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Tamworth holds public forums on land use

August 13, 2009
TAMWORTH — Do residents want zoning regulations in town? If so what kind? Those are the questions the planning board is asking residents in a series of meetings this month.

The next forums will take place at the Town House on Monday, Aug. 17 from 7 to 9 p.m. and again on Saturday, Aug. 29 from 10 a.m. to noon.

"We're not interested in pushing zoning," said Planning Board member Thomas Cleveland. "We're interested in getting people's opinions."

The first forum was held on Aug. 5. Between 20 and 30 residents attended the last meeting and the opinions expressed were all over the continuum from strongly in favor to strongly opposed, said Cleveland and Planning Board Chairman Dominic Bergen.

Last year, Tamworth revised its master plan. During the process, a questionnaire was sent to registered voters asking what they would like to see in town in terms of planning.

"A majority said they wanted land use (regulation) and we're taking their direction," said Bergen.

Currently, Tamworth only has regulations in regards to wetlands and subdivision, said Bergen. In addition, the town does follow state codes.

Still, the town has few tools to prevent people and businesses from using their land in away that would be disruptive to abutters.

"At this moment, you could come into town and do anything you want and your neighbor can just go pound sand," said Bergen. But Bergen said he would not want any new regulations to be a burden. For example, Bergen said he has no desire to tell people what type of house they can build or what color it has to be. There are lots of tools that the town could consider adopting, according to the planning board's letter to residents.

If the town had "use based" regulations, the town could segregate land uses into geographic districts such as residential, commercial, and rural. These would be designed to keep incompatible uses separated from each other.

"The classic example is you wouldn't want someone with a smelly hog farm to come right next to you," said Cleveland.

Other types of regulations deal with "form and character" issues such as architectural standards. These standards could ensure that buildings are safe and fit well into their surroundings.

After the meetings are over, the planning board will attempt to write ordinances that meet the desires of the residents who participated.

"Any proposed ordinance would be voted on by the town, before taking effect," states the planning board's letter.

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