Planning Board Continues Review of Workforce Housing Revisions

The Planning Board walked through revisions to a Zoning amendment intended to satisfy state statutes related to workforce housing while promoting diverse affordable housing options that fit the character of Londonderry.

Town Planner Cynthia May told the Board at its Wednesday, June 10 meeting that the addition of accessory dwelling units to the ordinance will “go a long way” toward meeting the Town’s statutory mandate for providing workforce housing, and will provide more flexibility moving forward.

According to May, the rationale behind accessory dwelling units counting toward the Town’s obligation to provide workforce housing is that they tend to be small and therefore less expensive to construct and less expensive to rent.

“It makes the law harder to challenge because we have that provision and other opportunities for affordable housing,” she said.

Member Al Sypek recommended the addition of a reporting requirement that would mandate homeowners report to the Town in the event they move and rent out the primary dwelling unit in addition to the accessory dwelling unit.

The amendment was also revised to include a paragraph establishing the Planning Board as solely responsible for the interpretation and administration of the section related to workforce housing, including the granting of all related conditional use permits.

“This restates and makes clear the authority and discretion the Board has in dealing with inclusionary housing approvals,” said Jonathan Edwards of Arnett Development Group, who worked with planning staff to draft the amendment.

The amendment also sets new limitations on the size of multi-family workforce housing projects – the maximum building length for any multi-family workforce buildings will be 150 feet, and the length of a building plane closest to the front of the property line and visible from the street will not exceed 75 feet.

“I don’t want to see anything larger than Vista Ridge,” said member Chris Davies, who asked Edwards how the Town could incentivize smaller, townhome-style, multi-family workforce housing developments.

Such projects are incentivized by allowing a developer the opportunity to construct more market-value units, according to Edwards.

“Say you would like to promote six-unit construction with some workforce housing. The ratio of workforce housing would have to be more like 20 percent,” he said, adding the changes in the ordinance could also result in a much wider diversity of housing.

Other additions to the conditional use permit criteria for workforce housing include the requirement workforce housing units be constructed at the same rate as market-rate units in the development; all workforce housing units be completed and made available for sale or rental before the final 10 percent of the market-rate units are approved for occupancy within the same development; at least 51 percent of dwelling units on a development lot in any inclusionary housing development contain at least two bedrooms; a minimum of two parking spaces per dwelling unit be provided for all dwelling units in an inclusionary multi-family development; and no parking be permitted between the building and the street.

The Board agreed to bring the amendment back for discussion at its July 8 meeting. If the amendment is approved in July, it would move on to the Town Council in August.