Peterborough board hammers out new zoning code, drive-through ban dropped 

  • A Peterborough board is in the process of revamping the town's existing zoning ordinance.  Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, January 29, 2018 5:29PM

A Peterborough committee continued hammering out a proposal aimed at simplifying the town’s existing zoning code during a workshop this weekend.

Planning board Chair Ivy Vann said the existing town zoning code was adopted in 1970. The zoning code included four districts comprised of rural, family, general residence, and commerce districts.

“It wasn’t great zoning, but it was what everybody was doing at the time,” Vann said.

Vann said the structure is known as Euclidean zoning, named for a Supreme Court case that established town’s ability to regulate land use. She said Euclidean zoning promotes sprawl, car-dependency, and makes it difficult to design walkable mixed-use areas.

She said some people like that lifestyle, and others don’t.

Vann said many people want a house close to the town center so that they can walk home from the bar, or grab a coffee easily.

For the last decade, the planning board has patched over its existing code by implementing overlay areas and carving out other districts in order to promote what Vann calls historically appropriate infill. But those changes, Vann said, have complicated the town’s zoning code.

As the code currently stands, it takes the town code enforcement officer about two hours to determine the zoning rules for a particular parcel of land, Vann said.

“They look up the parcel number and see where in this mess it fits,” Vann said.  

She said a group of five people has spent months retooling the town’s zoning ordinance to a form-based code that would simplify the current structure. The proposed plan includes five zones, which are named T2 Rural, T3 Village Edge, T4 Residential, T4 Village, and T5 Town Center. Vann said overlays for environmental protections will remain the same under the proposed revamped zoning code. There will also be four special districts for places like the Monadnock Community Hospital and Commerce Park.

“We’re just taking the existing code and simplifying it,” Vann said.

Vann said there are two changes in the proposed rewrite, the first being that accessory dwelling units are permitted in every district. A second change would erase a rule that requires some mixed-use districts to have a parking lot minimums. Vann said there would no longer be a parking minimum in T4 Village and T5 Town Center districts. She said the rule was crossed out because Peterborough has plenty of parking.

Originally, the board proposed to ban drive-throughs across town, although the plan was nixed after residents pushed back against the idea.

Vann said they thought it was important to implement the ban because drive-throughs introduce cars into pedestrian spaces. She said that makes pedestrian areas less welcoming and less safe.

“People didn’t like it, so we took it out,” Vann said. “It wasn’t a ditch I was prepared to die in.”

Vann said the board’s goal is to pass the new proposal and the drive-through section may have thrown the entire proposal in peril come May.

The Planning Board voted on the proposed zoning changes at its meeting on Monday night, after the Ledger-Transcript’s deadline.

A public hearing regarding the possible changes will be held on Feb. 19. Residents will vote on the proposal, which will appear as a warrant article, in May.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.