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Smuttynose
08-26-2006, 11:23 PM
10 acres per house - that's insane, insane, insane!! That should be illegal. All it will do is contribute to making Hanover even more hopelessly unaffordable for most people.

Upper Valley struggles with housing, zoning

By PAT HAMMOND
Union Leader Staff

When Hanover voters overwhelmingly approved an ordinance raising the minimum acreage for major subdivisions in rural residential zones to 10 acres, allegations of snobbery could be heard around the Upper Connecticut River Valley.

But plaudits were heard too, from advocates of preserving the college town's rurality and charm, and from supporters of an also-passed companion ordinance allowing for more intensive development of riverfront property north of Hanover's downtown.

The 10-acre zoning ordinance, one of a package of 19 addressed by a record-breaking number of voters at town meeting in May, was prompted by an unpopular proposal for a high-density residential development on Greensboro Road, a growing area near the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Hanover, the historic home town of Dartmouth College, has been edgy over the mounting incursion of multi-family developments for many years. But Paragon Residential Group's plans for a huge housing project on Greensboro Road were the tipping point.

The ordinance with the most applicability to Paragon's plan for up to 400 units of housing increases the minimum lot size from three to 10 acres and sets a minimum frontage of 400 feet for major subdivisions in rural residential areas like Greensboro Road.

Paragon is clinging to the hope that it can prove its project is governed by the old zoning rules, not the new, but Hanover officials dispute that position.

Hanover is a major employment center in the Upper Valley, drawing thousands of workers in to the college, the medical center, industries and local businesses. Its high real estate values bar home ownership by almost all but the most affluent. Low- and middle-income workers live in outlying towns, their pick-up trucks and cars tying up traffic in the morning and evening rush hours.

Many of the workers look to Lebanon and Claremont to find homes they can afford. Those cities are responding by changing their own rules to allow for assimilation of the newcomers while assuring that adequate open space is protected.

The town of Canaan, east of Lebanon, is under pressure from residents to draw up its first zoning ordinance.

"It's going to impact on all the communities around here," said Lebanon City Planner Ken Niemczyk, referring to Hanover's new zoning and and the gnarly problem of Hanover employees' inability to find affordable housing in Hanover.

"Affordable housing" is defined as housing that consumes less than 30 percent of one's income, Niemczyk said. But that 30 percent includes not only rent or mortgage payments, but other expenses such as insurance, utilities and repairs.

'Pressure valve'
Mike Satzow, a businessman who serves on the Claremont Development Authority, said "Claremont is in the thralls of evaluating a new zoning ordinance as well.

"One of the concerns," Satzow said, "is overreaction to what has happened in Lebanon and Hanover. They have encountered so much growth it has impacted the quality of their lives." They no longer have the rural environment they had before, he said.

"Housing costs in Claremont have tripled over the last five or six years," Satzow said. "It has been siginificant. A lot is the result of demand from the Upper Valley. A great many people are coming into Claremont from the Upper Valley looking for more economical housing.

"Dartmouth College and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center are growing and industry is growing in the Upper Valley," Satzow said, "and people want to be able to afford to live in Hanover or Lebanon and can't, so Claremont is the pressure valve."

And so now Claremont is looking to implement new zoning regulations. "There is a certain velocity of growth in the whole valley and we are attempting to use that energy without impacting the quality of life we enjoy," Satzow said. "We don't want to see large-unit townhouse developments but would like to see additional housing -- if only to keep our youth in Claremont where they can grow up and raise families."

State view
Stuart Arnett is director of the Economic Development Division of the state Department of Resources and Economic Development.

"From a state perspective," Arnett said, "we frequently see where towns have not yet made a connection between local housing supply and their local economy. In reality the availability of housing at all income strata is a key part of the local economy -- for two reasons: today's workforce and tomorrow's.

"Statewide, in order for housing not to be a brake on the economy," Arnett said, "it would probably require another 5,000 housing units a year. Not having those units keeps good things from happening. This is not uniquely an Upper Valley phenomenon at all.

