By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
SANBORNTON — Although senior housing has a checkered history stretching more than a decade, the Planning Board will present a proposal to permit the development of housing for senior citizens to Town Meeting in March.
Some years ago, on the recommendation of the Planning Board, the town repealed its original senior housing ordinance after first one then another project foundered after meeting opposition from neighbors and failing to secure financing. Two years ago, voters at Town Meeting rejected a proposal to convene a committee to consider drafting a new ordinance.
Evelyn Auger, who chairs the Planning Board, said that several surveys conducted over the years indicated that residents support including the opportunity to develop senior housing in the land use ordinances.
"All the feedback has been good feedback," she said.
As proposed, the ordinance would restrict the occupancy of family units to households headed by a person at least 62 years old. Senior housing projects would be confined to within a 3-mile radius of the intersection of Sanborn Road (NH Route 132) and Currier Road. Within a 2-mile radius, three buildings, each with four dwelling units of not more than two bedrooms, would be permitted per acre. Between the 2-mile radius and the 3-mile radius, one building of four dwelling units would be permitted per acre. A lot of at least 5 acres would be required for a senior housing project.
Auger explained that the board chose to restrict senior housing to an area within easy reach of emergency services.
Senior housing would be prohibited elsewhere in the town and the number of dwelling units for seniors would be limited to not more than 10 percent of the total number of dwelling units in the town.
The ordinance stipulates that the design of senior housing developments must "promote the rural character of the town, maximize the privacy of the dwelling units, preserve the natural character of the land to the greatest degree."
Auger stressed that "we're not talking about assisted living or nursing homes." At the same time, she said, "We have no one out there who is going to build anything."
The ordinance, she continued "may never be used, but we need it." Auger said that when seniors reach the age "when they don't want to shovel the snow, mow the grass and paint the house," their only option is to leave the town.
"We don't want people who live in Sanbornton and want to stay here to have to leave," she said.
"Enough is enough," said Bill Whalen, who chaired the Planning Board and served on the Zoning Board of Adjustment. "Two senior housing projects failed and the ordinance was repealed by an overwhelming majority." He said that "there is no evidence that people in town want senior housing."
At the same time, Whalen questioned the legality of restricting senior housing project to the boundary of a circle. "I've never heard of zoning by a radius," he said, adding that the two circles will likely cause confusion by crossing lot lines. He said that he asked for a map, but received no response.
Referring to the vote of Town Meeting in 2014 against forming a committee to consider a senior housing to form a committee to consider a senior housing ordinance, Whalen said "The vote speaks for itself."