A plan for Peterborough
Soon-to-retire Director of Development looks back on 10 years of change
Carol Ogilvie is retiring after 10 years as Peterborough's director of community development (Staff photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
PETERBOROUGH — After 10 years as director of the town’s Office of Community Development, Carol Ogilvie will be retiring from that post on Aug. 7.
“It’s going to be hard to say goodbye,” Ogilvie said in a recent interview in the office in the basement of the Town House. “It’s difficult to leave a place where I’ve been so comfortable. Peterborough has been a great opportunity, because we have a chance to get into so many things that don’t happen in many small towns.”
But Ogilvie, who will be 65 in August, said the time has come to reduce her workload.
“I’ve been doing this work in New Hampshire for 25 years now,” she said. “There are a lot of night meetings and a lot of morning meetings. I want to scale back a bit.”
Ogilvie, who grew up in Chesterfield, graduated from Keene State College with a Bachelor of Sociology degree in 1977 and soon got into community planning after learning about a program being offered at Kent State University in Ohio.
“It was a year and a half program, and I got to do an internship with the newly established Planning Department for the city of Kent. I really learned a lot,” she said.
That experience and her master’s degree in urban planning helped Ogilvie get a job with the Windham Regional Planning Commission in Brattleboro, Vt., where she worked for six years.
After marrying a German man who lived in New Zealand, Ogilvie worked briefly in regional planning in Christchurch, New Zealand, then moved with her husband to Germany, where she lived until 1987.
When the marriage ended, she came back to the United States, where she offered to do some work at the Southwest Region Planning Commission in Keene.
“I started as a volunteer,” she said. “After a few months it was three days paid. Then five days paid. Then it was a lifetime.”
Ogilvie spent 14 years with the SRPC, advising towns and Planning Boards on land-use issues.
“I was sort of the circuit rider,” she said. “I loved working with the small towns. At one time or another, I worked with everyone around here.”
Ogilvie also spent a year working in Concord for the N.H. Office of State Planning, coordinating flood insurance programs. But in 2002, she got a call from Peterborough Town Administrator Pam Brenner, who was looking to fill the vacant community development director slot.
“Pam said she was disappointed,” Ogilvie recalled. “‘I haven’t seen your resume come across my desk,’ she said. I thought about it for a day or so, then sent the resume over and I got the job. Pam told me before I started, ‘If you want a vacation, you better take it now.’ ”
Ogilvie came on board in Peterborough in January 2003, and immediately went to work on developing a master plan for the town.
“There had been a moratorium on subdivisions and the master plan hadn’t been updated for 15 years,” she said. “It was essentially a brand new plan.”
Ogilvie said one of her most satisfying projects was the development of the West Peterborough Tax Increment Finance district, which enables additional tax revenue generated by upgrades to properties in the district to be used for infrastructure improvements.
“West Peterborough had four different zones,” Ogilvie said. “Most of the homes and buildings in the area were non-conforming. There was little open land and the potential was pretty limited. In 2004, we had a meeting to invite everyone to talk about the area and how to improve it.”
Ogilvie said the TIF district that was created after following up on that meeting has been a great success.
“ In my view, it’s revolutionary,” she said of the changes in West Peterborough. “There are no minimum lot sizes. It allows mixed use. Something like the Union Mill would never have been allowed before. By creating opportunities, we’ve seen people making investments.”
She said TIF district funding enabled the town to pay for $2.5 million in roadway, lighting and sidewalk improvements in West Peterborough, along with street scaping and traffic calming projects, improvements to Teixeira Park and additional on-street parking.
Ogilvie said the establishment of the Village Commercial District and the Healthcare District near Monadnock Community Hospital have also benefitted the town. And during her tenure, Peterborough installed sophisticated Geographic Information Systems equipment that enables the community planning office to create maps and generate valuable data to use in planning.
Brenner clearly remembers making that telephone call to recruit Ogilvie.
“I knew of her great reputation,” Brenner said on Monday. “I knew she was working for the state. I figured she’d probably turn me down. She didn’t, and Peterborough’s certainly been blessed to have her.
Brenner noted that Ogilvie was named the state’s planner of the year two years ago and cited her work on creating West Peterborough and Village Commercial districts as being key to future development in Peterborough.
“She’s just a wonderful, caring person. Her demeanor is so calm and pleasant,” Brenner said. “We recognize that she’s ready to retire. It’s great for her but it will be a sad day for Peterborough.”
Ivy Vann first worked with Ogilvie long before Vann became a member of Peterbrough’s Planning Board.
“I first met her when I came in with a development project.,” Vann said. “Carol was a delight to work with. She was very clear about what the town’s requirements were.”
Vann said Ogilvie has continued to be very helpful as a key resource for the Planning Board.
“Carole is smart, funny, open to considering different ways to address issues. She’s become one of my favorite people,” Vann said.
Ogilvie said educating people on the importance of planning is one of her biggest challenges and the delays in making significant changes can be frustrating.
“I know people wonder why things take so long to get done,” she said. “In New Hampshire, local government relies on volunteers. It’s a lot to ask of them to go to three or four meetings a month. You can only expect so much.”
She said a wetlands task force met weekly for a year and a half but never proposed major changes to go before voters. And for a couple of years, Ogilvie has been working on a project to address infill development — the idea that restrictions on property that’s close to the center of town might be eased in order to have additional residential development there instead of on outlying rural district roads. But that’s also still a work in progress.
“The big piece of the puzzle is getting people to understand why we want to do something,” Ogilive said. “Complex land use issues do effect people. Some people won’t be happy. We need to explain things well. We have ordinances on infill development that I hope will be on the ballot for the next Town Meeting.”
Earlier this year, Ogilvie was given a lifetime achievement award by the New Hampshire Planners Association. In her remarks while presenting the award, NHPA board member Tara Germond said of Ogilvie, “Carol is known and remembered for her professionalism, competence and intellect... Her success as a planner is attributed largely to her ability to take what she does seriously but not to take herself as seriously. She is as much a teacher and mentor as she is a planner. She treats everyone fairly and objectively and always has a smile on her face.”
Ogilvie, who lives in Gilsum with her husband, Michael Klein, whom she met when he was chairing the Gilsum Planning Board, said she appreciates the NHPA award, but hopes it’s premature.
“They think I’m leaving for good,” she said. “I’m not intending to stop, just to take it back a notch. I plan to continue with some consulting. I’ll be open to opportunities.”
Ogilvie hopes to be able to spend more time at a second residence in Everglades City, Fla., but she isn’t planning to leave the Monadnock region.
And she’ll still be seen around Peterborough.
“I’m on the committee to work on the parade in 2014 for the town’s 275th birthday,” she said. “That’s a good thing for me. I won’t have to say goodbye on Aug. 7.”
Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or email@example.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.