"The economic equation is not whether to have more housing or not," Arnett said. "The public policy issue is how we can increase housing while not decreasing the quality of space that makes New Hampshire the unique place it is to live."

Tomorrow: Examining the moves underway in Hanover to increase affordable housing, and in Claremont and Lebanon to cope with the influx of Hanover workers while preserving the character of the communities.

Smuttynose
08-28-2006, 06:09 PM
Besides Dartmouth, I can't figure out whats so great about the Hanover area that makes it so expensive...

Hanover OK's riverfront housing
By PAT HAMMOND

The high visibility of a controversial zoning ordinance that bars most large development plans in rural Hanover has relegated the voters' approval of a riverfront housing program to almost footnote status -- that was Article 10, obscured by the more dramatic Article 19.

"The whole zoning ordinance activity this spring was fascinating because it reflected the kind of dual personality alive and well on the development front in Hanover," Town Manager Julia Griffin said in an interview last week.

What you saw, she said, was not only a petition designed to prevent rural Hanover from becoming home to large residential subdivisions, but also an ordinance allowing more intense development of the Rivercrest property along Route 10 north of Hanover downtown -- Article 10.

"Many of us feared Article 10," Griffin said.

"We feared that the mood that was around preventing large subdivisions would have an impact on creating a more densely zoned river parcel. Yet, that ordinance passed by almost 1,200 to 570."

What will happen as a result, Griffin said, is the allowing of more intensive development of property close into town to enable the replacement of some "pretty old" World War II-style, duplexes owned by Dartmouth College.

"What Dartmouth wants to accomplish," Griffin said, "and the Planning Board concurs, is a more intensive utilization of this property. It wants to replace [the old structures] with modern multi- and single-family developments under a planned community concept."

The Rivercrest development, which is projected to provide 290 housing units, is one of three moderate-housing projects on the drawing board in Hanover, Griffin said.

The Twin Pines Housing Trust in Hanover is developing 120 units of housing on the 25-acre Gile Tract on Buck Road, with access from Medical Drive, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center's roadway. Fifty percent will be affordable, subsidized by the proceeds from the higher rent charged to the other 50 percent of the unit owners.

The Dartmouth Grasse Road Phase III housing development project is a ways off but is expected to yield 149 units, Hanover planning director Jonathan Edwards said.

Ssome insights into the housing situation in Hanover:


According to the Hanover Affordable Housing Feasibility Study (2001), "The real estate market will not generate affordable housing in Hanover, and it is simply too scarce, too valuable, and the demand for high-end units too strong, The median price of a home in Hanover between October, 2000, and the end of March, 2001, was $318,900.


"To afford this home, assuming that a person could make a 20 percent down payment, and take a 30-year mortgage, would take an annual income of over $100,000," the study continues. "This eliminates the greater majority of Hanover's workforce and even more of the Upper Valley's workforce."


The housing feasibility study also found that nearly 93 percent of Hanover's 8,592 workers lived outside Hanover. The study was conducted in 2001 but officials say the numbers still hold.


The study also reported that approximately 18 percent of Hanover workforce households have incomes which put them in the Grafton County low-moderate income range.


A shortage of 3,100 units, as measured solely by the demand today, was verified in the "Upper Valley Housing Needs Analysis." [Applied Economic Research, Laconia, Aug. 2002] That number is expected to triple by the end of the decade.

Smuttynose
08-28-2006, 06:11 PM
Commuters keep coming; Lebanon and Claremont feel the impact
By PAT HAMMOND
Union Leader Staff

Editor's Note: second of two parts

As home ownership in the town that encompasses Dartmouth College becomes increasingly out-of-reach to low- and moderate-income individuals and families, Claremont and Lebanon, two of the communities absorbing the Hanover wannabes, are sending two distinct messages: "Come here, but don't come here all at once."

Both cities are struggling to find ways to accommodate the thousands of people who want to live within a reasonable commuting distance of their jobs in the Upper Valley -- the jobs are primarily in Hanover, Lebanon and Hartford, Vt.

