Planning board addresses zoning confusion

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Peterborough Planning Board would like to address some of the statements in last week’s opinion piece by Andy Peterson regarding the proposed zoning simplification ordinance. The article states that the proposed zoning change would allow a 40-unit apartment complex on Pine Street. That is a serious misreading of the proposed ordinance.

The proposed zoning simplification does not allow any more density in any residential neighborhood than is allowed under our current zoning. What is allowed under the proposed simplification is less density than is currently permitted on Pine Street. What will be permitted under the proposed changes matches our current zoning on High Street and other close-in neighborhoods. We know what this builds out to: It looks like the close-to-town end of Pine Street, like the new cottage development on Vine Street, like Union Street between the five-way and Adams Playground. The board believes smaller-scaled, finer-grained development like this is a good fit for the historic fabric of the town of Peterborough.

The residential streets in Peterborough (High, Vine, Pine, Cheney, Vale, etc.), which are served by water and sewer, are zoned T-4 Residential in the proposed code. T-4 Residential is a strictly residential zone. No commercial use is permitted. Under the new code, the largest building that can be built is a 60-by-75-foot, two-story residential building, which is slightly smaller than the largest buildings that now exist in our historic neighborhoods.

To remain financially solvent, and to produce the kind of walkable, human-scaled town that residents have supported in the Master Plan process, we need to allow historically appropriate density in our close-to-town residential neighborhoods.

Last week’s viewpoint piece also questioned the size limits on commercial and mixed-use buildings. The building types that are permitted under the new code allow a developer to build the Guernsey Building or the Granite Block. Large warehouse-style buildings are permitted in the Business/Industry District, just as they are today.

If a developer wants to build a 100,000- or 200,000-square-foot retail building, they may apply for a variance. The code also allows a building owner to expand an existing building with an addition that does not fit into the permitted building types, as long as the addition is smaller than the existing building. If Ocean State Job Lot wanted to expand a building in the plaza, it could be done without a variance.

We hope this has cleared up some of the confusion around the new ordinance. The board will hold information sessions about the new ordinance between late March and May, when it will go to Town Meeting for vote. Please do not hesitate to contact the Office of Community Development or any member of the Peterborough Planning Board with any questions that you might have. Members of the zoning subcommittee (Karen Fitzgerald, Bob Holt and Ivy Vann) are also available to meet with residents of particular neighborhoods to further explain the new ordinance.

Andrea Cadwell, Dario Carrara, Rich Clark, Jerry Galus, Joe Hanlon, Bob Holt, Ed Juengst, Ivy Vann and Alan Zeller are members of the Peterborough Planning Board.