Hopes for Solar Energy Installations

I am sending the following information to the Planning Board members as they consider revisions to the Lyme Zoning Ordinance to regulate renewable energy such as solar panels. It is also posted to my blog: https://richb-lyme.com

In light of the Town’s overwhelming approval at Town Meeting 2020 for the goal of 100% reliance on renewable energy by 2030, with heating and transportation by 2050, and the urgency expressed in the proposed Energy Chapter for the Master Plan [1], I want to ensure that any rules we create actually solve problems for Lyme residents.

In particular, I want to avoid the situation where rules limit the size of solar arrays to the point that they don’t meet the needs of the families who wish to install them. Consequently, I advocate that any rules regarding “residential solar energy”:

  • Acknowledge that climate change is an emergency
  • Ensure that zoning rules become “more permissive for the use of renewable energy sources” as cited in Recommendation #2 of the Energy Chapter.
  • Permit an installation of solar panels that meet at least 100% of needs of a residence
  • Encourage roof-mount systems but permit ground-mount arrays as a matter of right
  • With an eye toward the practical characteristics of typical solar arrays (below)…
  • Modify dimensional controls such as lot coverage, footprint, and other constraints to allow this use
  • Enable those parcels with a wide southern exposure to install solar arrays. Some parcels may not work, but the zoning rules should not be the limiting factor
  • Ensure that other requirements, such as conservation overlays, screening, or visual impact do not trump a homeowner’s right to install solar panels

I look forward to discussing this at the upcoming Public Hearing for the Energy Chapter, 9 September 2021. The meeting is at 7:00pm in the Town Offices. (Note: an earlier version posted the wrong date.)

Rich Brown
richb.lyme@gmail.com

Practical Characteristics of Solar Panels

In previous meetings, I didn’t feel I had a good grasp of what a realistic solar installation might “look like”. I collected the information below from the Model Solar Zoning Ordinance for NH [2] and discussions with a regional solar installation company [3].

  • Average homes today are installing 6-7 kW arrays. These panels may fit on a roof, or may need a ground mount. If the latter, they would occupy roughly 350 square feet, with a height of 7-9 feet.
  • Solar installers currently see a demand for larger (10-15kW) arrays for homes that require additional capacity for heat pumps and electric vehicles. Those solar panels will almost certainly not fit on a roof, so the footprint to accommodate these could be two or three times (700 to 1,000 square feet, again about 7-9 feet tall.)
  • Solar arrays today cost roughly $3/Watt fully installed. A 7kW array would cost $21,000; a 15kW array would cost $45,000.
  • The payback period for solar arrays is about 8-10 years. There is little financial incentive for anyone to massively overbuild residential solar panels.
  • For scale, two parking spaces for cars (usually 10×20 feet for each car, or 400 square feet total) is a little larger than an “average home solar array”
  • A typical two-car garage is 400sf (20×20 feet), and about 15-20 feet tall, larger than a typical 6-7 kW ground-mount array.

[1] Proposed Energy Chapter for the Lyme Master Plan – https://www.lymenh.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif4636/f/uploads/energy.chpt_.masterplan.final_.06.2.2021.pdf

[2] Model Solar Zoning Ordinance for NH: https://2aea07fd-ae17-4f19-8c1e-aa11bccfcdc2.filesusr.com/ugd/c6c29c_c3f6d0279dfe4037bfb95bfa28b041e5.pdf

[3] Personal correspondence, Kim Quirk, ReVision Energy, Enfield


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board where I am an alternate member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Building Smart for Stronger Communities

The Keys to the Valley project hosts a (Zoom) event to talk about Building Smart for Stronger Communities today at noon. You can still register for the session at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAkc-2qrzktEtVY3rtgsh2fPeiI2pzUn05Y or sign up for their other events from their home page.

I plan to attend all the sessions. I hope to see you there!


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board where I am an alternate member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Planning Board Election Results-2021

First off, I want to thank everyone for their support of my run for a Planning Board seat. This morning, I sent a note of congratulations to John Stadler on the election.

As the Planning Board works through their promises for action on housing, may I call on you for help to provide public input for their process?