But both also worry that more -- and denser -- building could mean sprawl, and sprawl is neither pretty nor conducive to attracting the kinds of new business and industry they are always seeking. They are committed to preserving the open spaces that are the Upper Valley's precarious legacy.

In short, they're facing some of the same problems that Hanover planners have been wrestling with in recent years, problems created by a sharp increase in housing values and a decrease in housing availability.

When Hanover Town Meeting voters in May raised the minimum acreage required for major housing developments in rural residential zones from three to 10, hopes for Hanover residency dimmed for the estimated 7,800 workers who commute from out of town -- at least for those who would like to move to Hanover but can't because they can't afford to buy or rent there.

Ken Niemczyk, planner for the city of Lebanon, said Lebanon has been affected by the dearth of affordable homes in Hanover.

Affordable housing is defined as housing that costs the owner or renter no more than 30 percent of his or her monthly wages, but the 30 percent also includes mortgage payments, utilities and repairs.

Also known as workforce housing, affordable housing is for families making up to 120 percent of the median income in the area. That translates to about $70,000 for a family of four in the Upper Valley.

"We are seeing a shortage of housing for low- and moderate-income people close to work," Niemczyk said.

Niemczyk has been working on proposed zoning regulations that address the need for more housing.

If approved, the new zoning will enable homeowners in all residential districts to rent out an accessory apartment on their land.

That could entail converting the second story of a garage into what's often called a "studio" or a "mother-in-law" apartment.

Accessory use is now permitted in a limited number of zones.

"It will provide a lot of affordable housing," Niemczyk said, "especially for young singles -- for instance, a recent high school graduate who picks up a job and wants to experience some independence."

"There is a significant demand for one-bedroom units," Niemczyk said. "Single people are a big part of the housing demand right now, and there's not much available for them."

"Also," Niemczyk said, "we will be allowing for mixed uses in nearly all our commercial zones. For instance, we are encouraging residential units above the first floor. That is: retail use on the first floor, offices on the second, residences on the third."

The proposal, which will also allow multi-family units within some of the commercial zones, will go before the City Council in September.

"We try to encourage zoning in areas already served by public water and sewerage," Niemczyk said. "That helps a lot to make housing more affordable."

Lebanon's zoning ordinance is already committed to "preventing the overcrowding of land by people and structures by avoiding undue concentration of population and preserving open space" and encouraging the preservation of agricultural lands and buildings.

Claremont, too, is "in the thralls" of evaluating a new zoning ordinance, Claremont Development Authority member Michael Satzow said.

"What we want to do is utilize our older building stock first, and we are also debating an open space ordinance that would allow additional cluster housing to come to Claremont."

The ordinance would permit the owner of a tract of land to develop it as an Open Space Development. Single- and multi-family dwellings would be permitted up to a maximum of six dwelling units per structure.

Thirty-five percent of the gross land area must be preserved as open space.

A tract of land in a rural residential district, for instance, must contain a minimum of 10 acres, with a density of two acres per dwelling on land without access to city water and sewage disposal utilities, but one-half acre and one-third of an acre respectively for single-family and multi-family structures on land where water and sewage utilities are available.

A density bonus would be awarded to a developer who dedicates at least 50 percent of the land to open development.

Claremont Planning Director Anthony Lyons said the City Council rejected the proposal at a meeting several weeks ago, but then created a committee to study it in more detail, instructing it to come back to the council with its recommendations.

TimmyG
03-31-2007, 11:35 AM
It sounds like Hanover might not be quite as evil anymore.

120 affordable units to be built soon in Hanover

By KRISTEN SENZ
Union Leader Correspondent
12 hours, 33 minutes ago

HANOVER ? They arrived the day after Christmas 1999.

A family of political refugees from Afghanistan -- a mother and her three daughters -- came to Hanover, where members of two churches had promised to find them a better life.

Bob Strauss, a Hanover retiree and member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, tried to help the young family start over.

