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Proposals would tackle infill, preserve open space

PETERBOROUGH — Planning Board members are considering a new ordinance intended to encourage the preservation of open space in town while promoting various types of low-impact development practices. They are also reviving discussion of a plan to create an overlay zone encompassing most of the downtown residential neighborhoods that could allow more housing in that area. Both concepts are in the early stages of discussion, with the Planning Board intending to hold additional public information sessions in the coming weeks.

Subdivision ordinance

Planners unveiled the first draft of what they are calling the Innovative Subdivision Design Ordinance in a public hearing during their meeting on Monday. The new ordinance would replace the current Open Space Residential Development Ordinance.

“My understanding is that the open space ordinance hasn’t been used very often,” said Peter Throop, the town’s community development director, on Wednesday. “We wanted to create more flexibility to make it more attractive for landowners to use.”

According to a draft prepared for the hearing, the ordinance would require all subdivisions on 10 acres or more in the Rural District to set aside 50 percent of the land for open space preservation. Setting aside land would be optional on subdivisions of five acres or more in other residential districts.

Applicants would also be able to increase the number of dwelling units allowed in a subdivision by earning points for providing “public benefit land use activities,” such as creating more open space than required, using permeable materials for driveways and roads, providing recreational trails, burying utility lines, using shared water and/or wastewater systems.

The ordinance would allow the Planning Board to reduce conventional lot sizes and setbacks in order to minimize impact on the site and to consider allowing two-family or multifamily dwellings as separate detached units. It would also eliminate the requirement for a 75-foot vegetative buffer around the perimeter of the parcel being developed.

“The intent is to create some incentive for landowners to include sustainability oriented development techniques in their plans,” Throop said.

He said the board will be continuing discussion of the Innovative Subdivision ordinance at a meeting in October.

Neighborhood overlay zone

A plan to establish a Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone was discussed last fall, but was put on hold by the Planning Board due to lack of time to get a proposal ready for voters. A draft of the proposal, which was discussed on Monday, says the zone would be intended “to allow for the infilling of lots and additional residential housing in close proximity to the downtown area in sections of town where there are already densely developed neighborhoods.” It aims to discourage development in the rural parts of town.

“The intent is to focus on opportunity to develop in areas with existing infrastructure,” Throop said.

According to a map included with the proposal, the Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone would consist of residential neighborhoods in the center of town, including Concord Street to the intersection of Sand Hill Road, the mostly residential sections of Summer Street, High Street, MacDowell Road and Union Street, Pine Street from Granite Street to near the Cheney Avenue intersection, Grove Street south of Route 202 to the Monadnock Community Plaza and the Mercer Avenue and Ames Court neighborhood.

Within the overlay zone, single- or two-family dwellings could be built on a 5,000 square foot lot in the General Residence District or a 10,000-square-foot lot in the Family District. Multifamily dwellings would be allowed in the General Residence District on lots of 5,000-square-feet plus 2,500 square feet for each unit.

Throop said the consultants who have been working with town on the plan will be at a public information meeting that the Planning Board will hold on Sept. 24 in the Town House.

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