Lyme Ordinance Ignores Historical Development Patterns

Overview: When Lyme was originally settled, residents created lots that are far smaller than the current ordinance allows. The ordinance (passed in 1989) ignored those historical settlement patterns and de facto legislated that it be much harder to develop housing in Lyme. Today, over a third of parcels across town are non-conforming (that is, smaller than the currently-allowed minimum). 


  • In the Lyme Common District and Lyme Center District, the minimum lot size is 1 acre. However, Lyme’s historical development pattern resulted in 42% (59 of 139) of the parcels in those districts being less than 1 acre.
  • In the Rural District on a state road (Route 10, Dartmouth College Highway, North and East Thetford Roads, Dorchester Road), the minimum lot size is 3 acres. The historical pattern is that 33% (53 of 159) parcels are less than the minimum.
  • In the remainder of the Rural District, the minimum lot size is 5 acres. Traditional development resulted in 33.8% (185 of 547) parcels that are non-conforming.

What change to the “minimum lot size” would it take to make 90% of the lots conforming? That is, how could we change the ordinance so that 90% of the lots conform to the rules?

  • Lyme Common/Lyme Center – 0.35 acres results in 10.8% non-conforming
  • Rural-State Road – 0.9 acres – only 10.1% nonconforming
  • Rural-Town Road – 0.95 acres – only 10.4% nonconforming
  • East Lyme – 0.65 acres – only 11.8% nonconforming
  • Mountain/Forest – 20 acres – only 10.8% nonconforming
  • Commercial and Skiway – no change – all are conforming

Summary: A change to the Minimum Lot Size of 1/3 acre in-town, 1 acre in the Rural and East Lyme districts, and 20 acres in the Mountain/Forest district would match the historical practice of Lyme.

UVLS Regional Housing Needs – methodology

I sent the following information for consideration at the 13 June 2024 Planning Board meeting:

To the Planning Board,

As requested at our last meeting, I reviewed the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) from 2023. The full report is at [1]

The RHNA is a careful study of the housing needs for the region – towns in NH running from Piermont in the north down to Charleston and Washington in the south, and from the Connecticut River east to Dorchester, Grafton, and New London. See the map on page 6 of the RHNA.

The Fair Share report [2] is a readable summary of the methods used. The authors used two separate components to project housing needs.

  1. Projected Population: This uses the 2020 Census figures with the “natural growth” of the population. It also includes a factor in the early years to bring vacancy rates to 5% for rental units, and 2% for ownership units. This latter factor is designed to increase vacancy rates to a healthy level. (Currently many towns, and likely Lyme, see vacancy rates well below 1%, which means that housing prices are being driven up by scarcity.)
  2. Projected Employment: The report allocates housing growth both by population and by state-wide “Labor Market Areas”. Concord/Manchester receive a large fraction of the expected employment growth, Hanover/Lebanon are allocated a lower share because of fewer major employers, and small towns like Lyme get an even smaller share.

Lyme’s Housing Needs

Appendix E & F [3] of that report state that Lyme needs the following new housing units in the future years. These figures are approximate, but show the magnitude that’s required to serve the expected population of the town.

  • by 2025 – 52 new homes (increase of 52 new homes from 2020 to 2025)
  • by 2030 – 98 new homes (increase of 46 new homes from 2025 to 2030)
  • by 2035 – 128 new homes (increase of 30 new homes from 2030 to 2035)
  • by 2040 – 145 new homes (increase of 17 new homes from 2035 to 2040)

What about the “Keys to the Valley” report? That group produced an earlier report, based on 2010 Census information and 2016 American Community Survey update. Some of its data is now incorrect. The 2023 UVLS RHNA report uses newer data, and should be the basis for our analysis.

I asked Olivia Uyizeye from UVLSRPC to review an earlier draft of this note and I incorporated her suggestions. She offered to provide someone from the RPC to be a resource to this discussion if it would be helpful.

I look forward to our meeting this Thursday night. Thanks.

