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Development strategies

Future of route 101, 202 corridors depends on available infrastructure

  • Towns on Route 101 and Route 202 take opposite views on the types of development planners like to see.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Towns on Route 101 and Route 202 take opposite views on the types of development planners like to see.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Towns on Route 101 and Route 202 take opposite views on the types of development planners like to see.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

Towns along the Route 101/Route 202 corridor have differing views of the development they’d like to see. While larger towns with infrastructure to support business envision their downtowns growing into commercial areas, others want to preserve the rural and historic nature of their town centers, and keep the growth small and away from the core.

New Ipswich recently denied a variance to allow the national retailer Dollar General to build a large box-store in its downtown, in part to preserve the rural and historic nature of the district. Meanwhile in Jaffrey, Dollar General is completing construction of a similar store on Peterborough Street in the downtown, where the town is looking to concentrate commercial development. While Jaffrey is implementing strategies and tax credits to attract business to the town center, the towns of Dublin and Temple have been addressing their own ordinances and Master Plans to keep development out of their rural areas and historic centers. While town planners in Dublin and Temple work with ordinances to keep large-scale developments at bay, Jaffrey and Peterborough have been seeking to grow, while still trying to maintain the character that is intrinsic to the identity of towns in the Monadnock region.

Jaffrey and Peterborough have different approaches to development than many of the surrounding towns, said Jaffrey Planning Board Chair Mark Kresge in an interview Wednesday. Both have an infrastructure, particularly town sewer and water, that must be supported.

“We’re always looking to increase development, including commercial or residential,” said Kresge in a recent interview, “both from the perspective of supporting infrastructure and in terms of general economic development.”

Jo Anne Carr, Jaffrey’s director of planning and economic development, said the town is really looking to incentivize commercial and industrial development. Several areas in town have been classified as Economic Revitalization Zones, which offer tax credit for businesses looking to expand, especially if it provides jobs. The areas already zoned for that tax credit include Drumlin Park, Stone Arch Bridge, Silver Ranch and Millipore. And for smaller businesses, the town maintains a website for those that don’t have the capacity to support their own. The town also has a revolving federal loan program designed to support the expansion and start-up of qualifying small businesses in the Jaffrey downtown area.

“We’re really looking to maintain a diverse business environment,” said Carr.

Both Kresge and Joel Harrington, Peterborough’s planning chair, said the focus for Jaffrey and Peterborough is building a commercial downtown area. Jaffrey has major industrial zones in the area of Old Sharon Road and Plantation Drive, but is trying to attract commercial businesses downtown, where they can connect to town infrastructure.

Peterborough is also looking to grow commercial development in the downtown village district and the existing Peterborough and Monadnock plaza. The town would like to see development happen in a way that keeps the rural characteristics residents enjoy.

“Peterborough is a gateway to the Monadnock region, and that means a lot,” said Harrington. “We need to be aware of how attractive we are, not only to the residents of the Monadnock region, but to other towns as well. And I think we live up to what people really think about the Monadnock region.”

Towns without water and sewer infrastructure seem to prefer that large-scale commercial and industrial development happen outside their town centers . What development is encouraged is small and low-impact.

Dublin recently made changes to its zoning ordinance to steer commercial development to the Route 101 and Route 137 corridors, and to keep it away from residential areas, said Dublin Planning Board Chair Bruce Simpson in a phone interview Wednesday. A list of commercial uses, including light industrial uses, commercial buildings larger than 2,000 square feet and wholesale businesses once allowed by special exception in the rural district — the district encompassing the majority of the town — are now completely prohibited, said Simpson. The prohibited commercial businesses can still find a place on the highway by special exception, though, so long as the Zoning Board finds no adverse effects to the surrounding properties.

“I think the motivation is that people in the residential and rural neighborhood thought the rules were too wide open in the rural district,” said Simpson. “The changes say these activities, especially the higher-impact activities, won’t be allowed in the rural district.” Rose Lowry, the Temple Planning Board chair, wrote in an email to the Ledger-Transcript on Thursday that over the past three years Temple has been reviewing its Village District, zoning ordinances and Master Plan, and consistently residents are interested in keeping development small and out of the town center.

“When asked about the Village District, i.e. the town center, townspeople overwhelmingly favored retaining our rural character and historic charm, many implicitly stating, ‘Don’t change a thing,’” wrote Lowry. “The type of businesses they were interested in were few, only small, local-serving businesses like a coffee shop.”

Temple is currently working towards updating its Master plan this year, wrote Lowry, and one of the points of the surveys the town will be conducting in preparation for that will focus on what residents would like to see happen on Route 101.

“But from what we’ve heard from citizens over the past years, it’s likely that people want to continue to limit industrial and commercial development to keep Temple rural, historic, agricultural and residential,” wrote Lowry. “It’s really a lovely town, and people tend to want to keep it that way.”

In Dublin, the possibility of increased traffic was one of the main concerns about limiting commercial growth in the residential areas, said Simpson. Small, low-impact business made it through the zoning changes unscathed, particularly those that are home-based, he said. Those don’t offer a huge impact on noise, traffic, or serve to change the appearance of the neighborhood, he noted.

“In a nutshell, higher-impact businesses are no longer allowed [in the rural district], and home occupations were left alone,” Simpson said.

In Temple, the home business regulations were recently updated to be more specific about what is allowed, with the focus on protecting neighborhood character by limiting potential impact, according to Lowry.

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