Ordinance change is unjustified

To the editor:

I was out of town for the past two hearings on the proposed Innovative Subdivision Design (“ISD”) Ordinance and will likewise be away for the next one; however, I want to register my strong opposition to this measure as written. While I take issue with many of its specific details, my objections fall broadly into two categories.

First, the ISD as written is mandatory. Public statements in the press by planning officials have been flatly misleading. The ISD does not “encourage” or “promote” open space/cluster development; with very limited exceptions, it requires it. Were ISD provisions presented as a voluntary alternative to conventional subdivision, I would support them, but as mandatory requirements they are onerous and unjustified.

Second, the ISD provisions as written give virtually unlimited discretionary powers to the Planning Board to micro-manage any development. Because it contains so few definitive standards (i.e., no lot size, frontage, setback), all design requirements are left entirely to the subjective judgment of the Planning Board. Vesting such unlimited discretionary power to the Planning Board would seriously diminish private property rights and, hence, property values. It would effectively be a taking without compensation.

Traditional zoning provides that an owner may use his or her property in certain ways “by right.” The ISD takes away those rights and substitutes “by favor of the Planning Board.” A municipality’s zoning powers derive from legislation enacted by the State of New Hampshire. It was never intended that the power of the state would be used to turn property owners into supplicants.

The town should retain the current rural zoning as is by right and make ISD a voluntary alternative.

John M. Lord, Jr.


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