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: https://www.uvlsrpc.org/project/Regional_Housing_Needs_Assessment_2022_175/
[2] Fair Share Housing Model: https://www.uvlsrpc.org/files/6316/9420/6178/New_Hampshire_Fair_Share_Modeling_report_FINAL.pdf
[3] Appendix E&F: https://www.uvlsrpc.org/files/8516/8053/2893/UVLS_RHNA_AppE-F.pdf

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: https://youtu.be/icxSjH3ZyUA


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.

Rich

[1] Regional Housing Needs Assessment: https://www.uvlsrpc.org/files/4016/7700/5373/UVLS_RHNA_Final.pdf
[2] Summary of Workforce Housing Law: https://www.nhhfa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/NH_Workforce_Housing_Law_Summary.pdf
[3] NH Workforce Housing Definition: https://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/LXIV/674/674-58.htm

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: https://www.lymenh.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif4636/f/uploads/solar_energy_systems_draft_for_web.pdf

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 https://www.lymenh.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif4636/f/uploads/natural_resources_inventory.pdf

[2] Solar panels reduce CO2 emissions more per acre than trees https://blogs.law.columbia.edu/climatechange/2022/10/25/response-to-the-new-york-times-essay-are-there-better-places-to-put-large-solar-farms-than-these-forests/

[3] Proposed Lyme Solar Energy System Amendment, December 2023  https://www.lymenh.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif4636/f/uploads/solar_energy_systems_draft_for_web.pdf


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 richb.lyme@gmail.com.

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 richb.lyme@gmail.com.

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: https://bit.ly/LymeCensus-2010-2020


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 richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Pleased by Solar Energy Amendment

I am pleased by the work by the Lyme Planning Board has done regarding a proposed Solar Energy amendment. This change to the ordinance will need approval at Town Meeting in March 2023 go into effect.

The new language will permit individuals to install up to 40 kW of solar panels with minimal regulation. (A solar installation for an “average home” is typically between 6kW and 15kW, and would provide adequate energy for electric heat pumps and charging electric vehicles.) The panels of a 40kW would have a footprint of approximately 2,000 square feet – about the size of a modest barn. If you could install a barn of that size, you will only need a zoning permit install a similar size array. This draft language is fairly well complete.

Larger arrays (up to 400kW, with footprints of up to 20,000 square feet) would be allowed with a Conditional Use Permit. The language permitting these larger arrays is still a work in progress to be discussed at upcoming Planning Board meetings, notably September 8 and 22.

Here are links to the relevant documents:

I would be curious to hear your thoughts about this proposal. Thanks!


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 richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Housing for Lyme

This is a good time for the Lyme Planning Board to be thinking about housing. In every workshop I attend, experts talk about the housing crisis in New Hampshire (and the country). DH has 1,900 openings, and is losing excellent candidates because they have to drive too far to find a home. NHHFA says the state needs about 20,000 homes now to relieve the tight housing market. The UVLSRPC reports that the Upper Valley needs 3,000 to 5,000 homes to meet the needs of employers in the next 8 years.

At the same time, local volunteer organizations (Fire Department, FAST Squad, Those Guys, CCL, etc) struggle to find people to handle their traditional tasks. Local businesses have cut back their services and hours, in part, because of a lack of availability of staff.

I realize that the Planning Board cannot “build new homes”. But the provisions of the ordinance can either promote or inhibit many kinds of development. I would like to see the Board set goals for the kinds of housing we want to see over the next 10 years.

My question: How can our ordinance help our children move back and thrive in Lyme?

Housing Topics to Consider
  • New Homes: What is Lyme’s “fair share” of new housing in light of these demands? How many new homes should we plan for in the next 10 years?
  • Workforce Housing: How does the NH Workforce Housing Law apply to Lyme’s ordinance?
  • Lot Sizes: Lyme seems to have unusually large lot size requirements and restrictive dimensional controls. What purpose do they serve? Are those reasons still valid?
  • Sprawl: How can the Ordinance encourage people to build closer to town? This would minimize travel time (and energy use), decrease their isolation, and avoid breaking up open space/forests
  • Economics: How much weight should the Board place on the financial aspects of construction? Purchasing the land, installing a driveway, water, septic, etc. all push up the cost of a home. Would it be reasonable to allow higher density in parts of town so these costs could be shared across multiple homes?
  • Conservation: What is a good balance between developed and conserved land?
  • Public Transportation: Could Lyme ever sustain it? How could we find out?
  • Energy use: How can the ordinance encourage people to use less energy, especially fossil fuel? Possibilities include minimize driving, shared walls for heating/cooling, shared infrastructure to minimize the energy used for construction.
  • Property tax revenue: Homes on small parcels bring in 8 to 10 times the tax revenue per acre as compared to larger parcels. Should Lyme consider permitting construction on smaller lots or other means of increased density?
  • Local businesses: What effect does the population of town have on the success of local businesses?
Who will live here, and what effect will the Ordinance have on people’s lives?
  • We should consider the demographics of Lyme: who lives here now, and who we expect to live here in 10 years.
  • What services will they need? Schools? Health care? Grocery store? Retail? Barber shop? Funeral home? Restaurant? Plumber? Electrician? Garden or lawn help? What else?
  • How can the ordinance encourage a good life in Lyme?
How can the Planning Board come up with a plan?
  • I would ask the Board to make a concerted effort to get input from residents
  • We can look to the success of the Community Attitude Survey process in 2006 which included a detailed survey, house parties, mailings, and other means to garner interest and responses from people in town
  • We can engage local experts, such as the Parish Nurses, Overseer of the Public Welfare, Community Care of Lyme, Lyme Town boards and committees, and others.
  • We can seek out local businesses, developers, and other stakeholders to get their perspective on how housing issues affect them.
  • We can gather the information either in public meetings or in private interviews, with notes presented at the next meeting.
  • We could consider hiring a consultant to help with planning and arrangements