Rich Brown

[1] Full UVLS RHNA 2023 report:
[2] Fair Share Housing Model:
[3] Appendix E&F:

Housing Chapter – 11 April 2024

On Thursday, 11 April 2024, the Lyme Planning Board had a good discussion of how we should set out goals for a Housing Chapter of the Lyme Master Plan. All board members had previously submitted proposed goals. The intent is to present an initial set of goals to the residents of Lyme to get their reaction, and use that to formulate the chapter.

After the meeting, I sent this summary of my notes (appended) to David Robbins, who forwarded them to the other members of the Planning Board.

You can view the video of that meeting at:

Good morning Dave,

Here are my thoughts from last night’s meeting. Would you pass them along to Vicki (and perhaps the other members)? Thanks.

  • Vicki did a terrific job of focusing our disparate thoughts. It was also helpful to hear about the process that Hanover used, and how we can use the best parts of what they did.
  • I agree that we should set out a goal of a certain number of new housing units. (Number to be determined.)
  • I accept the modification of the “kids from Lyme” goal to use criteria like “a person with a good job” should be able to find a housing option. (Income level to be determined).
  • I accept the modification of the “downsizing” goal to the more general goal of permitting multi-family dwellings. (Tim pointed out that these would likely be condos or apartments.)
  • I agree that the discussion of dimensional controls is not a goal. However, I would ask the Board to reserve time to review the existing controls (lot size, lot coverage, setbacks, conservation overlays, etc.) to see how they can help us meet our housing goals.
  • Here’s a simple statement of a Workforce Housing goal. I took it from page 3 of the UVLSRPC Housing Needs Assessment [1]. See also the Workforce Housing information at [2], and [3] below. Proposed goal:
    Lyme will comply with New Hampshire’s Workforce Housing Statute, RSA 674:58-61, which states that all municipalities must provide reasonable and realistic opportunities for the development, as well as their “fair share” of workforce housing stock.
  • We also touched briefly on “mixed use” or “planned development” that combine housing with retail/commercial space. This is a traditional development pattern in small towns (store on first floor, apartments above) that expands the ability for people to work and live in their town. Proposed goal:
    Lyme will expand the parts of town where mixed use or planned developments may be built. (Limits to be determined.)
  • We also touched on the notion of building “closer to town”. I’m not quite sure how to express this as a goal, but allowing this kind of development would help to provision town services (fire, police), health-related (Parish Nurse, home help agencies), and as a partial antidote to loneliness.
  • We should keep in mind that the Planning Board can only affect the rules that govern development. For example, although we can (and should) encourage people to build energy-efficient buildings, we have no ability to enforce or incentivize it.
  • We must avoid circular logic. I felt this was beginning to happen in the context of a “25 unit development”. It’s obvious there must be a significant septic system, which will certainly be expensive. But that’s not a justification to say, “That will be expensive, so the ordinance doesn’t need to allow that kind of use.” Instead, we should require (as we already do) that the applicant demonstrate that a state-approved system can be built, and review the rest of development to see if it meets our goals.

Thanks for a great meeting.


[1] Regional Housing Needs Assessment:
[2] Summary of Workforce Housing Law:
[3] NH Workforce Housing Definition:

Rich Brown for Planning Board

Not everyone could attend Little Town Meeting last night. Here’s what I said at the meeting:


Hi, my name is Rich Brown, and I am running for a seat on the Planning Board.

I live at 84 Orford Road, with my wife Lin, and a small flock of chickens. During my years as a resident of Lyme, I’ve served as a Planning Board alternate, a member of the Budget Committee, and as a Trustee of the Trust Funds. And on Wednesday mornings, I’m a crossing guard at the Lyme School.

Since 2006, I have observed and participated in Planning Board meetings. I am fully acquainted with their procedures and the issues and challenges they face. This year, we’ll consider minor updates for solar arrays and how to encourage senior and other housing options in Lyme. Most importantly, I believe the Board needs to engage with people in town to hear their ideas on how best to tackle these issues.

Thank you again for listening, and please vote for Rich Brown for Planning Board.

Vote Yes on Article 2

At last night’s Little Town Meeting, I spoke in support of Article 2 – the Solar Energy amendment.

