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Benefits of Having a Regional Planning Commission

solid Waste Transfer Station lunch

Sullivan County Transfer Station Lunch Meeting
Washington Highway Garage 

Regional Planning Commissions are conduits for state and federal funding sources. Because of this established relationship, communities benefit from our work regardless of membership status. This includes speaking at various organizations, workshops, local, regional and state conferences, advocating for the region at the state level, and providing input on funding initiatives that benefit the region.

Regional Planning Commissions throughout the state are working more collaboratively and efficiently due to scarce resources. Coordinated statewide efforts, such as the Innovative Land Use Planning Technique Handbook, a two-volume, twenty one chapter compilation of model land use ordinances, are becoming more prevalent. The entire state benefits from these coordinated efforts that provide communities more resources and tools to respond to growth pressures and creatively implement community visions. 

The Commission provides an environment for communities to solve development issues that affect multiple or conflicting land interests. It is our goal to provide techniques, guidance, technical expertise, and other resources to enable communities to sustain or attain a way of life that is equitable, healthy and sustainable. Benefits to the region include:

Regional Plan Development

Each regional planning commission in NH is mandated by law to provide guidance to municipalities on development and land use through a Regional Plan. NH Revised Statutes Annotated (RSA) 36:47 III:

“In preparing a comprehensive plan for the development of the region within its jurisdiction, each regional planning commission may use the framework for the state’s comprehensive development plan in RSA 9-A:1,III as the basis for its plan. Such plan shall be updated every 5 years or sooner if desired by the regional planning commission.”

A copy of the latest 2004 Regional Plan is available in our office library.

In 2011 the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission will start the process of updating the regional plan. The regional plan update should be completed by the fall of 2013. In the summer of 2010, the Commission participated in a statewide effort to obtain funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in order to complete the regional plan. Although unsuccessful, the application scored enough points to avail those in support of the project additional points when applying for HUD funding such as Community Development Block Grants. An application for the 2011 federal fiscal year will be submitted in the second round of HUD Sustainable Communities Grants.

Housing Needs Assessment 

NH Revised Statutes Annotated (RSA) 36:47 II:

“For the purposes of assisting municipalities in complying with RSA 674:2, III (m), each regional planning commission shall compile a regional housing needs assessment, which shall include an assessment of the regional need for housing for persons and families of all levels of income. The regional housing needs assessment shall be updated every 5 years and made available to all municipalities.”

In the fall of 2010, the Commission developed a successful grant to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Challenge Grant program. This funding will be used, in part, to complete the Regional Housing Needs Assessment in collaboration with the Upper Valley Housing Coalition by the fall of 2011.

Access to Resources 

The Commission has long been a resource to communities for demographic information, sample ordinances, and educational literature on a wide variety of planning topics. The Commission’s resource library is open to the public during regular business hours and includes CENSUS data, periodicals from the American Planning Association and other national organizations, an inventory of regional municipal Master Plans, ordinances, land use policies, and videos of previous trainings and workshops held by the Commission.

Traffic Counts & Road Inventories 

The Commission works collaboratively with NH Department of Transportation to conduct traffic counts throughout the region and conduct local road inventories. The traffic count program provides essential statistical data used by the state, the Commission, municipalities, and engineers who use the information for traffic impact analyses. The inventories of road mileage within each municipality are one of a number of variables used to distribute NHDOT Highway Block Grant funding to municipalities to maintain local roads.

Member communities can also contract directly with the Commission if they are interested in collecting data specific to local analysis. Counts are primarily conducted in the late spring to early fall. The Commission has the capability to collect data for volume, vehicle classification, and speed studies. Turning movement counts can also be conducted to analyze intersection performance.

Regional Transportation Plan 

The Regional Transportation Plan is a policy document that is used to guide decision-making by NHDOT, municipalities, and partner organizations regarding transportation and other key issues. The plan describes the existing transportation system in the region, including the current trends, and outlines local and regional priorities to help guide future growth of a safe and efficient transportation system while preserving the qualities that are important and unique to the region. The current Regional Transportation Plan was completed in 2004, and the Commission is seeking funding from NHDOT to update this plan by 2013.

Statewide and Regional Initiatives 

The role of the regional planning commissions in NH extends far beyond the region. Through various laws, legislative committees, and in an effort to assist statewide efforts and advocate for regional issues, the Commission is involved in numerous organizations.

Distribution of Land Use Planning Books

Each year the NH Office of Energy and Planning produces the NH Planning and Land Use Regulation book. The publication is designed to provide a compilation of statutes relating to planning and land use regulation by municipalities in New Hampshire. It includes the full text of the statutes most frequently employed by local officials, including Title LXIV, “Planning and Zoning”, accompanied by statutory notes and annotations, and an appendix listing and summarizing the content of the other statutes relating to planning and land use regulations. Municipalities within the region place their orders through the Commission each year. The Commission orders and distributes the planning books to each municipality. If you wish to be included in this order, please contact the Administrative Assistant at the Commission.

Intergovernmental Review Process (IRP)

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan signed Executive Order 12372, which is intended to enhance collaboration between the various levels of government. The Executive Order requires federal agencies to provide for consultation with state and local governments that supply non-federal funds for proposed federal financial assistance projects or direct federal development.

