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Contractual Services Available

The Commission is often able to provide services to communities through grant sources that are available only to Regional Planning Commissions. While these contracts often require match funding on the part of the Commission and/or the communities, the match can often be in-kind to further reduce any financial burden on the communities. Municipal dues are often used to cover required match.  These services can include: 

Transportation Corridor Studies 

The Commission assists communities in developing comprehensive corridor plans that integrate transportation and land use planning along key transportation arteries. These plans allow local, regional, and state stakeholders to work together to develop a shared vision for the corridor and identify strategies to make that vision a reality. Transportation corridor plans identify infrastructure deficiencies, coordinate land use planning with transportation needs, support economic development goals, and create a foundation for implementing non-capital improvements (e.g. access management). The Commission has developed corridor plans for the NH Route 120 Corridor, the U.S. Route 4 Corridor, and the NH Route 11/103 Corridor.

Household Hazardous Waste Collections 

The Commission contracts with a waste hauler each year to provide three to four Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collections.  These collections are open to all residents of participating towns and any pre-registered commercial or institutional small quantity.   The Commission applies for annual HHW grants from the NH Department of Environmental Services on behalf of participating municipalities to reduce event costs. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Outpatient Pharmacy has partnered with the Commission to provide unwanted medicines collections in conjunction with the HHW collections. Combining efforts in these collections can substantially reduce costs relative to individual town collections.

Hazard Mitigation Plans

Hazard Mitigation plans are important to protect communities from potential natural and man-made disasters by taking inventory of critical infrastructure and keys resources, mapping past and potential hazards, and identifying actions needed to provide the best protection for all citizens. Any community applying for Hazard Mitigation grant funds for equipment or mitigation actions from Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) must complete a Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan. The Commission assists communities using an eleven step planning process. The municipality is responsible for developing the Multi-Hazard Team which should consist of members selected by the Emergency Management Director. Members of the team should represent the police department, fire department, road agent, planning board, select board, town manager, and members of the public. The final plan is sent to NH Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) for review before being sent to FEMA for approval. Once the plan receives conditional approval from FEMA, the town must hold a public hearing and the Select Board must adopt the plan. 

Emergency Operations Plans 

Local Emergency Operations’ Planning (LEOP) is based on the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS). Using NIMS and ICS concepts, the development of a Local Emergency Operations Plan will help emergency responders determine how people and property will be protected in disaster situations. The LEOP will identify the roles of community officials, standardize the language and communication of the emergency response and outline the goals, objectives and organizational structure of incident management. Among other things, the LEOP will identify potential hazards, assign responsibilities to sixteen Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) and create an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) organizational chart. Homeland Security suggests that LEOPs be updated every five years and that current plans address the sixteen ESFs now accepted as part of the planning process. Municipalities are required to have an LEOP in place to qualify for FEMA disaster funding. 

Statewide Planning and Research Projects through NHDOT

The Commission often has access to funding through the NHDOT for special projects. The Commission is always interested in collaborations with municipalities who wish to apply for funding through this program. The projects selected include corridor studies/access management plan developments such as the NH 120 in Lebanon and Hanover study completed in 2007. In addition, other projects selected include a regional safety plan, land use inventory, underwriting of a regional comprehensive transportation plan and regional bicycle/pedestrian work. The Program requires a 20% match. The Commission will work with municipalities to creatively structure matching requirements in order to be competitive with this funding source.

As the Commission expands its funding portfolio, increasing local contracts will be important to meet the needs of the region as it becomes more engaged in planning efforts.  Because of the current funding structure, Regional Planning Commissions are obliged to charge for services that require in-depth and focused Commission resources that are not supported by membership dues, including:

Master Plans 

The community’s master plan is the policy document which drives land use regulations, capital budgets, and other municipal programs. Although not a regulatory document itself, at a minimum the municipality must have the vision and land use sections of the master plan in place as a basis for land use regulations and capital improvement programs. Other elements may include transportation, community facilities, economic development, natural resources, natural hazards, recreation, utilities and public services, cultural and historic resources, regional concerns, neighborhood plans, community design, housing and implementation. The Commission assistance typically includes facilitation of the process, guidance and input at planning board (or master plan committee) meetings, assistance with the development of policies and recommendations, drafting maps and background narrative. The level of assistance varies depending on the planning board’s budget for the process and the ability of the committee members to devote time to the project outside of meetings.

Zoning ordinances 

A municipality’s zoning ordinance is the primary tool for implementing the master plan. The Commission’s professional planning staff is available to help member communities with zoning ordinances whether the planning board is considering zoning for the first time, considering a comprehensive overhaul, or just a few minor revisions. Guidance and examples are always provided free to member communities. A contract can also include provisions for assistance with public participation, development of the required public hearing notices, development of the wording for the town meeting ballot, and creation of a zoning map. Examples include zoning ordinance provisions addressing special land uses such as telecommunications towers, wind towers or outdoor furnaces; particular aspects of development such as lighting, noise, or signs; or development in special areas of the community such as aquifers, floodplains or ridge lines. 

Subdivision and site plan review regulations 

Regulations review can include office hours for meeting with applicants and concerned citizens, site plan and subdivision application review, preparation of staff summaries and recommendations, and attendance at planning board meetings.

