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Rochester City Seal
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Department of Planning and Development
Contact TypeContact Information
Contact:
Chief Planner
Planner I
Planner I
Community Development Specialist
Address:
Second Floor, City Hall
31 Wakefield Street
Rochester, NH 03867-1917
Phone:
603-335-1338
Fax:
603-335-7585
Hours:
8:00 am to 5:00 pm, M-F
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NEIGHBORHOOD STABILIZATION PROGRAM

Click here to download a brief summary of the program
Click here to download a LARGE power point description of the program
Click here to read the press release awarding Rochester $2.4 million dollars



US CENSUS BUREAU INFORMATION ABOUT ROCHESTER

For a map click here.
For data click here.




The Department of Planning and Development is responsible for coordinating the physical development and redevelopment of Rochester.  This Department administers Community Development programs, including the JOB Loan program, and provides staff support for the Planning Board, Zoning Board, and the Historic District, Conservation, and Arts and Culture Commissions.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Planning and Development Department is
to promote orderly growth in a manner sensitive to
community values and to enhance environmental,
economic, and social sustainability.

Orderly growth.  Through the application of carefully crafted regulations and diligent stewardship, the Department works to facilitate smart growth, including development that creates value and is compact, efficient in its use of infrastructure, pleasing, and sensitive to its surroundings.  

Community values.  The Department seeks to serve the wide range of short and long-term stakeholder interests in Rochester and to understand community values through the use of surveys and other information-gathering techniques.  Specific proposals are evaluated within the context of those values and the Master Plan.

Environmental sustainability.  The Department carefully weighs costs and benefits in order to provide reasonable protection for our natural resources, including air, land (fields, forests, open space, and various habitats), and water (wetlands, aquifers, rivers, ponds, and flood plains), while encouraging responsible development.

Economic sustainability.  The Department especially embraces businesses which make a commitment to the community’s vitality by providing well-paying jobs, adding to the value of the built environment, offering choices for consumers, and participating in Rochester’s civic life.

Social sustainability.  The Department works to preserve Rochester’s distinctive identity and to advance quality of life by encouraging investment in social capital and facilitating the health, safety, education, and cultural expression of our citizens.




Community Development Division
It is the mission of the Community Development Division to administer the Community Development Block Grant program and to encourage and support the provision of necessary services to all City residents with a special focus on low and moderate-income families.  For more about Community Development click here.

Planning and Zoning Division
It is the mission of the Planning and Zoning Division to coordinate the physical development and redevelopment of Rochester pursuant to the goals of promoting orderly growth, fostering efficient use of infrastructure, maintaining property values, enhancing the business climate, preserving natural and cultural resources, encouraging beauty in the built environment, and creating a special "sense of place" for present and future residents, landowners, businesses, and industries.  For more about Planning and Zoning click here.

Conservation Commission
The Conservation Commission conducts research into its local land and water areas and seeks to coordinate the activities of other bodies organized for similar purposes. It keeps a list of open space and natural, aesthetic or ecological areas within the City, with the plan of obtaining information pertinent to proper utilization of such areas, including lands owned by the state or lands owned by the City. It keeps a list of marshlands, swamps and other wet lands in a like manner, and may recommend to the City Council or selectmen or to the department of resources and economic development a program for the protection, development or better utilization of all such areas.  The Rochester City Council voted to adopt a new Conservation Overlay District on October 7, 2003.  You can download and then play a copy of a Power Point Presentation by clicking here.  PLEASE NOTE that this is a very large file and may take many minutes to download.



FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT


The City of Rochester has chosen to stay focused on projects in the four following eligible areas:
Public Service Grants, Housing, Economic Development and Public Facitlities/Infrastructure Improvements.

Between 2005-2010, over $1.9 million dollars was invested in the City of Rochester from the Community Development Block Grant.

Details of the accomplishments of the CDBG program in the City is published in the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER) 90 days after the close of the program year.  You can view the CAPER reports associated with the 2010-2015 Consolidated Plan years at the bottom of the Community Development section.




FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
PLANNING AND ZONING




Community Development FAQs
What is CDBG?
The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It is intended for the improvement of housing and other self-designated community priorities for Rochester's low/mod-income community. Rochester determines its priorities via the Consolidated Plan, an analysis of housing and community makeup of the City and within that plan sets objectives and goals to be reached using the CDBG funds and other monies coming into the community. Click here for our FY 2013-2014 Action Plan;  FY 2014-2015 Action Plan Draft

What do you mean by low/mod-income community?
The programs and services supported by CDBG funds must primarily serve the lower income community. The median income as of January, 2013 for Strafford County is $84,000 for a family of 4. The "moderate income" limit for that size household is 80% of the median,  or  $64,000.  Most CDBG funded programs use this threshold to determine eligibility.  Some programs (like fuel assistance) limit participation to "low income" families at or below 50% of the median income.  All CDBG projects must assure that at least 51% of those served with its funding fall below this moderate income level.

Does Rochester make loans for local businesses?
The Job Opportunity Benefit (JOB) Loan program provides a source of funding for businesses to expand, modernize or relocate within Rochester.  These funds are almost always used as "gap" funding for businesses to add capital to their conventional financing.  Currently, loans range between $25,000 and $100,000.  Rochester businesses that will commit to hiring at least two to six full-time (or full-time equivalent positions) workers who will qualifty as low/moderate income groups prior to employemnt with the business, can apply for a loan.  The City's economic development capacity is enhanced by the infusion of CDBG funds.  Income from the repayment of these loans is available to fund future loans.  

What other sources of funds for home repairs are there?
A portion of Rochester's CDBG dollars are granted to the Strafford County Community Action program for their Weatherization program.  Applicants who have already qualified for fuel assistance may be eligible to receive these grants to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.  They also administer HUD's HOME program for single family housing rehabilitation in Strafford County.  They can be reached at 749-1334.

Do you provide down payment grants for first time homebuyers?
Rochester does not currently have funding to assist those seeking to purchase a home.  Several different programs for lower income families seeking to purchase single or multi-family homes are available through the New Hampshire Housing Authority.  Contact them at http://www.nhhfa.org or 1-800-640-7239.  Click here to see what the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund has to offer or you can call them at 224-6669.

Where can I find help with my current problem?
In the greater Rochester area, we have a wealth of agencies that address many issues – mental health, housing, elderly, education, legal assistance—such a wide variety of needs, we can't possibly list them all. Strafford County Community Action runs many programs for low income residents.  You can see their list of services here (link to http://straffcap.org/ ).  Also helpful is their Services Directory for Strafford County, available at their website.  Seniors and disabled individuals can be connected with a wide range of helpful services via the "one-stop"  Strafford County Service Link.  They can be reached at 332-7398.

Can we get a grant for a particular special project or non-profit agency here?
Projects must meet HUD's goals and address the theme and needs defined in the City's Consolidated Plan.  HUD requires projects to meet the following two provisions:
1)      They must benefit the low/mod population of Rochester, either by area (an activity will benefit a whole defined area of predominately low/mod households, like a census tract) or directly to groups of low/mod individuals or households (such as a homeless shelter or GED assistance).
2)      It must be an eligible activity.

What sorts of activities are eligible?
CDBG funds may be used for activities that include, but are not limited to:  acquisition of real property; relocation and demolition; rehabilitation of residential and non-residential structures; construction of public facilities and improvements, such as water and sewer facilities, streets, neighborhood centers, and the conversion of school buildings for eligible purposes; public services (such as operating funds for a non-profit organization that serves low/mod groups); activities relating to energy conservation and economic development and job creation/retention activities.

CDBG Funds can not be used to buy, build or reconstruct buildings for the use of the local government, certain income payments, political activities, and the construction of new housing units by the unit of local government.

The Community Development Specialist can answer more specific questions about whether your activity is eligible.  The place to start is demonstrate a clear need for the proposed activity and if it benefits the low/mod community in a demonstrable way.

How do you decide what projects should receive funding support?
We use the 2010-2015 Consolidated Plan, adopted in May 2010, to set goals and determine what types of projects will help us meet these goals.  Each year an action plan is adopted by the City Council which sets the projects and activities we will undertake each year.  Public Input is always welcome, but comment on the applications and proposed projects is the agenda at the CDBG Public Meeting. Public input on the draft CDBG budget and Action Plan for each year is welcome at a Public Hearing, held in Council Chambers, usually towards the end of April each year.  Other events and input meetings are held in many parts of the City throughout the year to elicit comment on the uses of the Community Development Block Grant and the changing needs of the lower income community.

