New Ipswich pitches driveway code addition; some contractors say regulation would increase building costs

  • Town of New Ipswich. (BEN CONANT / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Copyright Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/25/2021 4:36:04 PM

The New Ipswich Planning Board’s new proposed driveway regulations would bring them into compliance with state law, though at least one local developer said the regulations could significantly increase costs for homeowners.

The Planning Board met last week for a public hearing on proposed driveway regulations, which the board is allowed to adopt without a town vote. After hearing from multiple people during its Thursday meeting, the board ultimately voted to hold a second hearing on the issue, scheduled for Feb. 17, to receive more feedback from residents.

Planning Board Chair John Schaumloffel said that the Planning Board has been working on the driveway regulations for nearly two years, after the town discovered it did not have dedicated driveway regulations as required by state law. Some regulations existed in the town’s Zoning Ordinance and subdivision regulations, but not as standalone rules, he said. And despite an assertion that the rules don’t align with other municipalities, Schaumloffel said that’s exactly where most of them come from – pulled from other town’s regulations and state law. Some, he said, are stricter and more comprehensive than what the board ultimately put forth.

The regulations, if enacted, would require a driveway permit for any newly constructed driveway, granted by the Select Board. Applicants would have to provide evidence the driveway would not impact a wetland, or provide an exemption from the town Zoning Board. The town would have to inspect the finished driveway and issue a Certificate of Compliance for the driveway.

The standards, which are a total of nine pages long, also specify standards such as the width – no less than 10 feet, and no more than 25 feet at the entrance – that it be at as close to a right angle with the street as possible, and that it be constructed to direct water runoff away from the street.

Additional regulations include requiring culverts, when required, to be a minimum of 15 inches in diameter, and a maximum grade of 15 percent to ensure public safety and access for emergency vehicles.

For driveways with a grade of more than 10 percent, the owner must build a landing of 20 feet at the entrance, or provide a drainage plan by a licensed engineer.

Schaumloffel said the culvert regulation and the landing area both have to do with controlling water runoff and safety. Some regulations the board reviewed for other municipalities required larger landings, but the board took into account the average size of vehicles and landed on 20 feet as a compromise, he said.

The Select Board may require engineered plans, especially for driveways with grades over 10 percent, slopes greater than 15 percent, or driveways longer than 100 feet.

Kenny Lehtonen II of New Ipswich, a developer and real estate agent who builds about 25 houses across New Hampshire each year, said the proposed regulations were stricter than is usual, too broad, and could be prohibitively expensive.

“They want a lot of power and authority over what people do,” Lehtonen

Lehtonen said in his building experience, several of the proposed regulations aren’t always going to be practical. He said the better approach was to have more general regulations, and give power to the town’s road agent to decide what steps need to be taken to ensure safety.

The regulation that requires a wide, flat landing for driveways with a grade of more than 10 percent, for example, would have made increased costs for a recent home he had developed in New Ipswich by $30,000 to $40,000 for driveway construction, due to the amount of fill that would have had to be brought in.

“That’s outrageous for a single-family home,” he said.

Lehtonen said a 15-inch culvert isn’t possible in many cases, either, requiring a large portion of applicants to immediately be required to take the extra step to get an exemption from the town.

“What it really needs to be is to have the road agent or Department of Public Works director look at each situation on a case-by-case basis. It’s not a one-size-fits all situation,” Lehtonen said. “It’s not done this way in any other town I work in.”

Schaumloffel said that the town has a process for those situations where the ordinance creates an undue financial burden – developers can request a hardship waiver.

Schaumloffel said the board is taking into account the feedback it received last week, and continued the hearing after hearing more than two hours worth of comments from the public. The board plans to continue receiving feedback during its continued hearing, and may either continue the hearing again, make further changes to the regulations, or take a vote on adopting the regulations either as they stand or as amended at that time. 

The Planning Board expects to meet next on Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m., via Zoom. Sign in information is available on the website. A complete copy of the proposed driveway regulations is also available on the town’s website.


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

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