Building & grounds design standards proposed for Laconia

LACONIA — The Planning Board will begin the process of adding design standards to its site plan regulations next week when it holds a public hearing on a draft proposal during its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, June 3, at 6:30 p.m.

The regulation is intended to supplement the current ordinances without vesting the Planning Board with more authority than it already possesses. At the same time, it seeks to make the planning process more transparent and predictable by informing builders and developers of what is expected before they invest time and money in a project.

Since the design standards would be an amendment to the site plan regulations, not to the zoning ordinance, they would not require the approval of the City Council, but could be adopted by the Planning Board alone.

They would be applied to all developments, except for one and two family residential projects, undertaken in the city. A subcommittee of the Planning Board would work with developers to comply with the design standards as well as make recommendations about particular project to the board, which which the final approval of site plans rests.

The proposal consists of written and illustrated guidelines describing specific architectural goals such as entryways, landscaping, roofing, materials, lighting, windows and decoration. A score sheet, which awards, withholds and detracts points for an array of optional components, would be a prerequisite for approval of a site plan. For example, a plan to place parking space at the rear of the building would gain four points while putting parking spaces at the front of a building would lose four points. Likewise, an ornamental fence would be worth one point while a chainlink fence would cost a point. The standards would vary from one district to another in the city.

Although a strong predictor of the outcome of the planning process, the Planning Board would not be strictly bound to a numeric standard but authorized to apply its judgment to the particular circumstances of individual projects. Brandee Loughlin, assistant planner, said yesterday that the details of how the scoring will be applied to specific projects remain to be decided.

The design standards were prepared by Hawk Planning Resources, LLC, Ironwood Design Group, LLC and SMP Architecture, Inc.