Planning Commission hears first five suggestions on new zoning ordinances

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MANCHESTER >> The public had its voice heard Monday at the first of two hearings on changes to the zoning bylaws.

More than 30 attended the meeting, asking questions about how to maintain businesses and the historical character of the town. The downtown, two mixed use areas, town center and an office/industrial district were all identified under each analysis category. Each was explained for about 15 minutes by Consultant, Brandy Saxton, of Place Sense.

The proposal for the core downtown design garnered the most attention. Goals to support zoning would allow for walking and biking, decrease congestion with improved access management surrounding interconnected streets, protect the historic buildings and neighborhood character and to maintain and restore the traditional development pattern when necessary.

For dimensional standards, Saxton said that the lot size would decrease from 8,000 square feet to 3,000 square feet and the density would increase from five density units to 30 density units. Currently there isn't a standard for building footprints so it's suggested to be set at 6,000 square feet maximum. The building height would also change from 35 feet maximum up to 50 feet maximum, but limiting stories to just two.

The overall objective would be to incorporate multi-family housing and lodging downtown, but potentially remove car sales lots due to the amount of space they take up. Some felt this would put owners out of business. Further discussion of specific details will take place at the beginning of 2017 once ordinances are decided on, Saxton said.

"To be honest, when you show those pictures of Hanover, N.H. as a suggestion of what the zoning rewrite could result it, it was horrifying," Manchester resident Brad Myerson said. "We have a historic townscape. To have four or more stories in a downtown based on where we have larger, traditional buildings from different eras To use what has happened in Hanover, N.H. it looks like a European city. To me, it's inconceivable."

The idea is to increase building size, but continue to build and renovate with styles that are already existent. Myerson added that he doesn't like establishments that would "stick out like a sore thumb."

Resident, and Manchester Fire Chief, Phil Bourn, expressed his concern for rezoning around his business, saying that he's attempted to get it commercialized for years.

"You're trying to bring more commercial businesses in the commercial core of Manchester but you gotta make more commercial space downtown where it should be," Bourn said.

The first mixed use zone trails out of downtown on Bonnet Street, Main Street, Center Hill, Elm Street and Depot Street areas. Storm water management was something noted in this geography. Lot size and coverage will decrease. Additions would include single and multi-family housing, lodging, personal and business services, and veterinary and animal services. One change includes having retail switch from permitted to conditional with limiting sizing. Dwelling units could also be increased to 10 per acre.

The removal of car sales, micro-breweries, light food processing and light industry is something the audience partially disagreed with. Folks were unsure of the term definitions. The light food industry is something that doesn't create mass production, but only on a small retail schedule. Micro-breweries don't sell food.

"It's a matter of scale," Janet Hurley, zoning administrator, said. "I think the concerns we're hearing about is about scale. There are some smaller scale things that we do allow in there and are appropriate."

The second mixed use area is located further away from the downtown between Bonnet Street and Barnumville Road as well as Richville Road, Natural Form Way and Airport Road. Additions include lodging, lawn and farm supply, personal businesses, commercial kitchens, performance theaters, museums, event facilities and indoor recreation, spas and fitness clubs. The only removal includes campgrounds and children's summer camps.

The idea for the town core, where the outlets are located, is to build multi-family housing, lodging, personal businesses and veterinary services. Light industry could be removed, and auto-oriented uses could change from permitted to conditional. This would ultimately allow for mixed-use redevelopment and infill, corporate architecture, public gathering places and streetscaping.

Lastly, office and industrial space is located off Main Street and Pig Pen Road, on the green beside Route 7 and Natural Form Way, and parallel to Route 7 heading east. The only suggestion for this area is to add professional or business offices, a bank, a sales lot, lawn or farm supply, a commercial kitchen, indoor/outdoor recreation and veterinary services.

The next meeting will focus on the latter portion of the zoning ordinances at 7 p.m. at the town hall on Sept. 26. For more information and to look at the presentation from Monday night, visit placesense.com and click on Manchester under 'Current Projects.'

— Contact Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471.


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