As a resident commented the other day, there is a lot going on in Manchester despite being a small town! From where I sit, it seems this is always the case but indeed, there are significant projects underway which have the attention of residents.
40B Project Presentation: The first of many public presentations on the “40B” apartment complex proposed off Upper School Street will be held Thursday, October 29 beginning at 7pm. This will be a virtual meeting held via Zoom. Log-in details will be posted on the Meeting Calendar found on the Town’s web site. This initial meeting affords the developer the opportunity to present details of the project. While there will be time for the public to ask questions aimed at clarifying what is being proposed, future forums will be scheduled to allow a more in-depth review of the merits of the project. The submittals the developer has provided the Town can be viewed on the Town’s web site.
This initial phase of the 40B process is focused on determining if the project will proceed as a “friendly” 40B whereby the Board of Selectmen agrees to support the project and the developer agrees to a set of project parameters and mitigation measures that are beneficial to the town.
At the conclusion of this process formal public hearings before the Zoning Board of Appeals will be held (likely during late winter and spring.)
40R Study progressing: This same area of Town is being studied by the Planning Board for possible zoning revisions. Creating a new “40R” smart growth overlay district may be a way for the Town to advance two important goals identified in the Master Plan: diversifying our housing stock and growing our commercial tax base. A steering committee is providing guidance to the Planning Board as this effort advances. The first of a series of public forums was very well attended a few weeks ago. Materials from this workshop and other information on the 40R state statute can be found through a link on the Town’s web site. The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission is providing technical support as we study what might make sense going forward.
The 40R study is designed to answer a series of important questions. For example, what are the critical natural resources of the area and how best do we protect them? What is the development potential and what uses would complement the rest of the community? How do we ensure whatever new development takes place is revenue positive, generating more tax dollars than the cost of new service demands? How can we incorporate the proposed private 40B development into the 40R overlay district in a way that maximizes the benefits to the community? These and many more questions will be pursued as the study unfolds in the coming months.
Ultimately voters at Town Meeting will have the final say whether we adopt revisions to the Limit Commercial District.
Re-codification of our Zoning Bylaws: The Planning Board also is busy with a review of our existing zoning bylaws with a goal of updating the bylaws and making the document clearer with reformatting and a more logical structure. Outdated sections are either being deleted or re-written to come into compliance with today’s laws and court rulings. Again, a study subcommittee has been laying the groundwork for this and soon the Planning Board will be hosting public forums on the proposed re-codification of the zoning rules. Voters approved funding to hire legal counsel for this effort. Attorney Mark Bobrowski, one of the leading land use attorneys in the state and one who has done more recodification projects than any other attorney (over a hundred) is ensuring that the rewrite is meeting today’s best practices.
Traffic Management: In more immediate work, the Selectmen, in order to comply with state guidelines, approved a series of smaller speed safety zones, most of which are in the core Village area, instead of one large zone. These safety zones have a 20 miles per hour speed limit while the rest of town roads have a 25 miles per hour speed limit per voter mandate of a few years ago. Discussion will continue on ways to keep speeds low and make our roads more welcoming to pedestrians and bikes. At the next Selectmen’s meeting the focus will be on Mill and Forest Streets.
Outdoor Dining: After a successful summer and fall of dining outdoors, restaurants are being asked to remove their temporary outdoor dining by November 9. The Selectmen want to avoid any problems with snow or ice that the temporary arrangements might pose. Of course, as colder weather arrives, outdoor dining loses its appeal. Take-out remains a popular and viable alternative!
Voting: Early voting and vote by mail are both underway! Hundreds of residents have taken advantage of these early options already and you are encouraged to do so as well. Of course, the polls, with appropriate COVID precautions, will be open 7am to 8pm on November 3 at the high school.