Guest Post by Martha Spalding, Lifelong NH Resident

“The stranger reaps our harvest, and the alien owns our soil” ~ Irish poet, Jane Wilde

The Regional Planning Commission has set its sights on Lancaster and has a “Vision” for you. So, beware, voters of Lancaster before you give away traditional zoning for the “new” Form Based Code (FBC) zoning.

“New” isn’t always better, and that is certainly true with zoning. With FBC zoning, the rights of the community prevail over those of the individual. Planners prefer the highly rigid and constrictive FBC because they can administer it more easily with less input from you or your representatives on the planning and zoning boards.

More importantly for individual and property rights, traditional zoning supports constitutionally protected private property from being taken without just compensation, whether the taking is by eminent domain or because of overly burdensome land use regulations.

These same constitutional protections are not applicable with FBC zoning because the outcomes are predetermined in a community development plan devised by the planners, technicians, building code enforcement officers and other administrative government employees who are paid to administer it. FBC also costs twice to quadruple that of conventional zoning.

One of the findings in the Land Use Audit (prepared by a former Regional Planning Commissioner) includes a recommendation that the Town Meeting authorize the planning board to delegate its site review to administrators.

Will Re-Zoning also include the imposition of restrictions on resource use in land designated as “wilderness” or “buffer zones” that will restrict public access?

Sustainable Communities Initiative, “Smart Growth” includes the doctrine of Regional Equity that takes money from suburbs through the imposition of onerous laws and forces them to be more diverse. It seeks to formalize, through integration of HUD, DOT, DOE and EPA, as federal policy the very strategies that equity advocates have been seeking to advance for years at the local level.

Some of the findings contained in the audit include allowing multi-family units as a permitted use in the Agricultural Districts in order to construct Workforce Housing units. But there is also a recommendation to rezone farming areas that are currently zoned commercial.

Farmers and other landowners in particular should be wary of some of the Findings. You should be particularly careful before you agree to sell a conservation easement that purports to guarantee continued open space agricultural use of land. Under many states statutes, only non-profit organizations and the government can hold such easements. Landowners and farmers need to be very wary of any contracts that you sign; you may not be getting what you think you are bargaining for and may lose out altogether.

If you attend a Charrette or other meeting you should also be aware that the results are predetermined no matter what you have to say. There is no accountability built into the Charrettes so the conclusions, just like with FBC zoning, have pre-determined outcomes.

The Sustainable Communities Initiative/Regional Planning Commission “vision” includes under strategies to overcome anticipated barriers such as “New Hampshire’s strong tradition of individual and property rights and the resultant resistance to planning and zoning”.

Maybe you can prove the bureaucrats right on this count and say no to the “new” Form Based Code Re-Zoning plan for Lancaster and resist their efforts to Re-Zone to FBC?

Alan Savage knows whereof he speaks. He is a lifelong resident of Lancaster and both a former Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Lancaster Zoning Board. Listen to him. Beware of the “new” plan to Re-Zone Lancaster to Form Based Code.