building. One amendment allows for the creation of a lot without frontage, so long as the lot will only be used for conservation purposes. Excavation is proposed as an allowed use in an industrial district. Drive in movie theaters would no longer be allowed in the residential district, but would be allowed in the Hotel/Retail district. Finally, farm animals for family use would be allowed in certain residential districts.

Not surprising the farm animals have drawn the most interest. Many people have come forward with pros and cons to the amendment which would allow a limited amount of farm animals to be kept behind homes, contained within a property owners lot. The idea is to promote sustainability and to promote urban farming. The allowance would clarify regulations for what now are considered pets. Dover has no regulations for keeping farm animals as pets. The State of NH allows up to six animals to be kept, and we are looking to mirror those numbers, but to also clarify that one would need a coop and fenced area for the animals.

After the December 8th public hearing, the City Council will vote on the amendments. Should they approve the changes; the amendments will be included in an updated version of chapter 170 of the City Code.

As always, for more information, please contact us, my staff is more than willing/able to help understand the amendments. Thanks for reading :)

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