JUNE 2023 Brentwood Newsletter
As the State House's activities approach a summer recess, the Special Committee on Housing will persist in its efforts to address the shortage of housing supply. An essential inquiry pertains to the influence, if any, of local zoning regulations on the limited availability and variety of housing options. However, conducting a comprehensive analysis of each zoning ordinance, gathering pertinent data, and extrapolating its statewide implications is an immensely challenging undertaking. Fortunately, the Saint Anselm College's Center for Ethics in Society has undertaken this arduous task and recently unveiled the NH Zoning Atlas, accessible at www.NHZoningAtlas.com. This resource meticulously captured and cataloged zoning data from over 23,000 pages of New Hampshire community zoning codes, freezing the information as of June 1, 2022. The Center intends to regularly update this information, subject to available funding and volunteer support, enabling interested parties to download the data points for their own analyses.
The significance of accessing this data for informed decision-making cannot be overstated. At the state level, it can be employed to evaluate how municipalities leverage their granted powers. Developers can utilize it to guide their decisions regarding specific communities based on the desired project type. Prospective residents may consult the data to ascertain the permissible construction on their properties within particular areas. Planning and zoning boards can leverage it to gauge alignment with regional norms or identify restrictions limiting specific types of housing. Additionally, voters can use it to identify communities that have implemented similar zoning ordinances.
The creators of the NH Zoning Atlas have presented statewide findings that merit examination on their website. Notably, I observed that seven towns in New Hampshire require a minimum of 20 acres for the construction of a single-family home within some portions of their jurisdiction. This discovery raises numerous questions, which I imagine would be shared by anyone confronted with such a zoning requirement during a local town meeting. One would anticipate a progression of increasing restrictions from single-family homes to higher-density units across the state on average. However, this is not consistently reflected in the data. Consequently, it compels me to inquire about the underlying rationale behind these decisions, and I intend to investigate further by engaging with the municipalities that deviate from the norm to gain insights into their decision-making processes.
Rep Josh Yokela
Representing Brentwood, Danville, and Fremont