New Hampshire’s Intergovernmental Review Process provides an opportunity to state and local agencies to review federal programs and activities. In 1983, NH issued Executive Order 83-10, designating the Director of the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning as the Single Point of Contact. Under her/his direction the Single Point of Contact identifies state agencies that should be involved in the planning and development of activities covered by Executive Order 12372, and provides these agencies with the opportunity to evaluate proposals.

New Hampshire’s nine regional planning commissions are designated as the Regional Clearinghouses and coordinate and assist in the formulation of comments on programs and activities subject to the review.

Regional Collaborations

The Commission can assist communities with evaluating the need for regional cooperation between local governments. Regional approaches can often embellish the delivery of public services and environmental quality, avoid the possible duplication of services, and better allocate financial resources. Our role may help plan for an adequate supply of housing. The housing stock should reflect local needs and priorities and include housing for a range of income levels. Additionally, the Commission can assist in implementing strategies to promote safe and efficient multi-modal transportation systems. 

Transportation Advisory Committee 

The Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) is made up of an appointee from each of the Commission’s member communities. TAC members are appointed by the governing body of each municipality. The TAC also has representation from the NHDOT District Offices, aviation, railroads, transit and other transportation stakeholders. 

In New Hampshire, local input into the state's decisions on federal highway spending is facilitated through regional planning commissions and their transportation advisory committees. The Commission’s TAC prioritizes regional and local transportation needs such as transportation infrastructure improvements, public transit, and corridor planning and engineering studies. The TAC also establishes transportation policies needed for the successful movement of people and goods to, from, and within the region. The TAC’s role also includes scoring and prioritizing applications received by municipalities for the Transportation Enhancement and Safe Routes to School funding programs. The Commission, NHDOT, and the TAC work together on transportation planning issues affecting the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee region. 

Training and Educational Workshops 

The Commission periodically hosts trainings, workshops and programs for municipalities. The goal is to empower board volunteers. The Commission organizes and hosts workshops for local board members and other interested residents as often as is financially feasible. Topics for the workshops are those that have been identified as high priorities by member communities, and are free of charge.  Other trainings for town employees are offered in association with specific grant projects such as the USDA solid waste management project.

Regional GIS Data Resource 

The Commission maintains, and makes available, a geographic data base serving the information needs of the regional and local decision-makers. The GIS staff at the Commission collaborates with the State’s GRANIT System which is housed at the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space in Durham. It includes a geographic database, hardware and software to build, manage, and access the database, and a staff of experts knowledgeable in geographic information systems, image processing, and computer analysis. The Commission staff offers a range of application development, training, and related technical services to GIS users in the region.

Statewide and National Scenic Byway Programs

The National Scenic Byways Program is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. The program is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States. Since 1992, the National Scenic Byways Program has funded 2,832 projects for state and nationally designated byway routes in 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation recognizes certain roads as All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways based on one or more archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.

The Commission can assist communities in applying for and administering these programs. The New Hampshire Association of Regional Planning Commission has a seat on the State Scenic Byway Committee who reviews and prioritizes projects. 

The Commission is currently assisting two regional initiatives:

Connecticut River Scenic Byway Council

Lake Sunapee Scenic Byway Committee

Coordinated Public Transportation and Human Services Coordination

For many years, New Hampshire transportation and human services agencies have been discussing ways to coordinate the various community transportation services offered in the state. The goal has been to reduce duplication, increase the availability of service, and make scarce resources go further as the need for transportation increases with an aging and growing population. The Regional Coordinating Councils (RCCs) include local transportation providers, funding agencies, consumers, and agencies requiring transportation services. As of September 2010, nine out of the ten regions have Regional Coordinating Councils that have been approved by the SCC. The RCCs are developing helpful information for current and potential riders in their communities, including directories of local transportation services.

The Commission assists two RCCs as subcommittees of the organization. To learn more visit the websites that have been set up for more information.

Grafton-Coos Regional Coordination Council

Sullivan County Regional Coordination Council

Ten-Year Transportation Improvement Plan 

New Hampshire RSA 228:99 and RSA 240 require that the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) propose a plan for improvements to the State’s transportation system every two years. In New Hampshire, this plan for improvements extends ten years, and is called the Ten-Year Transportation Improvement Plan. The purpose of the Ten-Year Plan is to develop a program of transportation infrastructure maintenance and identify necessary improvements across all modes of the transportation system. The Commission works with NHDOT and the TAC, in coordination with municipalities, to identify and prioritize projects that should be placed in the Ten Year Plan (TYP) for implementation. With the previous Ten Year Plan as a starting point, the process includes input from the local level, development of Transportation Improvement Plans (TIPs) by the Commission, numerous public hearings by the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Intermodal Transportation (GACIT), and review and approval by the Governor and Legislature. The GACIT submits the program along with the Commission's recommendations to the governor no later than December 1 of each odd-numbered year. Each regional planning commission conducts an informational meeting after the Commission submits the regional recommendations to receive the public's final comments and recommendations regarding the proposed programs before adoption by the governor. This is generally done through a meeting of the TAC. The governor then submits the Ten-Year Transportation Improvement Plan to the general court to be acted on no later than January 15 of each even-numbered year. After an enactment by the general court, or by June 1 of each even-numbered year, whichever is earlier, each regional planning commission continues its public involvement program by conducting at least one informational meeting concerning the Ten-Year Transportation Improvement Plan.

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