2011 Regional Planning Grant (category 1)
Nashua Regional Planning Commission
ABOUT THE REGION
The 13 municipalities that comprise the Nashua region are located in southern New Hampshire. Residents and visitors value the plethora of recreation opportunities afforded by seasonal conditions (e.g. skiing in winter and biking in the summer). Rising temperatures and increased frequency and magnitude of extreme precipitation events will have a direct effect on the economy and ecosystem.
New Hampshire is a small state on the precipice of a demographic shift with nearly 30 percent of the population projected to be over age 65 by 2040. Residents, as a whole, are well off. However, the job market is unfavorable and there are pockets within the state where poverty levels are rising. Much of new job growth has been in part time, low-wage jobs. The New Hampshire economy has evolved over time – shifting to a manufacturing base, however, a high proportion of the manufacturing workforce is nearing retirement and there is a shortage of young adults to fill jobs.
New Hampshire’s dominant housing supply, older large single family homes, is poorly aligned to meet the changing needs of generations like aging baby-boomers and millennials who are seeking smaller housing arrangements. Fewer households are up-sizing to larger homes and average household sizes are shrinking. Most housing is older stock and suburban or rural, resulting in higher energy costs for housing and transportation. Although these are costs to all, it is particularly difficult for younger generations of workers who are shown to have more debt than previous generations.
More people in New Hampshire drive to work than any other transportation mode. The state’s lack of transportation alternatives presents a barrier to low income residents, youth, seniors and disabled individuals and potentially detracts from the ability to attract young residents. The state and its municipalities are not keeping pace with maintaining highway and bridge infrastructure, so additional roads and bridges are falling into poorer condition. Continued deferred maintenance will result in higher costs for future generations of taxpayers. Dedicated state and local maintenance funds are shrinking as dollars are diverted to pay for unanticipated washouts from increasing severe storm events.
Residents believe that environmental and natural resource protection should be the top priority for lawmakers – both in state spending and policy. Top priorities include protecting water quality for drinking and recreation, air quality, farms and agricultural land, aquatic habitats, and access to recreation land.
PROJECT SUMMARY AND GOALS
New Hampshire’s nine Regional Planning Commissions (RPCs), with Nashua Regional Planning Commission (NRPC) acting as the lead applicant, are working collaboratively through their HUD grant to develop comprehensive and coordinated regional plans in each of the state’s nine regional planning areas. The three-year project will culminate with a State Snapshot, bringing planning efforts for transportation, land use, economic development, housing environment, energy, cultural and historic resources, public health, and environmental planning into a common framework.
The staff of the RPCs have worked with a range of business and community leaders, state agencies, counties and municipalities, and citizen groups, to develop a robust and productive public dialogue within each region. Regions have completed year three of the program with plans complete and either adopted or soon to be so. NRPC has reviewed each of the Regions’ plans to identify common and distinct themes among each to develop the Statewide Snapshot. However, at both levels the conversation of implementation is just starting. Regions and state partners are working to identify actions that would both be feasible and have a high impact to respond to high level issues identified through the planning process where there is opportunity to take action across the state.
THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
- Southern New Hampshire is expected to become warmer and wetter over the next century with more extreme precipitation events. This weather pattern puts significant stress on the region’s already aging water
- Climate change is likely to cause, or exacerbate, a number of public health impacts on the state’s most vulnerable residents, including heat stress; flood related deaths and injuries; respiratory and cardiovascular illness, including asthma; allergies; vector, food, and water-borne disease; chronic disease; and mental health and stress-related
- Municipalities need adequately sized culverts to handle increased storm events and prevent road
- Southern New Hampshire experienced a three-fold increase in average precipitation over the last four decades.
- The largest increase in precipitation occurred as rain falling in December instead of snow. Communities will need to address erosion and make drainage improvements to handle more flooding events and less snow
PROMISING PRACTICES OR INNOVATIONS
The nine regions expanded their individual outreach efforts with technical assistance from the University of New Hampshire and the shared development of a series of online public input tools. Some results of outreach efforts include:
- A searchable database of more than 2,145
- An online forum with more than 300 comments.
- Communities of Interest focus group sessions with 120 participants at 20 organizations representing disabled, low income, minority, immigrant, senior, youth, young adult, veteran, and Native American
- Communities of Place forums held at 10 locations, with approximately 535 participants and 45 small group conversations.
- 128 publicly noticed regional meetings and 138 smaller focus groups and strategic outreach events with approximately 4,225 combined
- The nine regions compiled an index of existing resources, statewide policies and goals, baseline conditions and potential metrics for measuring plan implementation. This research was the foundation for several products, including development of 51 core metrics. Data has been tabulated at the municipal level, for every community in the state, where possible, and aggregated to the regional NRPC is now looking to make the data available to all towns via the web as database and spreadsheet downloads and a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) viewer.
- The RPCs have achieved a new level of collaboration between one another to develop shared resources and training opportunities. Staff met monthly to plan workshop components and aid one another. This has been backstopped by a Google Site developed for staff to post and share progress with one another to minimize duplicative