Opinion on Parsonage Apartments and RCD Units


The Parsonage Apartments lease with The Housing Partnership  (THP) dates back to 1999 and is expiring in 2019.  In 2010, the Town adopted a workforce housing zoning ordinance to comply with the requirements of RSA 674:59.  The charge from the Board of Selectmen to the Committee addressed the need for both “affordable senior and workforce housing.”

The Planning Board is amending the existing RCD zoning ordinance in a two-fold fashion: increasing affordability and the number of units allowed from 10 to 20, which helps set the stage for the THP to build another RCD in Rye.  Even though the RCD proposed zoning amendment has been “comprehensively” drafted to “promote affordability” in Rye, it was done so without a comprehensive approach as this commentary indicates.

In 2014, the Planning Board amended the RCD zoning ordinance on the premises, and as stated on the ballot, that there was “a word processing error referenc[ing] the wrong subsection E”—typically referred as a “housekeeping” amendment.   However, there was more to the amendment than just “housekeeping.” At the bottom of the amendment, it was added that the “planning board [had] determined that Section 401.8 should also provide for waivers of Subsection B (parcel size); L (Occupancy); M (Floor Space; and N (Parking).

The parameters put in place by the original drafters of the RCD zoning ordinance in 2002 (it was adopted in 2004) were replaced with different parameters by means of the 2014 RCD zoning amendment.  The Sea Glass Lane RCD “was stalled” prior to the passing of the 2014 zoning amendment.  http://www.seacoastonline.com/article/20140116/News/401160404

For a brief background on when- how the RCD ordinance came to be, read Bill Veazy’s piece in the September 2005 opinion piece in Rye Reflections: http://ryereflections.org/servlet/pluto?state=30303470616765303037576562506167653030326964303033373430%5D

In short, following a Visioning session for the Master Plan update in June 2002, the Rye Land Use Committee (made of 10 people of various ages) was created per request of the Planning Board with the charge to look into Senior Housing.  By the fall of 2002, the Committee had drafted a RCD ordinance, which was not approved until March 2004.

Clearly, there is a need to reassess the RCD ordinance.  However, it should be done in a comprehensive way.  Furthermore, Rye is at a critical juncture given its aging demographic, decreased school enrollment, lack of workforce housing, rising sea levels and climate change related impacts as well as environmental factors linked to the Coackley landfill.

Dominique Winebaum

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