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.

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