One step from approval: Revised zoning ordinances going before Manchester Select Board
MANCHESTER — The last steps on the town's lengthy path to a revised zoning ordinance and map begin Tuesday night, when the Manchester Select Board will hold a public hearing on proposed revisions when it meets at 7 p.m. in the Kilburn Meeting Room at Town Hall.
Hard copies of the 162-page proposal and map are available online, on display in Hurley's office and the town clerk's office, and available for purchase for $10 (to cover copying costs). The proposal can be found at bit.ly/2FybXKS.
In a related action, the Select Board is also expected to discuss whether Manchester should increase the trigger for Act 250 environmental review to properties 10 acres or larger from the current 1 acre or larger.
Under state law, towns without zoning or subdivision plans must adopt the 1-acre standard, while towns that have such plans are free to adopt the larger standard. Manchester has both, and the Planning Commission recommended in 2016 that the 1-acre standard be adopted because it felt the new zoning plan would offer ample protection for the town's natural resources.
The Planning Commission is preparing a PowerPoint presentation for the public hearing, summarizing the reasons it took up the two-year project, the public engagement process that led to the proposed ordinance, and illustrates the concepts it seeks to accomplish.
From there, it's up to the Select Board. It can vote on the proposal, continue the hearing to another date, or send it back to the Planning Commission. But planning and zoning administrator Janet Hurley noted that since the proposal was formalized this month, the town has had to review projects under two zoning bylaws — the existing one and the new one — and that's not a state of affairs that can last long.
The overhaul of the ordinance and map represent the most exhaustive makeover since the town first adopted zoning in 1970, Hurley said.
The objectives were to make the ordinance and map easier to understand and use and reflect the goals laid out in the town plan. The current version, Hurley said, was amended like a layer cake, with numerous overlay districts allowing certain uses in certain sections of town. The new proposal, using the current map and its districts as a starting point, will create land use definitions that reflect what's on the ground, as well as the town's future goals.
Those goals include encouraging commercial mixed use in downtown Manchester Center and single family workforce housing within walking distance of the downtown. The ordinance also seeks to protect open spaces and agricultural uses by encouraging conservation.
"We we want to concentrate development and activities and uses in the core," Hurley said. "The Planning Commission is interested in making the core of town be this vibrant downtown where people want to work, shop and have fun."
The town plan has sought those goals for decades, she said, but the zoning ordinance didn't really implement the town goals.
The lack of workplace housing was also identified as needs in the town plan and the Northshire Economic Development Survey (NEDS), and the ordinance seeks to remedy that shortage by establishing areas where new housing — ideally affordable to working professionals and young families the town wants to attract as new residents — would be encouraged.
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