Thursday, February 24, 2011

What's Going On?

This week I wanted to take some time and cover a few projects/happenings that we are pursuing in the Planning Department, that might fly under the radar.

The Community Trail
The Community Trail has been open all winter long. The urban portion continues to see activity even with snow on the ground. Having hiked it with my dog, I see the tracks of skis, snow shoes and footprints. In general it is great to see all the activity. Not so great to see all the non-scooped poop from four legged friends, please remember to scoop if you let your dog poop on the trail.

Speaking of activity, we are very happy to have a winter tree identification walk along the trail this weekend, February 26h. At 10 am, members of the trail committee will walk the trail, from the Transportation Center trail head through the urban portion. This walk will include a former UNH Forestry student who will point out the various flora and fauna along the trail and help participants understand the different species of trees that are along the trail.

Sustainability Update
As mentioned previously, our office is working on a Sustainability Plan for the City. This plan began earlier in the year, and working with various departments and the Energy Advisory Commission, the plan is moving forward. One goal of the plan is to be more sustainable in the everyday practices of the municipal corporation, but also to encourage more sustainability in the community. One aspect of that goal is promoting local agriculture. We will be doing this through attending and supporting the upcoming TuttleFest on March 19, 2011. Watch for more info and a link to the web site. For now check out the organizer of the event, the New Hampshire Institute of Agriculture and Forestry.

Community Development Block Grant Applications
The City's Planning Board held a public hearing on February 22, to allow applicants for the Community Development Block Grant funding to speak to their needs and inform the Board about what they would use the funding for. The City, annually, receives monies from the Federal government to improve the lives of low and moderate income residents. These programming and capital improvement monies are used to fund worthy organizations. On March 8, the Planning Board will hold a workshop to review the requests and start to prioritize the needs. On March 22, the Board will vote on the grant sub-recipients and send the City Council the list, as part of our overall Action Plan.

Land Use Amendments
As has been the case over the past few years, I asked the various land use boards for input on what areas of the land use code should we be looking at in 2011. We collected the responses, which were about a dozen, and presented the list to the Planning Board in January. Over the past month, staff developed the amendments, in a first draft phase, and we presented the amendments to the Board on February 22. There are three categories, zoning, site review and subdivision.

For the zoning amendments, we had 10. These include three area rezonings, definition clarifications, and a few tweaks to allowed uses in districts. The amendment with the largest impact would be a strict allowance for LED signs to display a price for a good.

Site Review
These amendments are in relation to larger developments of buildings or multi-family projects. The basic amendments are to clarify storm water and other development requirements. There are two pages of changes, not very much in the overall scheme.

These amendments are in relation to the subdivision of land. The amendments are based around needs for engineering and changes in technology related to utilities and identification of private vs public property/rights.

As these amendments get further in the process, I will update the public on what specifically is being proposed. At this point everything is still in the entry stage.

Open Space and Conservation Master Plan
The Open Space chapter of the Master Plan revision is now underway. The committee met for the first time last week and consists of 7 members of the public. The group hopes to complete the work by the end of this year, and will update us as it meets and works on the project.

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