Updated Sep 2022 to include my goal about making it possible for our children to move back to Lyme. Updated August 2023 to remove specific reference to “Housing Chapter”


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 richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Candidate Statements: Planning Board and Trustee of the Trust Funds

I am running for two elected positions in Lyme. Here are my candidate statements:

Rich Brown Candidate Statement:
Planning Board

I don’t believe in complaining. Instead, I think it’s important for people to offer their services to help solve town problems.

I have volunteered as an alternate member of the Planning Board for last three years. When a regular member is not present, I frequently am asked to sit in their place. This gives me an understanding of the requirements and processes of the Board.

I am now running for a full, elected seat on the Planning Board. I am pleased that the Board is considering solar panel installations, and I look forward to working on options for housing later this year.

I moved with my wife (Lin Brown, rheumatologist) to Lyme seven years ago, having lived in the Upper Valley for more than forty years. I spend time on the Those Guys tent crew, as a local business owner (Loch Lyme Lodge), as a manager of LymeFiber, and as a volunteer school crossing guard at the Lyme School.

I will bring the same energy to the Planning Board as I have brought to the Tax Fairness discussion. You can see my thoughts about planning and taxes on my blog at: richb-lyme.com

I ask for your vote on the ballot at Town Meeting, Tuesday, March 8. Thank you.

Rich Brown
795-2525


Rich Brown Candidate Statement:
Trustee of the Trust Funds

As a trustee for Lyme’s Trust Funds, I will monitor the performance of the investment advisor that the Town hires to ensure that they meet the investment guidelines. In addition, I will work to ensure the funds entrusted to those funds are properly disbursed.

For more information about me, see my Candidate Statement for Planning Board.

I ask for your vote on the ballot at Town Meeting, Tuesday, March 8. Thank you.

Rich Brown
795-2525


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 richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Update: How much did your property tax increase?

Sent to the Lyme Listserv on 22 February 2022:

I just filed for an abatement since our Lyme property tax bill went up 31% for no obvious reason. Although other properties went up by similar amounts, tax bills for many other properties actually decreased. You can see the changes for your street at the Tax Fairness website:  https://taxfairness.github.io/Taxes2021/

The abatement form is at: https://www.lymenh.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif4636/f/uploads/revisedabatementform.pdf

It’s long, but pretty straightforward. I attach the answers I provided on my application below – you are free to use them and modify for your situation.

IMPORTANT: The deadline for filing for an abatement is next Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Please get back to me if you have any questions. Thanks.

Rich Brown
795-2525


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 richb.lyme@gmail.com.


Outline for Lyme Property Tax Abatement Form – Deadline – Tuesday, 1 March 2022

Sections A and B: Fill in your name and address

Section C: Fill in the property address to be abated

Section D – Other properties: Fill in the addresses of other properties you own (if any)

Section E: Reason for Abatement Application

In 2021, the Town of Lyme spent 4% more than in the previous year. If all property valuations increased the same amount relative to others, we all would expect our tax bills to increase by about 4% (in the absence of significant improvements or changes to the homes.)

The tax on my property increased by $4,164, that’s a 31% increase ($13,381 in 2020 to $17,545 in 2021). This is about eight times the expected increase.

This increase is disproportionate to other properties in town, especially those properties whose taxes went down this year. As examples, see the data presented to the Select Board on 10 February 2022 for Breck Hill Road, 85 Dartmouth College Highway, and Wilmott Way (attached)

Finally, this disproportionate assessment, if left to stand, will continue for the next five years, increasing the unfairness relative to other properties in town.

Section F: Taxpayer’s opinion of Market Value

As a non-professional, I do not know how to set a value on my property. Furthermore, my opinion is immaterial since the Town hired a professional assessor last year to set correct property values as part of the five-year Revaluation process.

What factors did the Assessor use to set the value of my property? What comparable properties were considered?

Finally, the question “Would you sell your property for this assessment?” is unfair and unreasonable. Not only is my property not currently for sale, but I have no recourse to this opinion. In an arms-length transaction, I can accept or reject the buyer’s offer. I have no option with the town, except to file this abatement.

If you own multiple properties, you might include this statement:

I do not agree with the statement in Section D that “[all properties] must be considered in determining … a disproportionate assessment.” If one property is incorrectly assessed, its value should be corrected, regardless of whether any other properties are correct or not. If one property is 10% too high, and another 10% too low, it doesn’t “balance out”. That’s still unfair.

Sections H and I: Signatures and certifications… Deadline is Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Tax Increases – 85 Dartmouth College Highway: https://taxfairness.github.io/Taxes2021/Tax_Increases_85_Dartmouth_College_Highway.pdf

Tax Increases – Breck Hill Road: https://taxfairness.github.io/Taxes2021/Tax_Increases_Breck_Hill_Road.pdf

Tax Increases – Wilmott Way: https://taxfairness.github.io/Taxes2021/Tax_Increases_Wilmott_Way.pdf