Peterborough Planning Board members decide not to revise subdivision regulations

From left, Andrew Dunbar, Mike McGill,  Stephanie Hurley, Lisa Stone, Chair Carl Staley, Gary Gorski, Michael Dias and Blair Weiss of the Peterborough Planning Board. Not pictured is Sarah Steinberg Heller. 

From left, Andrew Dunbar, Mike McGill,  Stephanie Hurley, Lisa Stone, Chair Carl Staley, Gary Gorski, Michael Dias and Blair Weiss of the Peterborough Planning Board. Not pictured is Sarah Steinberg Heller.  STAFF PHOTO BY JESSECA TIMMONS

By JESSECA TIMMONS

Monadnock Ledger Transcript

Published: 06-13-2024 9:15 AM

Modified: 06-13-2024 12:04 PM


After reviewing the existing ordinances for Peterborough subdivisions, the Peterborough Planning Board decided no revisions are needed at this time. 

The board had planned to review the existing  subdivision ordinance to determine whether the revised Open Space Residential Development  (OSRD) regulations made such projects unattractive to developers in comparison to the traditional subdivision rules. 

“As it turns out, there were regulations put in place in 2016 that appear to make the OSRD route more attractive. The OSRD ordinances have a higher density ratio than the regular subdivisions,” said Carl Staley, who is the new Planning Board chair.

Staley noted that changes to subdivision regulations do not need to go through Town Meeting or be approved by the Select Board and are solely under the purview of the Planning Board. 

The density formula for traditional developments in Peterborough is one house per three acres, while OSRD developments allows five houses per acre in an approved cluster-style development plan.  

With the exception of OSRDs or multi-family developments, subdivision regulations set a maximum of 20 dwelling units in a subdivision served by a private road, and 10 lots in a subdivision served by a private road, except for OSRDs. In the Rural District, lots served by a private road must be at least 10 acres with the minimum frontage required in the district, except fr OSRDs.

The board discussed the implications of the regulations at length, with Town Planner Danica Melone noting that there are very few parcels of land in Peterborough with enough frontage on a public road to enable a large development. Melone also said that the town routinely denies requests for creation of new public roads. 

“You can always approach the Select Board to ask them to create a town road, but the town has always said we are not interested in adding cost to the town. The town does not want to maintain new roads,” Melone said. 

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The board voted not to make any changes to the subdivision regulations, but will revisit the regulations in future meetings. 

At the opening of the meeting,  the board appointed Staley as chair and Andrew Dunbar as vice chair, and confirmed Blair Weiss, Gary Gorski. Stephanie Hurley and Lisa Stone as regular members of the Planning Board. Michael McGill, Michael Dias and Sarah Steinberg Heller are alternates, and Bill Kennedy is the Select Board representative.

Board members also discussed strategies for addressing low voter turnout  and communication after several Planning Board amendments amendments failed at the ballot session. 

“I don’t feel like we really heard from the town,” said Gorski. “We only had 15% of the population turn out and vote. In people I queried at the playground, none of the young parents I spoke to knew there was a vote going on that day.” 

Gorski suggested the town send a mailer to every address in town reminding people to vote. 

The board discussed the other ways of getting voters’ attention, including hanging a banner on the Town House announcing that the polling place is at the Community Center, publicizing voting information on the unofficial Peterborough Facebook page or sending a town-wide text message. The board also discussed the challenges of navigating the town website and getting voting information on the front page during election weeks. 

Steinberg Heller raised the issue of misinformation that was spread prior the election, saying that she was personally targeted in an email campaign. 

“A friend of mine showed me an email in which I was personally accused of being ‘against green energy and sustainability.’ This email specifically told people not to vote for me,” Steinberg Heller said. “I have reviewed all the minutes and all my notes, and I have never spoken against green energy or sustainability. This was heartbreaking for me, and I am going to have a conversation with the person who wrote the email.” 

In the public comment section of the meeting, Peterborough resident Sharon Monahan said she did not feel low turnout or communication was the issue with the failure of the proposed amendments.

“I think people just did not like what you were suggesting,” Monahan said.