Some rather interesting and concerning discussions last night at the BoS meeting. Chair of the Planning Board, Scott Bartlett, presented an overview of proposed changes to the Zoning ordinances ( which will go to a public hearing in November) and their relationship to the Master Plan currently being rewritten.The mission in this endeavor is " planning for appropriate housing and commercial growth to sustain our community while preserving it's natural resources and unique character."
There are four proposed ordinances in all: Village Plan Alternative Subdivision Overlay District, Accessory Dwelling Units, Mixed Use Overlay District and Village In-Fill Development.Two of the proposed zoning ordinances can be found here on the Planning Board website . The remaining two are still under development. The Planning Board has done a great job in working with recently retired Town Planner to analyze the enormous amount of data and arrive at some data driven conclusions.
In the Master Plan process, the data pointed toward affordable, appropriate sized housing and commercial support services as being essential to sustain Moultonboro. Creating the environment where appropriate sized housing for both seniors to age in place and first time home buyers is profitable for private developers is paramount. Note that the key word is "private" developers. No public funding is being proposed.
This is important stuff. How do we incentivize builders and developers to come here and invest in our community? What do we need to do to attract young families?
During Scott Bartlett's presentation, audience members brought up concerns about HUD funding for affordable housing. Scott and the BoS made mention of the fact that no public money is being proposed, but the irrational fear that developers will come into Moultonboro with their pockets lined with HUD dollars was raised. Mind you, we have not yet even gotten to the point of public hearings on the proposed changes.Two of the ordinances have yet to even be written. The concerning part to me is that very good and positive initiatives could be derailed by unsubstantiated fears.
In another segment of the meeting, Town Administrator Walter Johnson reported that he and School Superintendent Susan Noyes met recently with senior leadership at Crucon. Crucon currently employs 110 people and has plans to expand into the renovated South Campus building and add another 70-90 jobs. According to Crucon, most of their employees are not from Moultonboro, but live 15-30 minutes away. Affordable housing is a challenge to their employees and they get few applications from Moultonboro residents. They would also like to see more business development in that area.
During citizen input, Al Hume, a member of the Recreation Advisory Board suggested that we turn the current community center building into a dedicated Senior Center. His rationale is that seniors don't want to be around kids. I asked where would the recreation department go? His response was to move into the two small offices vacated by the VNA in Town Hall since in his words " they no longer have an after school program and all they do is administrative."
What message are we sending when we fear affordable housing and discount the needs of youth and young families? Or denigrating the work of the recreation department and focusing solely on seniors as if the younger members of our community do not even exist? Not a very positive one in my opinion.
The School Board and BoS will meet in our work session next week to come to some agreement on a possible marketing plan for the town, Where it goes will be an interesting journey.