What is the goal of the Consolidated Plan?
The past five years saw radical changes in the local and national housing markets, contraction in the economic markets and in 2010 we saw strained local budgets and threats to the sustainabiillty of the small non-profit network.  As we face challenges not seen in over a decade, the community needs to respond in new and bolder ways. This five year Consolidated Plan lays a path for Rochester to make some innovative changes in its use of its Community Development Block Grant.  Creativity along with strategic investment in systems and sources will encourage the growth of new resources available to our community to tackle the challenges of the next decade.  We envision that these choices will assist in the maintaining our local quality of life and prime the economic and human service engine for growth over the next ten years.  Click here to view the entire 2010-2015 Consolidated Plan.

What kinds of projects have been funded with CDBG in the past?
The City of Rochester has chosen to stay focused on projects in the four following eligible areas:
Public Service Grants, Housing, Economic Development and Public Facitlities/Infrastructure Improvements.

Between 2005-2010, over $1.9 million dollars was invested in the City of Rochester from the Community Development Block Grant.

Details of the accomplishments of the CDBG program in the City is published in the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report 90 days after the close of the program year.  Performance reports associated with the 2010-2015 Consolidated Plan can be found here: CAPER FY 10-11; CAPER FY 11-12




Planning and Zoning FAQs
What are the set back requirements for my building?
Front, side and rear yard setbacks are different in different zones.  The Planning and Development Department in City Hall has zoning maps and copies of the zoning ordinance that gives this information.

What zone am I in?
The City of Rochester has an Agricultural Zone, two residential zones, two business zones, three industrial zones and several special purpose zones.  The Planning and Development Department in City Hall has zoning maps that show this information.

What is permitted in what zone?
The Rochester Zoning Ordinance has a section called a "Permitted Uses" table.  This table lists which uses are permitted in a zone, which uses are permitted by "Special Exception", and which uses are not permitted.  The Planning and Development Department in City Hall has copies of the zoning ordinance that gives this information.

What if I want to do something that is permitted in my zone by Special Exception?
You can apply for a "special exception" from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. There are five tests your proposal has to meet in order for the Board to grant a special exception.  The Planning and Development Department in City Hall has copies of the application form and will provide technical assistance depending upon the specific request and circumstances.

What if I want to do something that is not permitted in my zone?
You can apply for a "variance" from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.  There are five tests your proposal has to meet in order for the Board to grant a variance.  The Planning and Development Department in City Hall has copies of the application form and will provide technical assistance depending upon the specific request and circumstances.

What are the meeting deadlines and meeting dates for the ZBA?
The Zoning Board of Adjustment usually meets the second Wednesday of each month and the deadline is approximately three weeks prior to the meeting date.  Call the Planning and Development Department at 335-1338 for specific dates.

What is a Master Plan?
The Master Plan establishes a vision and policy direction for the physical development of the city and addresses Land Use, Transportation, Economic and Community Development, Natural and Cultural Resources, Public Facilities and Infrastructure, and Recreation.

When is review for development necessary?
Review and approval by the City of Rochester Planning Board or the Rochester Department of Planning and Development is required for the following activities: development of land, building construction, building additions, site changes, creation of driveways and parking lots, change of use, earth excavation, road construction, subdivisions, lot line adjustments, and lot combinations.  Single family and two family dwellings are exempt from review.

What type and level of review is necessary for my project?
The Department of Planning and Development has created an outline for the submission of a "letter of intent".  You can pick one up in person or we can mail or FAX the outline to you.  Once we have received and reviewed the letter we will determine the type and level of review necessary.  The appropriate applications are available at the Planning and Development Department in City Hall.

What is the application procedure?
Applying for Site Plan or Subdivision approval involves the following steps:
1)  A pre-application meeting with staff (this is not required but is encouraged, particularly on large, complicated, or sensitive projects).
2)  Submission of a complete application by the deadline date (28 days prior to Planning Board meeting)
3)  Notification to applicant if proposal does not meet requirements.
4)  A Technical Review Committee (TRC) meeting with City departments, attended by agent, or by applicant if there is no agent.
5)  Filling out and mailing of notices to abutters (via certified mail) by applicant.
6)  A public hearing before the Planning Board.  All parties, including agent, applicant, abutters, and other interested parties with standing, may speak.
7)  Planning Board acceptance of application as being complete and consideration of requests for waivers.
8)  Planning Board action to approve (almost always with conditions), deny, or continue application to a subsequent meeting.  Final action is usually taken after only 1, 2, or 3 meetings.
9)  Parties seeking to appeal any final Planning Board action must petition the superior court within 30 days of posting of the decision.

