Temple Planning Board votes to place affordable housing measures on March Town Meeting

  • The Temple community participated in a public hearing about three proposed zoning changes the Planning Board developed, aimed at encouraging affordable housing. The Board ultimately voted to put the changes into a warrant article for March Town Meeting.  Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

  • Resident Amy Cabana speaks at the Temple Planning Board meeting Wednesday night. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

  • Temple Planning Board member Nicole Concordia shares figures on Temple housing costs at the board’s meeting Wednesday night.  Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

  • The Temple Planning Board meeting Wednesday night.   Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

  • The Temple Planning Board meeting Wednesday night. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

  • Resident Michael Madden speaks at the Temple Planning Board meeting Wednesday night. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/17/2020 1:02:55 PM

The Temple Planning Board voted Wednesday night to take three proposed zoning changes to March Town Meeting despite calls from residents for more research on how best to tackle affordable housing.

The proposed changes are aimed at making the town’s zoning code less restrictive for building smaller and potentially more affordable homes. The hearing came after two public forums on the proposals were held in late 2019.

“I am perplexed at the urgency to get these initiatives approved when we know that the state is going to come out with not just a toolbox, but training,” said one resident, voicing the concerns of several others in the audience of 42.

Christine Robidoux, who chairs the Temple Community Planning Committee, was one of many residents opposed to moving the proposed zoning changes to the March Town Meeting ballot.

“Communities that are successful in putting in affordable housing work with state and outside resources,” Robidoux said.

Planning Board Chairman Alan Pickman defended the Planning Board saying it is taking proactive measures to increase affordable housing before the state sues or forces the town to change policies.

“We have some of the most restrictive zoning in the state,” Pickman said.

The proposed changes are directed at increasing the number of more-affordable houses in town, by permitting further opportunities for denser, smaller configurations of houses, he said. These developments have the potential to reduce costs associated with shared components like driveways, wells, septic, and foundations, he added.

The three proposed changes build on existing allowances in the zoning code. The first would effectively remove the current requirement that Accessory Dwelling Units be smaller than the primary residence they’re associated with.

“You could split a house right down the middle,” Pickman said.

The second change would be to allow a density bonus for proposed Planned Residential Developments, which would result in more units built within the same development footprint. Current zoning allows Planned Residential Developments. The bonus would allow one additional unit for every two built under 1,600 square feet, which is about two-thirds the size of the average size of houses built in town over the last five years, Pickman said.

Vice-chairman Bruce Kullgren Jr. said that a newly-built house of that size would cost between $225,000 and $275,000.

A third change would be to allow duplexes to be constructed in town. Several residents as well as Pickman said they would like the final proposal to include limits on the size of duplexes.

Residents complained that the proposed changes were not guaranteed to provide affordable housing, much less bring in the young families or retain downsizing elderly like many residents want.

“It’s not clear to me that what’s being proposed in Temple this year are those best practices,” resident Honey Hastings said.

Hastings urged the board to wait for recommendations on best practices for shaping effective affordable housing ordinances.

“The economics doesn’t make sense at all relative to what we’re talking about,” resident Michael Madden said.

Robidoux pointed out that development alone is unlikely to bring a new generation of children into Temple, citing a recent study indicated that every new housing unit built brings in .48 children to an area, with an even lower rate associated with multifamily housing. Robidoux also criticized the greater setback requirements associated with the proposed duplexes and PRD density bonuses.

“The renters are not going to feel as welcome in the community if you’re trying to hide them,” she said.

Planning Board members voted 4 to 3 in favor of putting the proposals to a vote in this year’s town meeting. Board members in favor said despite the vocal opposition of the proposals at recent forums they want to bring the proposed changes to the whole town. Board member Tedd Petro disagreed.

“If they’re not that concerned, we should take the time to do what the people [who show up] are concerned about,” he said.

He added that he didn’t think the board members were accomplishing what they had initially intended to with the initiative and compared the zoning changes as a “band aid” to a larger issue.


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