Peterborough petition article would repeal overlay district

  • Residents spoke for a petition article to repeal the Traditional Neighborhood Zone Overlay district during a public hearing on Monday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Residents spoke for a petition article to repeal the Traditional Neighborhood Zone Overlay district during a public hearing on Monday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Residents spoke for a petition article to repeal the Traditional Neighborhood Zone Overlay district during a public hearing on Monday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/13/2019 9:33:59 AM

A petition article submitted by a group of citizens seeks to repeal one of Peterborough’s overlay districts and amend another.

The majority of discussion at the Planning Board’s public hearing on proposed zoning amendments on Monday centered around two petition zoning articles.

The Planning Board was unanimously opposed, with one abstaining, against recommending an amendment proposed, by petition, to repeal the town’s Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone II in its entirety, and to amend its Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone I.

The overlay zones, which were adopted in 2014 and 2017 respectively, are meant to encourage infill and denser development in the areas of town where there is already water or sewer access.

Those proposing and supporting the amendment said the level of density the districts allow is too dense for Peterborough.

Colleen Stone of Peterborough said the greater density “could destroy the character of our town.”

Sharon Monohan of Peterborough said the greatest density allowed under the district’s zoning was more than what was allowed in nearby cities like Milford, Keene and Manchester.

“If people want to move to a city, they’ll move to a city,” Monohan said.

In addition to repealing the Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone II, the same article would amend the Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone I.

The amendment would specifically increase the required frontage and lot size for developments in the general residence district.

Under the amendment, lots would be required to have 75 feet, where it’s currently 50. Lot sizes would be 7,500 square feet for a single-family home, instead of 5,000 square feet, and 6,000 square feet per unit for multi-family lots.

The amendment would also increase the front setback from 15 feet to 20 feet and side and rear setbacks from 10 to 20 feet.

Stone told the board the current standards were “inappropriate” for the general residence district. She said if the amendment passes, the board should use the opportunity to make a “clean slate” and have further conversations about zoning in town with the residents.

Hugh Beyer of Peterborough said he was startled by the scope of the changes proposed in the amendment, especially as it hadn’t gone through a process of public hearing and input, as happens with zoning amendments offered by the Planning Board.

“This has had no public review at all, and that’s a problem to me,” he said.

Ray Cote of Peterborough agreed, saying the current zoning had gone through months or years of public process before being put into place, and he’d like to see a similar in-depth process before it was repealed.

Planning Board Vice Chair Ivy Vann pointed out that West Peterborough is zoned with even less stringent standards than provided for in the overlay zones.

“And we haven’t seen the explosion people seem to think it coming,” she said.

Planning Board member Alan Zeller agreed.

In the five years since adopting the Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone I, Vann said, there have been 65 units constructed using the ordinance, and another 20 planned. Vann pointed out if the town doesn’t encourage development where the town’s infrastructure already exists, it will move out into the rural areas, which is ultimately more expensive to service.

Planning Board member Dario Carrara told the crowd there is a desperate need for more affordable living spaces, which is only going to come if residents can build on smaller lots.

“I can’t afford my house,” Carrara said. “I’m moving into an apartment in Peterborough. When was the last time any of you looked for an apartment in Peterborough? Everyone who’s afraid of all this density, where am I going to live?”

The board, with one abstention, agreed unanimously not to recommend the article.

The zoning amendments will be on the Town Meeting ballot on May 14.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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