LACONIA — Following a public hearing this week, the Planning Board unanimously agreed to amend the site plan plan regulations to clarify and expedite the process for accepting newly built, private roadways as city streets.
Until a roadway — constructed to serve a residential subdivision, for example — can be maintained and plowed by the city and its residents served by trash collection and school buses, it must be accepted as a city street. To be accepted as a city street, the roadway must be built to municipal standards.
The process begins with the Department of Public Works (DPW), which determines that streets are built to the required standards., then proceeds to the Planning Board. The Planning Board makes a recommendation to the City Council, which is vested with the authority to accept a street.
The current subdivision regulations prescribe that a newly built street must undergo a "performance observation period" of one year after the base pavement is laid before it can be accepted. During the year, the street goes through a complete cycle of freezing and thawing, which reveals any deficiencies in its construction, which can be corrected before its acceptance. At the same time, approximately half the house lots must be developed and occupied prior to acceptance to provide the tax base to support the extension of municipal services.
The proposal approved by the Planning Board would retain the 12-month "performance observation period" and require that certificates of occupancy be issued for 20 percent of the proposed homes on the roadway before the DPW could evaluate the street for acceptance. However, the board provided that a developer could expedite the process by retaining a third party inspector reporting to the DPW. Likewise, the Planning Board retains the authority to grant a waiver of the requirements.
The Planning Board acted in response to a request by the City Council to expedite the process, which included a recommendation to reconsider the year-long "performance observation period". As an amendment to the site plan regulations, the process falls within the jurisdiction of the Planning Board and does not require approval of the council.
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