Next stop for zoning plan: Select Board hearing

MANCHESTER — The proposed overhaul of the town's zoning ordinance and its accompanying new zoning map are on their way to the Manchester Select Board.

The Planning Commission, after working through a final two hours of minor revisions, voted 5-0 to grant final approval Monday night.

Once planning and zoning director Janet Hurley finalizes edits approved by the board, the ordinance will go to the Select Board for a public hearing, anticipated for the board's March 20 meeting, followed by a potential up or down vote. That hearing must be publicly warned with at least 15 days notice, and that warning is expected to be published next week.

The timing is important because as soon as the Select Board takes possession of the plan, Hurley's office must consider any applications that come before it under both the existing and the proposed zoning bylaws.

What's bound for the Select Board is a plan intended to promote a walkable and vibrant downtown and the development of workforce housing in and around the town center. It's also intended to encourage the conservation of open space and agricultural uses, and streamline the map and regulations to make them easier to understand and use.

On Monday, the commission put the finishing touches on a few outstanding issues, most notably refining a proposal to mitigate additional building height that will be allowed in the Downtown district by terracing the top floors.

The commission stipulated that in new construction 35 feet or higher, everything above 30 feet from the ground must be set back 10 feet from the front facade.

At earlier hearings, residents expressed concerns that the additional height allowance would change the character of downtown. But the commission felt the additional height was needed to promote mixed-use construction.

The commission also voted to allow the owners of parcels between 4 and 10 acres in the Rural Residential and Rural Agricultural districts to obtain a "density bonus" to subdivide their lots, as long as they agree to conservation restrictions on a percentage of the land — 50 percent in the Rural Residential district, and 70 percent in Rural Agricultural. That bonus would allow for three lots per 5 acres in the Rural Residential section, or three units per 10 acres on the Rural Agricultural district.

The commission also decided to allow inns on a conditional basis in the R-10 district, noting that bed and breakfasts are already allowed in those areas.


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