In 2012, the Planning Board had no changes in membership from the previous year. The Board met monthly with a few additional special meetings for a site visit or discussion about topics of interest. Planning Boards are charged by the State of New Hampshire with regulatory and nonregulatory functions.
In the area of Regulatory Functions, the Harrisville Planning Board had a few applications for land changes; we approved one 2-lot subdivision in March, two lot line adjustments, one in January and one in October, and two voluntary mergers of small, shoreland lots. These applications created a fairly light demand on our time. We did revise the minor subdivision application forms, trying to make it more user-friendly. The new application forms are available on the rack at the Town Offices.
One more time-consuming regulatory issue was an application for an earth excavation permit. This involved a process not taken since the early 1990’s, so town officials had to be sure that they reviewed and followed the correct procedure. After thorough review of the applications by the ZBA, the Planning Board, abutters, Conservation Commission and a site visit, the Planning Board approved the permit.This process exposed a redundancy in public notification and public hearings, which has lead to a proposed zoning ordinance change discussed below.
The Planning Board has non-regulatory functions, too. The Board kept informed of both the Natural Resources Inventory (NRI) initiated by the Conservation Commission, and with the work of the Master Plan committee. These two initiatives are interrelated. The NRI will lead most directly into land use recommendations of the Master Plan, perhaps the core of the Master Plan. Since the NRI has involved many meetings, forums and consultations, it has not been completed in 2012. This has caused the intended Master Plan schedule to be delayed, so the draft version that will be used to solicit public input has not been completed yet. The 2012 Master Plan report indicates that 2013 is the year targeted for its completion.
During 2012, the New Hampshire Legislature passed a significant number of bills that do or may have an impact on the way Planning Boards and towns do their business. In an effort to understand these changes, Planning Board members attended informative lectures sponsored by the Local Government Center.
The Planning Board co-chairs also met once during the year with the Selectmen and the chairs of the ZBA and Conservation Commission in a continuation of 2010’s initiative to make procedures consistent and open. These land-use board head meetings, ideally held quarterly, also include participation from the Town Clerk and other key town officials. This year, the one meeting focused on applications and permits, and the Selectmen have begun to create a flow chart for the many types of permitting. Good communication has begun and the hope is that this work can continue productively.
Although volunteers fill almost all town boards and committees, the work requires significant knowledge of regulations and procedures. The hope is that Board members perform their tasks professionally. As a means of fulfilling this expectation, the Planning Board initiated an internal conversation about its long-term development in recruiting concerned and capable citizens as members and alternates. The Board also started a conversation about a succession plan that will allow the Board’s quality of work to continue; this conversation will continue in 2013.
The Planning Board is the entity to initiate revisions or amendments to the town’s Zoning Ordinances. Based on topics that emerged in 2012, the Board recommended three changes:
1. To permit earth excavation, in compliance with RSA 155-E, in the Residential and Agricultural District. This removes the redundancy of a noticed public hearing in front of both the ZBA and the Planning Board; it does not soften or relinquish any requirements for an earth excavation permit.
2. To remove confusion concerning a distinction between a home occupation and a home-based business in Zoning Article IV, General Provisions, and the blurring of this distinction in Article XXVI, Definitions, the Board proposed a new definition of the two terms.
3. To put the town in alignment with RSA 483-B (2012 version) and to have all regulations pertaining to the lakeside district included in Article IX, Lakeside Residential District, the Board proposed to Eliminate Article XV, Shoreland Overlay Ordinance, entirely and to add under Article IX, “All activity within the Lakeside District shall adhere to RSA 483-B, the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act.”
NB: at the January Public Hearing on these three zoning amendments, after public input and discussion, the Planning Board voted to proceed with the first two proposed amendments but to withdraw the Shoreland change from public vote until the Board had more information and deliberation on the topic.
Many thanks to all who worked on meetings, committees and gave us administrative help, which made the Planning Board’s work go more smoothly. We also extend great thanks and appreciation to our fellow Planning Board members and alternates who worked so hard during the year: Noel Greiner, Bob Sturgis, Heri Tryba, Anne Havill, and Selectmen Jay Jacobs and Charles Michal.
Sherry Sims and Ned Hulbert, Co-chairs