As Tim Cook and Hebe Quinton stated, the changes to the ordinance give clear, straightforward guidelines for “small solar energy systems” of up to 2,000 square feet. These will essentially be viewed as “structures”, with the intent that an application for a solar array would be treated the same as one for a garage or barn of similar size. Medium and Large arrays (up to 1 acre, and up to 7 acres) get more stringent review. 

I encourage the Town to approve Article 2.

Solar Energy System Amendment in Lyme

On Thursday 11 January 2024, the Planning Board will hold a Public Hearing to receive feedback on the proposed Solar Energy Systems zoning amendment. (7:00pm in the Town Offices.) Here is a link to the Draft amendment on the Town website:

I am strongly in favor of increasing the amount of solar energy generated in Lyme. And the town is in favor too: in the recent survey over 60% of respondents supported arrays covering up to seven acres.

That said, I am concerned that the proposed amendment contains several “poison pills” that would discourage the development of these systems in Lyme. My concerns relate specifically to section “14.60 Requirements for a Conditional Use Permit”:

1) Power lines to solar arrays must be buried. The proposed amendment states:

14.60.h) All power and communication lines (both on- site and off- site) serving a Ground-mounted Solar Energy System shall be buried underground

At a recent meeting, the Planning Board confirmed that this language was meant to include the power lines running from the main road up to the site of the panels. When asked whether this was a necessary requirement, the general response was, “Well, they’re spending a lot of money on this, so it won’t be much of an increase.”

I would ask the Board to make a clear statement about: 1) what data they used regarding cost of the added expense and 2) why this is an important requirement?

My recommendation would be to remove section 14.60.h completely and rely on the other language in that section that requires solar arrays to be “visually unobtrusive”.

2) Power must primarily be sold to Lyme. The proposed ordinance also states:

14.60.c) Medium and Large Solar Energy Systems may be allowed only if at least 60% of the power generated by each SES will be sold for use at properties in Lyme.

This feels like an unreasonable restriction on the ability to create larger solar arrays. Although it “feels good” to insist that Lyme receive the power, the fact is that any generated power will go into the grid. Furthermore, the Town would need to set up a set of regulations regarding how that 60% will be measured prior to the approval. Finally, what would happen if some of those customers switched, and the percentage fell below 60%? Would the Town revoke their permission to operate?

My recommendation would be to remove section 14.60.c completely. Lyme (and the whole world) all need more electric power, and the Lyme Zoning Ordinance should not introduce unnecessary constraints.

3) Prohibition on clear cutting for five years. The proposed ordinance also states:

14.60.g) A Large Solar Energy System may not not located on a site which has an area of over an acre that has been clear cut within the last 5 years.

This is another “feel good” provision, but it is not supported by the facts. We should definitely protect our forests, for habitat preservation, biodiversity, recreation, and other factors, but not to the exclusion of other important uses. 

First off, Lyme has over 30,000 acres of forested land according to the Lyme Conservation Commission’s Natural Resource Inventory [1]. Creating a small number of five to seven acre sites would not make any significant change to the forests in Lyme.

Second, a landowner can clear cut their land at any time, for any reason, or no reason at all, with only pro-forma approval from the Town. This amendment would introduce a new constraint: “you can clear cut… but only if you are not going to put up solar panels.”

Finally, it is not borne out by the science. An acre of second-growth forest sequesters about a metric ton of carbon per year. In the 80 years or so since Lyme was substantially clear cut for sheep farming, an acre of forest would have accumulated 80 metric tons of carbon. That’s a lot. BUT… if that acre were clear-cut, over two years, an acre of solar panels would generate enough electricity to offset the burning of natural gas to produce that same energy. [1] So in those first two years, the solar panels would replace the carbon stored in that acre of forest. And in every year following, it would save over two hundred times the amount that the acre of forest would have sequestered.

My recommendation would be to remove section 14.60.g entirely, since there is no need to force a five-year delay on a good project.

This proposed zoning amendment is fundamentally a good plan. With the removal of these three restrictions, the residents of Lyme should enthusiastically approve it. If these constraints remain in the ordinance, I am concerned that they will discourage all medium or large solar arrays, and that Lyme will not meet its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030.