"We spent a lot of time on housing, trying to find something they could afford on their meager pension as political refugees," Strauss said.

Finally, the family was able to rent an apartment at Romano Circle, a subsidized housing development in nearby West Lebanon.

"What we did in effect was we dumped three young women who were in need of special instruction on the Lebanon school system, and that didn't sit well with me," Strauss said. "That's when I started the movement to have an affordable housing committee here in Hanover."

Seven years later, developers are about to break ground on a $24 million, 120-unit apartment complex. New Hampshire's biggest ever "affordable housing" residential development will be built on 22 acres off Route 120 in Hanover, just north of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

But "affordable housing" in this context isn't the nebulous term people use when complaining about the disproportionate share of quality housing available for couples and young families. The Gile Community, as the Hanover development is called, is designed to remain perpetually affordable to people that inhabit income strata far below Hanover's average.

Without a piece of previously town-owned land, however, the development would not have been possible.

In 2000, Strauss set up three housing seminars in Hanover in an effort to interest other residents in housing issues and spur them to take action.

About 50 people signed on to the cause and began researching various options. They discovered that Dr. Frank Gile had donated a large tract of land north of the hospital to the town, and it remained undeveloped.

In 2001, the group proposed to the Hanover selectmen a plan to build apartments on the land using a complex financing structure that would keep rental rates down and restrict equity gains for owners. The board of selectmen approved the plan Sept. 10, 2001, the day before the terrorist attacks, Strauss said, and they also set up the Hanover Affordable Housing Commission, of which Strauss is chairman. At town meeting 2003, Hanover voters overwhelmingly supported giving up the land for housing.

Meanwhile, the financial arrangements needed to defy the real estate market and create housing units in Hanover with price tags of $150,000 proved dizzying, said Bruce Pacht, executive director of Twin Pines Housing Trust, a nonprofit housing developer in the Upper Valley.

"It couldn't have happened if there hadn't been an indigenous movement," he said.

Twin Pines partnered with Hartland Group, a low-income housing developer based in Burlington, Vt., to create Gile Community Housing LLC. Together with the Upper Valley Housing Coalition, a nonprofit advocate for low-income housing, the group secured pre-development financing from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, Fannie Mae, Partners for the Common Good, the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, the town of Hanover, Twin Pines Housing Trust and the Home Depot Foundation.

The result was a design featuring 12 apartment buildings, each containing between seven and 15 one-floor apartments with one or two bedrooms. Of the 120 units, 61 will be rentals and 59 will be for sale. About 15 percent of both types will rent or sell at market price. The rest will be reserved for people who earn 50 or 60 percent of the median household income, which in Hanover is $62,900.

Pacht estimated that tenants will pay about $600 per month in rent, and owners will pay between $150,000 and $180,000. Strauss and the Hanover Affordable Housing Commission are charged with marketing the development to consumers.

Len Cadwallader is the executive director of Vital Communities, a nonprofit organization based in White River Junction, Vt., that promotes balanced community growth and serves as the fiscal sponsor of the Upper Valley Housing Coalition.

Cadwallader said the Gile development is a step toward forming new ideas about the appropriate make-up of a community.

"We're talking about changing people's attitudes toward the inclusion of homes for people who cash our checks at the bank, the people who care for our parents and grandparents at nursing homes, the people who fix our leaky faucets and coach our little league teams." Construction of the Gile Community is slated to begin in late May, with first occupancy planned for November. Wood from trees logged on the land will be used as siding for the buildings, Pacht said, and the apartments will all have energy efficient appliances. Plans include a shared natural playground and community building.

Cadwallader said the Gile Community helps reinforce a new definition of "affordable housing" that's less about the housing and more about the people who live there.

"The term affordable housing conjures up in people's minds the big failures that HUD (U.S. Housing and Urban Development) built 30 or 40 years ago, and as a society, we learned that bad mistakes were made. But the whole face of housing that is perpetually affordable is completely different than what it was," he said. "I talk about homes that are affordable for working families rather than affordable housing. Housing is anonymous. Homes are where people live."