Best regards,

Rich Brown
795-2525
www.richb-lyme.com


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board where I am an alternate member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Note for the Lyme Town Candidate’s Page

I have asked to have the following message to be posted on the Lyme Town Website page for candidate statements

Looking for my thoughts on the Senior Housing amendment? See my previous post

Position on Planning Board: Rich Brown

My name is Rich Brown, and I am running for Planning Board. I moved with my wife (Lin Brown, a rheumatologist at DHMC) to Lyme six years ago, having lived for over forty years in the Upper Valley. In my time in Lyme, I have been involved with Those Guys, as an alternate on the Planning Board, as a local business owner (Loch Lyme Lodge), as a manager for LymeFiber, and for fun, I’m a beekeeper and The Juggler Man!

The Planning Board is the body that writes the rules for where and how people can build housing in Lyme. As part of educating myself about the issues, I have attended national, state, and local housing conferences. I have learned:

  • Housing is expensive: modestly-priced homes are scarce
  • Restrictive zoning rules are a major cause of high cost and limited supply
  • To downsize, or simply to live more lightly on the land, people usually must look outside Lyme

I feel a sense of urgency about our housing problems in Lyme. In 2016, the informal “Aging in Place” group proved the need for senior housing. Regrettably, it has taken the Planning Board five years to bring forward a Senior Housing amendment. The Board envisions another year of study before considering whether to expand it to other parts of town. This is not solving problems for Lyme.

I feel the same urgency for other kinds of housing. I know of at least five Lyme families who are seeking smaller homes who probably will not be able to remain in town. This Board has consistently voted against at multiple proposals over the years that could have been helpful to these families.

If elected, I will advocate for a variety of housing types to enhance the community and to live up to the Master Plan’s recommendation to “… allow a diversity of housing types suitable for people in a broad range of economic circumstances.”

I would appreciate your vote for the Planning Board position. You can read more at www.richb-lyme.com or contact me at richb.lyme@gmail.com Thank you.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board where I am an alternate member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

What about Senior Housing – Article 2?

Despite its flaws, I had initially considered supporting the Senior Housing amendment. But when I thought about what would be required to make amendment into a workable proposal, it was clear the current language is simply a bad starting point.

I have already detailed the problems with its age restrictions, location, and the poison pill. Those could be fixed.

But the Board’s focus on the Lyme Common District meant that any development was constrained to “fit into the neighborhood” and not be “too big”. Specifically:

  • The footprint and floor area restrictions mean that common areas, such as dining and living rooms, libraries, space for support staff, etc. all take floor space away from the (already small) homes.
  • Only 10 units are allowed, which translates to expensive units. The cost of land purchase, infrastructure (septic, water), utilities, common areas, and developer profit (yes – a developer will want to make money) must be spread across a small number of homes, increasing their price.
  • The language contains other provisions that deter a developer who might want to develop senior housing.
  • Despite the desire to limit the total footprint, the permitted structures (up to 12,000 sf) are a lawsuit waiting to happen. Would neighbors object to such a large building? Quite possibly. And developers avoid towns where lawsuits are likely.
That’s why I recommend we vote down Article 2, and ask the Planning Board to come up with a proposal that will actually give someone the incentive to build Senior Housing.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board where I am an alternate member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Running for Planning Board

Dear Lyme Neighbor,

I have filed to become a candidate for Planning Board. As you probably know, the Planning Board sets the rules (through the zoning ordinance) for where and what kind of housing can be built in town.

In my six years in Lyme, my 15 years of working for housing options, and from attending national, state, and local conferences, I have learned:

  • Housing remains expensive. Reasonably-priced units are scarce
  • Long-time residents end up looking outside Lyme if they want a smaller place – to downsize or simply to live lighter on the planet
  • Restrictive zoning rules are a major cause of high cost and limited supply

Regrettably, the issues today are the same as in my previous campaign. You can read what I wrote last year at https://richb-lyme.com/why-im-running-for-planning-board/

The Planning Board has spent the past year arguing for the limitations of the senior housing amendment that they had produced – and pulled from consideration – before last year’s town meeting. None of the public comments were incorporated – to permit senior housing in other parts of town or to lower the age requirement. It remains a restrictive plan for expensive senior apartments in a limited district.

If elected, I will advocate for a variety of housing options that meet the needs of Lyme residents. If these issues are important to you, please vote for me on the paper ballot (absentee ballots are available now!) or in-person on Tuesday, March 9. Thank you!

Rich Brown

Where can you learn more? Visit my blog at www.richb-lyme.com, e-mail me at richb.lyme@gmail.com or call me: 795-2525. I’d love to chat!


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board where I am an alternate member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Statement for Senior Housing Public Hearing-14Jan2021

I read the following statement at today’s Planning Board’s Public Hearing on the Senior Housing amendment.