Circuit Rider Contracts 

Communities, who would like to have the services of a professional planner on a regular basis, can contract with the Commission to provide assistance generally through a year-long contract. We find the communities have varying needs, from maintaining office hours (as much as two days a week) within the municipality to simply meeting with the Planning Board once a month. The circuit rider approach enables review of subdivision and site plan applications by a professional planner for completeness and for compliance with the town's regulations, and ensures that the process is consistent with ever-changing state laws. 

GIS mapping projects 

Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer program that is used to analyze, store, manipulate, integrate and display data that is related to geographic locations on the Earth’s surface. GIS can reveal patterns such as population trends, or spatial relationships between features that would otherwise not be apparent in spreadsheets or statistical packages.  GIS can provide a better understanding of community needs, “best use” scenarios and a clearer understanding of local economic trends. Most GIS analysis results in an end product, a GIS map. Using existing spatial data layers, the Commission can produce a broad spectrum of custom map products for communities and partner nonprofits. Ranging from simple aerial renditions to complex data representations, such as master plan and zoning maps, GIS maps can be a valuable tool for most planning endeavors.

GIS Training 

Staff formally trained in GIS applications can offer their experience and expertise to communities who have GIS software or may be interested in obtaining in-house mapping capabilities. The Commission staff can train users or assist in purchasing the appropriate software and help with setting up municipal systems.

GPS data collection 

Global Positioning System (GPS) is technology that locates and identifies particular references on the Earth’s surface using a network of communication satellites. Often used with GIS, GPS can be a valuable tool to accurately locate known sites for future use. The Commission has GPS receivers available that may be used in the field. The analysis of spatial data is an important part of any GIS operation. The Commission can provide in-depth analysis of known data and offer results in a variety of formats such as PowerPoint presentations, brochures, reports and graphs.

Regulatory audit comparison with Master Plan

Often municipal regulations do not allow a community to arrive at its vision. A regulatory audit will assist municipalities to assess whether existing land use and development policies such as zoning, site plan review etc. align with a municipalities existing Master Plan that outlines a vision for the future. Recommendations will be provided that suggesting additional, elimination or changes in policies in order to achieve what it is that they want to accomplish.    

Capital Improvement Programs 

The Commission’s professional planning staff is experienced in the development of capital improvement programs (CIP) for rural communities, and is available to provide assistance to communities to develop or update their CIP. A capital improvement program is a document authorized in the NH RSA’s that identifies and plans for anticipated capital expenses over a six year period. A CIP improves communication between municipal departments, citizens, planning board members and the selectboard. A CIP allows for appropriate long-term financial planning for communities and helps avoid tax rate “surprises” to cover capital expenses. A CIP also enables a community to plan ahead for the needs of future development. The process used by the professional planning staff at the Commission involves review of financial history, including analysis of past capital expenditures and tax rate impacts; and consultation with municipal department heads regarding future needs, and anticipated replacement dates and costs for existing equipment. Pre-requisites to completing a CIP include having an up to date adopted Master Plan in place and the local legislative body must authorize either the planning board to develop the CIP or the governing body to appoint a capital improvements program committee. A CIP is a pre-requisite for implementing any growth management ordinance or imposing impact fees. 

Community Facilitation

Many organizations prefer having an objective outside entity with knowledge of the area perform the duties of a facilitator. Municipal boards may sometimes find a facilitator helpful to assist the community in working through a particular issue. The Commission staff includes individuals with training and experience in meeting facilitation. The Commission has had extensive experience in Context Sensitive facilitation. Context sensitive design (CSD) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that involves all stakeholders to develop a transportation facility that fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic, and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility. CSD is an approach that considers the total context within which a transportation improvement project will exist.

Cost of Community Services 

Cost of Community Services (COCS) studies are a case study approach used to determine the average fiscal contribution of existing local land uses. A subset of the much larger field of fiscal analysis, COCS studies have emerged as an inexpensive and reliable tool to measure direct fiscal relationships. Their particular niche is to evaluate working and open lands on equal ground with residential, commercial and industrial land uses. COCS studies are a snapshot in time of costs versus revenues for each type of land use. They do not predict future costs or revenues or the impact of future growth. They do provide a baseline of current information to help local officials and citizens make informed land use and policy decisions.

Natural Resource Inventories  

A primary purpose of the Natural Resource Inventory is to establish an information baseline that can enable decision makers and land use agencies to make informed decisions regarding development, conservation, and natural resource management issues. This is accomplished by producing a document that describes qualitatively, and to the extent possible, quantitatively, the diverse natural resources. The Natural Resource Inventory will document the geographical location of these resources, the importance of these resources to the citizens of the municipality, the threats to the health and integrity of these resources, and discuss the various strategies that can be used to protect these resources.

Build-out analysis

A build-out analysis is used to estimate and describe the amount and the location of future development that may be allowed to occur within a specified area or a given community under current development regulations. Build-out analyses provide an estimate of the total number of houses, commercial/industrial square footage, and population that could result if all the, buildable land within a community or specified area is developed. This information is instrumental for estimating future demands on public infrastructure and the environment. It is also beneficial in allowing a community to test its development regulations – to get a glimpse of its possible future when all the remaining buildable land is developed to the maximum extent allowed under existing or proposed regulations. 

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