Land Use and Open Space
Land conservation and protection through open space acquisitions and conservation easements are perhaps the most effective methods for protecting the area’s natural resources, rural character, quality of life, natural heritage, wildlife habitat and the quality of our water resources. In fact, many of the goals and objectives contained in this Plan could be achieved through land conservation efforts. Following the housing spurt of the mid to late 1980’s, many communities as well as state and federal agencies and private, non-profit organizations made major strides in purchasing and/or acquiring conservation easements on valuable land parcels. Much of the land protection effort was done between 1980 and 2000.
The Society for the Protection of NH Forests, through their 2005 New Hampshire’s Changing Landscape Report, provides valuable insight on the current status as well as recent trends with regard to land conservation and development in the various UMR Communities. Based on 2004 property ownership data compiled by SPNHF, all of the UMR communities, except for Northfield, currently have more than 10% of their land area already conserved or protected as town forests, parks, dedicated open space and/or as other state or locally owned land. The City of Concord has the highest percentage of land area protected at about 18.5%, followed by Boscawen at 15.7%, Bow at 14.6%, Franklin at 13.3%, Canterbury at 11.2%, and Northfield has about 0.9% of its land area protected. The total amount of protected land area in the six UMR communities consists of about 18,315 acres. However, between 1998 and 2004, only an additional 0.7 % or about 1,290 acres have been added to the list of protected lands in the six UMR Communities. The Town of Bow had the greatest increase with an additional 783.4 acres protected, followed by an estimated 289 acres in the City of Concord, approximately 134.0 acres in Canterbury and about 84.0 acres were protected in Northfield. The Report also states that between 1998 and 2004, more land was developed than protected in Concord, Boscawen, and Northfield. This trend has the potential to continue as the demand for residential housing continues to migrate northward and westward along major highway corridors such as I-93 and Routes 3 and 4. Since 2004, there are perhaps many other instances where other lands have been protected through easements and acquisitions on the part of conservation-minded individuals and organizations. This information will need to be updated for each community as part of this Plan.
Going forward, it will be extremely important for municipal officials to review existing zoning, identify areas most suitable for future development, establish land protection goals, identify funding needs and to coordinate closely with public land trusts and other land preservation organizations to protect valuable goals.
GOAL 16: Land uses support the upper Merrimack River’s designated uses, hydrologic functions, and the Rivers Management and Protection Act.
OBJECTIVE: LU-1 – By late 2008, corridor municipalities will be provided with minimum impact principles that can be implemented as incentives and land use regulations.
- Inventory protected land areas in each community and develop community mapping working with CNHRPC to assess status of protected lands and identify unique areas or parcels that should be targeted for protection based on resource value and relevant information.
- With assistance from CNHRPC and NHDES, attend at least one Planning Board within each of the communities to present an update on regional development trends, effects of possible build-out scenarios and the use of innovative practices and principles for encouraging low impact development (LID) techniques (this activity could be combined with WQ-1).
- Develop fact sheet or post-card mailer listing available resources and relevant web sites for additional local land use control information and stormwater management BMPs.
- Circulate questionnaire to local Planning Boards to obtain feedback on their biggest concerns and needs for resource information.
OBJECTIVE: LU-2 – By 2009, all upper Merrimack municipalities have recommendations and tools so that they can draft and adopt appropriate local zoning maps and ordinances that support the goals of the Rivers Management and Protection Act.
Develop guidance manual and host workshop to present latest information on innovative local zoning regulations including recent NHDES draft model ordinance on Stormwater Management. Post guidance document and supporting information on web site
OBJECTIVE: LU-3 – On an ongoing basis, municipalities and landowners will have information on how they can work with cities, towns, and local land trusts to conserve their land through easements and conservation sales.
- Provide links and contact info on UMRLAC web site to web sites of local land trust organizations.
- Partner with local land trust organizations to host an annual open space / land preservation workshops to discuss regional needs and efforts.
- In conjunction or as an alternative to a workshop, produce a mailer or fact sheet to send to local planning board and conservation easements about recent land conservation efforts.
- Identify and inform local land trust organizations about key land parcels along the rover corridor that would be good candidates for land preservation.