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MANCHESTER — The newest iteration of Manchester's revised town zoning map was presented by the town's Planning Commission on Monday night.

In addition to the new Town Plan, finalized Tuesday, the commission has worked fastidiously in conjunction with consultant Brandy Saxon of PlaceSence to revise the current zoning ordinances. Proposed changes have focused on encouraging residential construction in the center of town and centralizing retail business into the town center.

"This map has been evolving over the past six months or so as we've been holding meetings," said Saxon. "At this point we've got 12 zoning districts, three Mixed Use districts and two Rural districts that are relatively new, while others including the Forest Conservation and Office Industrial districts are staying fairly the same."

The updates to the town zoning map are intended to work in harmony with the new town plan, which aims to encourage denser downtown residential development, historic and environmental preservation, and economic growth, among other goals.

The twelve proposed zoning districts include the Downtown District, the Town Center, an Office Industrial District, the Forest Conservation District, three Mixed Use Districts, three Residential Districts (delineated by density), and two Rural Districts (residential and agricultural).

The Downtown District aims to concentrate retail, service, housing, and office space within Manchester Center in the interest of promoting long-term economic and social vitality, providing for the daily needs of the local community, expanding economic development opportunities, encouraging the development of affordable housing within walking distance of those employment opportunities, and preserving the area's historic integrity and walkability.

The Town Center District aims to foster the most intensive commercial activity and mixed-use development, with many of the same goals outlined in the Downtown District. This district also encourages mixed-use infill and redevelopment that increases building and property value, and allows for industrial uses that include a retail space for products produced primarily on site.

The three Mixed Use Districts intend to maintain zoning flexibility, with Mixed Use One emphasizing a combination of uses within the historic neighborhoods in the town core, Mixed Use Two encouraging growth in areas within or adjacent to the town core, and Mixed Use Three focusing on the development of non-retail institutions (including dining, lodging, and recreation) along the main highways.

The Office Industrial District remains largely unchanged, and encourages the diversification of the town economy alongside accommodations for growing local businesses.

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The three Residential Districts are delineated by density with the Residential 10 District allowing for 10 dwelling units (DU's) per acre, Residential Four allowing for four DU's per acre, and Residential One limited to one DU per acre. These districts aim to provide diversified housing opportunities in the town core with Residential Ten emphasizing multi-family units, Residential Four focusing on single-family units, and Residential One allowing for moderate density single-family housing.

The Rural Residential District allows for low density housing in rural areas, while the Rural Agricultural District provides opportunities for agriculture and associated enterprises as well as houses for those engaged in agriculture.

The largest of the twelve districts, the Forest Conservation District also remains largely unchanged with the goal of protecting the towns forests and maintaining opportunities for outdoor recreation and permitted forestry operations.

Alongside the twelve town districts outlined in the revised town zoning map, four overlays are also designated including the Design Review Overlay District, the Aquifer Protection Overlay District, the Flood Hazard Overlay district, and the Historic Overlay District. Overlays allow for specials provisions in addition to those in the underlying zones, described above.

While the Design Review and Historic Overlay districts aim to preserve the town's architectural integrity and history character, the remaining overlay districts focus primarily on environmental concerns. The Aquifer Protection Overlay District aims to protect public health and safety by preventing contamination or depletion of the town's drinking water sources. The Flood Hazard Overlay District, in accordance with State law, establishes areas at risk of flood damage and ensures that these areas are properly prepared and protected. This measure also makes the Town of Manchester, as well as citizens and businesses, eligible for federal flood insurance.

As of now, these revisions have not been finalized. The town's planning commission will continue to hold public meetings twice a month until the ordinance is finalized, at which point the commission will hold a public hearing. The Select Board will then hold a separate public hearing and vote on adoption.

The planning commission hopes to finalize the ordinance by the end of this year.

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.


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