[1] Lyme Conservation Commission, Natural Resources Inventory, 2007

[2] Solar panels reduce CO2 emissions more per acre than trees

[3] Proposed Lyme Solar Energy System Amendment, December 2023

Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board, Budget Committee, or Trustees of the Trust Funds where I volunteer. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at

Updates to Town Committee Handbook

The Lyme Select Board is considering modifications to the Town Committee Handbook. The new draft is at

I sent the following comments to the Select Board and asked about feedback they received from others in town and legal advice from Town Counsel and the NH Municipal Association:

To the Select Board,

Thank you for the opportunity to review the most recent draft of the Town Committee Handbook. I am of two minds on the revisions:

  • My reading of RSA 91-A and the backup documents from NHMA indicate that members of public bodies simply should not use social media (which seems to include the Lyme Listserv) for matters related to their body. In fact, at a recent NH BEA webinar for new members, the advice was “DO NOT COMMUNICATE VIA EMAIL (RSA 91-A)” (their caps) and “Do not use social media to discuss applications”
  • On the other hand, we all have First Amendment rights. While it would be inappropriate to comment on an application that’s pending before a board, who better to offer insights into a decided issue (for example, an Article that’s posted on the Warrant) than someone who has participated fully in the discussion?

Personally, I have come to believe the first position is best. Just don’t use the Listserv. This inarguably complies with the letter and intent of RSA 91-A. There are plenty of other venues for offering opinions: letter to the editor, ad in the Valley News, a personal blog or website, etc.

That said, I would like the Board to address the following questions when they next discuss the issue:

  • Have you circulated the proposed wording to chairs of public bodies in town? What feedback have you received?
  • Have you sent the draft wording to both Town Counsel and NHMA? What advice have you received?

Thank you again for all the work you do for Lyme.

Rich Brown

PS The current (2022) version of the Town Committee Handbook is at:

Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board, Budget Committee, or Trustees of the Trust Funds where I volunteer. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at

Believe them…

When people tell you what they are going to do, believe them.

In tomorrow’s election, only one party is saying that they want to insert government officials into medical decisions, to limit the right to vote, and then to permit state officials to overrule the clear vote of the people.

These are not American values. And once they are lost, they cannot be regained.

Even if you don’t care for the policies of the other candidates, please do not give your support people who say these things. Vote for Democrats.

Note: these opinions are solely my own, and certainly not those of any public body on which I may serve.

Update on Housing Chapter

The Planning Board began talking about a Housing Chapter for the Lyme Master Plan at their last meeting. I got to distribute my thoughts on housing (from my posting in June) which began a discussion of the issues.

You can watch the proceedings on the video on Youtube. (The link goes to the start of the discussion.)

I expect the Planning Board will solicit input and feedback from residents of Lyme – please watch your mailbox, the Listserv and posters around town for announcements.

Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board, Budget Committee, or Trustees of the Trust Funds where I volunteer. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at

Lyme is Aging

I had an opportunity to look at the Census data for Lyme. I charted the data for 2010 and 2020.

Here’s what I see in this data:

  • Lyme’s median age is now 46.5 years, having increased by three and a half years between 2010 and 2020. Today’s median age is even above the New Hampshire median of 43.1 years, and much higher than the national value of 38.8 years. Wikipedia
  • Lyme’s population decreased in that decade.
  • Like most of NH, a significant number of 20-30 year olds moved away. The loss of 20-24 year olds is particularly acute in Lyme.
  • The chart shows a significant loss of 40-60 year olds over the decade. These people typically have reached a stable point in their lives, and provide vitality and leadership for a town.
  • At the same time, there is a large increase in 65-75 year olds. Although the joke goes, “Seventy is the new fifty…” this population will use increasingly larger amounts of service.
  • There is a significant decrease in the number of school age children, following the demographic trends across the country.

Are any of these trends important for Lyme’s future?

The raw data was retrieved from US Census, American Community Survey at:

Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board, Budget Committee, or Trustees of the Trust Funds where I volunteer. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at