With the elimination of the IIHO and appointments of new Planning Board Members, what should the next steps be?
Determine the status of the existing planned IIHO developments.
There was some discussion at the April 21 meeting as to what the status of the existing applications under under review by the Planning Board. Will any of the applications be grandfathered in under the old IIHO, will those density bonuses still apply? It seems there are differing opinions between board members, the Community Development Director and residents who's have performed a significant amount of legal research on the subject. It will be interesting to obtain the position of town counsel. Stay tuned as this is an agenda item for the April 30 meeting: https://www.amherstnh.gov/sites/amherstnh/files/agendas/pb_agenda_4-30-20.pdf
What are the housing needs for Amherst and how should those be determined?
One of the glaring flaws in the previous IIHO, in town zoning ordinance/regulations and Planning Board rules of procedures is the lack of tracking overall developments and growth both cumulatively and annually. Without this basic tool in place, it is nearly impossible to assess what the housing needs are annually and for future growth planning. So until a tool is in place, all other planning or assessment seems irrelevant.
Furthermore, another glaring gap in the previous IIHO was no growth management ordinance. Per RSA 674:21 Innovative Housing (https://www.nh.gov/osi/planning/resources/documents/pb-chapter-4.pdf) a growth management ordinance can be put in place only when "there is a clearly demonstrated and documented need to regulate the timing or rate of development in order to allow municipal services to keep pace with growth." Per the RSA, the first step in establishing a growth management ordinance is for the planning board to prepare a study of the municipality’s current and projected growth rates and its need for additional municipal services to accommodate such growth.
Is this the reason for the April 30 agenda item "Discussion regarding a further housing needs assessment for the Town of Amherst: the need; the purpose; who might perform such an assessment; what kind of information should be included, and so on.", or is there an ulterior motive to get an answer or data conflicting with the February 2020 NRPC Assessment Report (see previous blog post https://www.amhersttoday.net/post/amherst-s-housing-needs )? Is the February 2020 NRPC report sufficient to provide the data to answers these questions, can the Planning Board cull through that report and get the answers they need? Can the Community Development Office perform this task? Do we need to pay for another report?
The Planning Board has posted a potential list of questions for discussion at the April 30 meeting https://www.amherstnh.gov/planning-board/news/list-potential-questions-further-housing-needs-assessment.
Whatever the resulting list of questions, the Planning Board should also send it to every Amherst resident for their feedback and input. This may also serve as a data collection point for the planned update to the Town Master Plan. The last thing we need after all we went through in the last election is to have some outside agency making an assessment of what Amherst needs, especially without the resident's input being taken into consideration.
Please attend this Thursday's Planning Board Meeting - hopefully the new Board will be able to answers our questions?