Changes Proposed at Planning Board to Commercial Zoning

The planning department is in the very early stages of creating a Commercial Performance Zone (CPZ) that would replace the existing Route 102 and Route 28 Performance Overlay Zones and subsume the current C-I and C-II commercial districts into this new zone. As proposed, the CPZ would be adopted as an Innovative Land Use Control under New Hampshire RSA 674:21. If approved, planning waivers for projects in the CPZ would evaluated by the Planning Board instead of the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA).

Town Planner Colleen Mailloux introduced an initial draft of the proposal at a recent Planning Board meeting.

According to Mailloux, “The CPZ would incorporate many of the same, or stricter, standards of the old overlay district, but would allow for additional flexibility for allowed uses in the Route 102 and Route 28 corridors.” That flexibility comes in the form of lattitude given to the Planning Board to review waivers in the context of the entire project on the proposed site. No changes are proposed to the Conservation Overlay District rules, so those rules would still apply for any properties in the CPZ.

She stressed that the goal of the CPZ is to simplify regulations and provide consistency in zoning in commercial areas. Currently, the zoning map of Londonderry shows many areas where C-I zoned parcels are mixed in with C-II zoned parcels. The CPZ would put all C-I and C-II parcels under the CPZ regulation.

Mailloux summarized the differences between the new CPZ and current regulation for C-1 and C-II zoned properties in regards to the existing Route 102 and Route 28 Performance Overlay Zones. The most substantial differences relate to size of buildings that would be allowed in the CPZ zone. The maximum building height would be reduced to 45 feet from 50 feet under current regulations. However, the maximum footprint allowed for a building as a percentage of the total property size would no longer be capped at 25%. Maillhoux pointed out that while the footprint could be larger, the regulations limiting the amount of impervious surface, required road setbacks and necessary vegetation would remain in place limiting the practical footprint.

Planning Board members expressed concern that if they granted a specific waiver for one development they would be obligated to allow it for all other developments. Maillhoux assured them that this typically would not be the case. If there were substantive differences between projects because the Planning Board would be reviewing waivers in the content of that specific project, these would not set precedents.

In the coming months, the Planning Department will continue to get input from the Planning Board. There will be public information sessions and discussions with affected property owners. After collecting this input, the Planning Department will prepare final language for consideration by the Planning Board which will hold a formal public hearing. The Planning Board would then make a recommendation to the Town Council which will ultimately vote to approve or reject the new zone.

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