What happens after the Planning Board approves my project?
1)  The Planning Department mails the Planning Board Notice of Decision.
2)  The applicant meets the precedent conditions including:
a)  modifying plans as necessary
b)  paying any necessary fees such as Monumentation Fee (used to tie in property with the New Hampshire State Plane Coordinate System), sewer discharge permit, costs for any independent consultants to review components of plans (such as traffic study or City Attorney's review of documents)
c)  obtaining state and federal approvals
d)  payment of any necessary bonds (mainly for subdivisions)
3)  The Planning Department signs ("certifies") drawings.
4)  The plat for subdivisions (plat and deed for lot line adjustments) is recorded.
5)  The preconstruction meeting is held on site with City departments, applicant or agent, and contractor.
6)  The Department of Building, Zoning, and Licensing Services issues building permit (for site plans).
7)  The applicant completes the project, submits as-built drawings, registry of deeds receipts (for subdivisions and lot line adjustments) and pays any outstanding fees.
8)  Planning and other departments inspect project.
9)  The applicant obtains sign-offs from various departments certifying proper completion.
10) The Department of Building, Zoning, and Licensing Services issues Certificate of Occupancy.

What is a Minor Site Application?
Minor site plans involve an expedited administrative review by a "Minor Site Committee" composed of City staff.   Minor site plans include three to five residential units, a simple change of use not involving site changes, parking areas of 10 or fewer spaces, and building additions of 1,000 square feet or less.

The applicant notifies abutters by certified mail.  Then, an on-site meeting, including interested parties, is held at least 10 days after the certified mail is sent.  Final action is taken shortly thereafter.  Any party may appeal the decision of the Minor Site Committee to the Planning Board if the appeal is filed within 20 days of the decision.

What is a Special Downtown Application?
The Special Downtown process allows for an expedited administrative review by  City staff where the Planning Department determines that no significant impact is involved.  Any development within the City's three downtown districts is eligible but generally significant construction or site changes will be referred to the Planning Board.  There are no fees, notices to abutters, on site meetings, nor public hearings involved in the Special Downtown review.

How are applications for Home Occupations handled?
Home occupations involve a very simple administrative review.  However, in situations where significant issues are raised an application may be referred to the Planning Board.  Staff decisions may be appealed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.  The Zoning Ordinance defines a home occupation as follows:
Home Occupation.  Any use conducted entirely within a dwelling or an accessory building which is clearly incidental and secondary to the use of the dwelling purposes and which does not change the character thereof, and in connection with which there is no outside display or storage, nor emission of dust, noise, fumes, vibration or smoke beyond the lot line.  Such home occupation shall not employ more than two (2) persons who are not members of the family nor occupy a floor area greater than twenty-five percent (25%) of the floor area of the dwelling unit.  Goods sold at retail shall be those manufactured or assembled on the premises.  Care of children in the home, provided that no more than three (3) children are cared for, shall be considered a home occupation and shall be considered exempt from parking restrictions and site review.  Signs for a home occupation shall be in accordance with the provisions of Section 42.8 of this ordinance.

What is the process for Zoning Amendments?
Citizens may petition the Rochester City Council for amendments to the Zoning Ordinance.  There are two types of amendments:
1)  a Map Amendment  changes the  zoning district for one or more lots of land; and,
2)  a Text Amendment changes the  written specifications in the ordinance pertaining to uses, dimensions, and other standards.  Blank petitions are available in the Planning Department.

What fees are involved?
The following is a list of typical fees.  Please call the Planning and Development Department for a complete list.
Full Planning Board Non-Residential Site Review involves a base fee of $250 plus additional increments per square foot
Full Planning Board Residential Site Review involves a base fee of $250 plus $150 per new lot
A minor Site Review is $250
There is no charge for Site Review projects reviewed under the Special Downtown provisions
Major Subdivision base fee is $600 plus $200 per lot
Minor Subdivision base fee is $250 plus $75 per lot
A home occupation is $35
An application to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for variances and appeals is $175.
After Planning Board approval there are additional fees involved pertaining to sewerage, survey monumentation, and other items.


City of Rochester  31 Wakefield Street, Rochester, NH 03867     PH: (603) 335-7500
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