I thank the Board for their two years of work on the article to permit increased density for Senior Housing. My biggest concern about the current proposal, as written, is that no Senior Housing will actually get built as a result of passing this article.

First: Senior Housing would only be allowed in the most expensive land in town. The increased density is not sufficient to encourage a developer to make the necessary investment in purchasing the land, getting approvals, and building the units. This area is also heavily built-up: new housing would likely come at the expense of existing homes. Solution: Permit Senior Housing in other parts of town.

Second: Limiting all residents to be 62 years or older unduly precludes many common living arrangements for seniors (for example, one spouse older than 62, the other younger, or an adult child moving in to help a parent). Solution: Adopt the federal HOPA (Housing for Older Persons Act) standard that requires at least one household member to be 55 years or older.

Third: This proposal contains language (a “poison pill”) that nullifies the Senior Housing article if the State of NH passes a law that requires the same increased density for non-seniors. I don’t understand why we should jettison Senior Housing if the state requires us to support increased density for people of all ages. Solution: Drop the poison pill.

This meeting is the last moment for public input before the language becomes final for the vote at Town Meeting. I encourage the Board to incorporate this feedback into the final wording of the article. Thank you.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board where I am an alternate member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Public Hearing for Senior Housing amendment

This Thursday (Jan 14), the Planning Board will hold a Public Hearing for a proposed Senior Housing amendment to be voted at Town Meeting in March.

Update – February 2021: I have changed my mind. The Planning Board’s refusal to consider any changes from the public, and the inherent flaws of the proposal lead me to say that it would be better to vote down Article 2 and ask the Board to start again. (I originally had said “Although I feel it is kind of weak tea (the language is very restrictive, which will result in expensive units), I believe this is a small step toward new kinds of housing, and that the town should approve it.” I no longer believe this proposal is a basis for moving forward.)

The amendment would be dramatically improved by permitting Senior Housing elsewhere in town so that a project isn’t burdened with the most expensive land (per acre) in town. For example, both these areas provide less expensive land yet with good access to services:

a) In the Commercial District, near 84 Dartmouth College Highway and Pond View Apartments.

b) On major roads elsewhere in town. Land is less expensive, and larger development can be built back from the road.

The purpose of the Public Hearing is for the Planning Board to present the proposal, explain their intent, and to receive feedback that they can incorporate into the amendment before it goes to Town Meeting in March.

If you have thoughts, please come (virtually) to the meeting this Thursday, January 14 at 7:00pm. The Zoom link is: https://zoom.us/j/6808321113 and the passcode, if needed, is LymePlan.

I hope to see you there. Thanks!

Rich Brown


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board where I am an alternate member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Linkblog-8 Nov 2020

A few items from the news:

Workforce Housing Forum The NH Business & Industry Association will sponsor a forum on Workforce Housing this Thursday morning, 12 November at 10:00am. The focus will be on providing housing for workers, to help the economy grow, and to help employers recruit and retain talent. The registration is $25. I’m signed up to attend the video conference and will publish notes here next week. For more information: https://bianhassoc.wliinc23.com/events/2020-BIA-Forum-on-Workforce-Housing-405/details

Housing Forum: Needs, Trends & Opportunities Friday 10am brings another housing forum, this one sponsored by Space on Main in Bradford. Many local groups  plan to bring their voices. To register (no cost) and for more information, please visit: https://thespaceonmain.org/housing

Build Resiliency and Foster Civic Pride UNH Extension published an article about how, even with social distancing, towns can find ways for their residents to gather and build community. https://extension.unh.edu/blog/build-resiliency-foster-civic-pride


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board where I am an alternate member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

“Outskirts to Downtown” from NHHFA

New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority presents two sessions about land use, taxes, and good planning practices.

Today’s session (29 Oct 2020, 11am) will be looking in detail at three Upper Valley towns: Claremont, Hanover, and Lebanon. Register at https://www.nhhfa.org/event/from-the-outskirts-to-downtown-taxes-land-use-value-in-upper-valley-communities/ The session will be recorded, so you can go back to that page to view it in a day or two.

The previous session was held on 15 October 2020. The recording and presentation slides are now available at: https://www.nhhfa.org/taxes-land-use-value-analysis-by-joe-minicozzi-urban3/

I hope that you can find the time review one or both of these sessions – their presentations are always valuable.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board where I am an alternate member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.