Town continues debate on development
Residents call for another survey to gauge interest in plans, amid concern over accepting federal grants
Roger Hawk, the planning consultant hired by the Rindge Planning Board, gives a presentation on the future development of Rindge at a Planning Board meeting Tuesday night. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Rick Griffith, a Rindge resident, asks the Rindge Planning Board on Tuesday night to send out another survey to residents to get input on the future development of the town. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
RINDGE — More than 50 Rindge residents attended a Planning Board meeting Tuesday night at the Rindge Meeting House to raise concerns about the town’s development plans and the town’s recent acceptance of two planning grants from N.H. Housing Finance Authority.
Tuesday’s meeting was a continuation of a debate that’s been taking place in Rindge for some two months now. Beginning with a non-town-sponsored meeting on Oct. 1, held by the group “Save Our Town,” residents have been asking why the Select Board accepted two planning grants for a combined total of about $37,000. The grants, which are being used to gather residents’ input and to come up with zoning recommendations for the town’s village districts, were the Planning Board’s next step in executing Rindge’s Master Plan completed in 2006. According to Planning Board Chair Kirk Stenersen, the town’s plans for development have been in the works for years, even decades. “For some time, this has been a discussion — since [Route] 202 was moved,” he said.
While some residents applaud the town’s continuing efforts to plan development and economic growth, many others have come forward in the past few months to let their Select Board and Planning Board know that they don’t like the grants and the way Rindge may be developed. As one resident, Phyllis McKoon, put it Tuesday night, “We don’t want this. It’s being stuffed down our throats.”
There has been some confusion in past meetings as to what exactly the grants are for and what the town is planning to do. On Tuesday night, however, the town’s hired planning consultant, Roger Hawk, laid out the visions he had for Rindge based on feedback from a town-wide survey sent out in 2011, the two-day Plan N.H. Charrette public brainstorming session in Jan. 2012, and many discussions with the Rindge Planning Board.
Hawk has four specific recommendations to facilitate the town’s development. The first is what he called a “Crossroads Overlay Zoning Amendment,” where the town implements regulations for detailed zoning ordinances for a section covering the Routes 119 and 202 intersection. The goal of these regulations would be to have multi-use, multi-tenant buildings, such as shops with apartments above them, without allowing big retailers and box stores that would ruin the look and feel of a small New England town center.
Hawk’s second recommendation is for Rindge to have no smaller than 1-acre lots in village districts — smaller than the current minimum lot size — with 150 feet of long lot frontage, which would allow for more compact lot sizes and a tighter, more village-like space. With these smaller lots, said Hawk, “It feels like it is somewhere, instead of the middle of an interchange.” He later added, “The purpose is to create a place where people bump into each other — not literally — and talk, because this is what people do [in small town centers].”
Hawk’s third recommendation is to amend the college zoning district to encourage continuing care retirement communities, where retired residents who want independent living, assisted living or full-care services can all live in one complex. The purpose of this recommendation, according to Hawk, is to develop the space between Franklin Pierce University and the town in order to make the college feel more included in the community.
Hawk’s final recommendation is to develop design standards for any new development in the crossroads zone to ensure that anything built there will fit with the look and feel of a small New England town center. Key components of those design standards include things like having non-flat, variable roof lines; blank walls being broken up by windows, doors and other features; a minimum of 2.5 stories with a residential or office use in the upper stories; having buildings close to the street with parking in the back of buildings; keeping 25 percent of the village’s space open and landscaped; encouraging cross-access easements for parking, water and septic; and promoting good and safe pedestrian and bicycle circulation.
All of these recommendations, according to Hawk, would help the town create a new commercial center in Rindge that would fit in with the town’s desires and the Rindge Economic Development Initiative, and they would also help with the bigger goal of linking the entire community together.
After Hawk’s presentation, the Planning Board took some time to express their thoughts. Select Board member and Planning Board ex-officio member Roberta Oeser brought up several concerns, including the cost of having more retirement communities and more rescue calls as a result. “Can we afford it?” she asked.
Burt Goodrich, former selectman and current alternate Planning Board member, said, “There’s still more work to do.” Goodrich thought more input from the town needed to be gathered, both on Tuesday night and at other points in time.
The Planning Board did receive more input Tuesday night, with residents on both sides of the issue standing up to give their take on the town’s development plans. Lifelong resident Sally Poikonen voiced her concerns about taxes being raised. “If you think [taxes] are bad today.... The taxes are going to pay for this. Don’t kid yourself,” she said.
Other residents spoke to the problem of construction on Routes 119 and 202 near wetlands, the need for more police and firefighters with sidewalks and new businesses, and the influx of people — and therefore costs — that will accompany development. Resident and “Save Our Town” director Larry Cleveland asked the Planning Board, “What does [that development] offer Rindge?”
Some residents, however, said the Planning Board is doing the right thing. Jed Brummer, another former selectman and lifelong resident, said that the board needs to ensure planned development for the intersection, which is otherwise a free enterprise. “It became apparent four or five years ago [when] the intersection of Routes 119 and 202 went up for sale. How do you want that to look in the future?” Brummer asked. “It’s going to change. Do you want planned development, or do you want it to go willy-nilly?”
Resident Rick Griffith echoed Goodrich and many other people in the room towards the end of the meeting. He asked for another planning and development survey to be sent to the whole town, indicating that more people would fill it out now, than the 500 people that did in 2011. “Please send it out again and see what kind of results you get,” Griffith said.
For Griffith, the center of town is still the Rindge Meeting House. “Don’t ruin it,” he said. “This is the center.”
Elodie can be reached by phone at 924-7172 ext. 228, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Elodie is also on Twitter @elodie_reed.