Planning Board Postpones Hearing on Amendments to Workforce Housing

The Planning Board postponed to its May 13 meeting a public hearing on amendments to the zoning ordinance related to Workforce Housing.

Town Planner Cynthia May said Town Attorney Mike Ramsdell has recommended additional changes that should be considered with the amendments that were posted for the April 8 public hearing.

Sections of the Workforce Housing ordinance that are proposed to be amended include Phasing of Developments, the Use Table, Agricultural-Residential District, Inclusionary Housing, Retention of Housing Affordability, General Standards for MUC (mixed Use Commercial) Sub-district, Backlot Development, Elderly Housing, Conditional Use Permits, Assisted Living Facilities and Nursing Homes, and Minimum Parking and Loading Required.

Among Ramsdell’s recommendations was the addition of language at the end of the “Use Table” permitting multi-family workforce housing on lots adjacent to commercial and industrial districts as a transition between those zones and low density residential zones.

May said there were questions about whether or not the proposed amendments as they exist limit where multi-family housing would be permitted because there are so few Agriculture-III Districts in town.

“Commercial and Industrial land tends to be higher priced, and it may be by virtue of that fact alone that may preclude workforce housing,” May said.

The suggested language to be added with the proposed amendment is, “Multi-family workforce housing may be permitted on lots adjacent to commercial and industrial districts, provided that the proposed development meets the Conditional Use Criteria for workforce housing.”

May said it was also suggested the section related to Small Workforce Housing Developments be amended in two places to clearly reference the applicable New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services regulations.

To prevent a burden on planning staff, it was additionally recommended the section of the ordinance related to Administration, Compliance and Monitoring: Assurance of Continued Affordability be amended to separate the requirements for rental and ownership workforce housing; to include a statement that a qualified third-party reporting entity must have expertise in determining eligibility of prospective owners and renters; to require submission of an affidavit of compliance with the ordinance certifying income eligibility prior to the sale of workforce housing units, with rental to be provided in an annual report to the Town, sales to be reported at each transaction and an affidavit reflected in the deed; and to provide a reference to the enforcement and penalty sections in the ordinance for non-compliance.

May said written confirmation of income eligibility will ensure rent is not exceeding what the State requires, and the third-party reviewer required by the ordinance would be paid for by the applicant for workforce housing.

“We will check the third-parties out. We’ll work on that part,” May said, noting the ordinance requirements will not put undue stress on the Planning Department. “I think this is better than what we had there. This is adding more teeth.”

Member Lynn Wiles raised a concern with the fact that the cost of rent for a workforce housing unit is tied to the median income of the region, and how that could affect a property manager’s ability to afford operating costs, should the median income in the region drop dramatically.

Member Leitha Reilly asked if there will be reports by owners to check the income of workforce housing renters every year.

“The objective (of Workforce Housing) is to be affordable the first time,” May said. “If you have the good fortune of tripling your income, then that’s great for you.”

A final amendment added to those the Board and public will consider at the May 13 public hearing is related to Elderly Housing.

The change reverts the maximum density per acre for elderly housing back to six units per acre in the AR-I District, as well as an increase of Elderly Affordable to eight units per acre.

The amendment as it was originally proposed could render regular elderly housing unbuildable because the costs of developing it wouldn’t be recouped because of the density, May told the Board.

The full text of the proposed amendment is available on the Town’s website at www.londonderrynh.org, or may be viewed in the Town Clerk’s Office, the Planning and Economic Department and at the Leach Library.

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