In 2008 the Planning Board, after considerable study, approved two proposals that it sent to the voters to consider, one was for the rezoning of part of Route 25 from a point just east of the intersection with Red Hill Road to a point just west of the Village Zone as Residential/Agricultural, as well as to eliminate special exceptions in residential areas. The purpose of the second proposal was two fold, one to prevent a back door development of Route 25 if the re-zoning proposal was approved, and two to have more consistency in zoning without the spot zoning that the zoning ordinance was creating.
The impetus for this effort was a finding that the capacity of Route 25 was finite and that the likelihood of the state making major improvements to the road in Moultonborough were nonexistent. When I served on the Planning Board, we looked at the future traffic volume on Route 25, both from a build out of land that accessed the road (and which had no other access to other main roads) and from increased traffic volumes. Based upon those estimates (from the Lakes Region Planning Commission and from the NH DOT) that the road had reached capacity and that short of a major reconstruction with added lanes, there was a real question as to whether it made sense for unfettered growth on Route 25 if it remained zoned commercial, the Planning Board endorsed those two rezoning proposals to temper growth.
Unfortunately both proposals were defeated by a relatively small number of voters in a light election turnout year, and with the economic recession continuing, no development of significance occurred for a number of years. Now, coming out of a recession, several chains are viewing Moultonborough as an attractive site for commercial development, due to its main road (Route 25), which connects Portland Maine with western NH towns (such as Lebanon and Hanover) and Vermont towns (such as Rutland and Burlington). Do keep in mind that there is no east-west interstate north of I-90 (Boston to Albany to Buffalo) and that traffic from northern New England has two main east-west routes, Route 25 and US 2, both two lane roads. Moultonborough residents should also realize that the Town is also midway between the two major north south NH highways, I-93 and Route 16, so it will be a continuing attractive target for development.
Although the Town hired a Town Planner, planning on a larger scale appears to be an anathema to Town residents. So that the several Planners we have had have concentrated on smaller issues relating mainly to compliance and have not viewed future growth in a larger context. Ergo, the results we are now seeing of commercial expansion on Route 25 and the likely creation of a road with significantly more commercial development over a 8.5-mile stretch (17 miles of commercial linear space on both sides of the road) with much more traffic congestion and more safety issues that will not be addressed by the Planning Board or the Town Planner.
Based upon what has occurred in past years residents and travelers will see significantly increased congestion caused by establishments that require left turn lanes that won't be built; a need for additional traffic signals and the creation of the equivalent of a congested suburb. Just as the 30 mile speed zone in the Village has creeped out at various locations and the 55 mph out of village speed limit has been reduced to 45 mph, we will see increases in travel time in all seasons as more destination traffic and through traffic uses our substandard state highway.
Whether this is good or bad depends upon one’s personal views, but reality should tell us that any reconstruction of Route 25 to provide greater capacity is but a pipe dream.
As a corollary, the redevelopment of the Village Zone in a vacuum without the clear recognition that Route 25 traffic is only going to increase more, and that the Village Zone will never look like Sandwich or Wolfeboro, should be etched in the minds of the members of the various development committees, so that realistic proposals that make sense for a village with a major state highway that will never bypass the Town are carefully considered.