Proposed Amendments to Town Zoning Ordinance

Press Release

The Andover Zoning Ordinance is the group of rules that our community has put in place to guide the uses and development of land in our town, and preserve our town’s character.  

The town requires the Planning Board to keep the Zoning Ordinance up-to-date with state law and with the priorities set by the town in the Master Plan.  To help accomplish this, the Planning Board is proposing five amendments to the Zoning Ordinance.  We hope Andover voters will support this effort by voting “Yes” for each of the five amendments on the 2018 municipal ballot.  These amendments are to be voted on by ballot Tuesday, March 13, during voting hours which are  11 AM – 7 PM, prior to the Town meeting.  
None of the amendments is a material change in policy, and none will increase costs to Andover residents.  The Select Board supports these amendments.  Here is a summary of the amendments:

1. Storage Trailers, Storage Containers, Fabric-Covered Garages and Pre-Fabricated Carports.  These structures have become more common.  The current Zoning Ordinance requires them to have a building permit. The proposed amendment relaxes this requirement to require just that owners register these structures with the Zoning Administrator. There would be no fee for registration.

2. Tiny Houses.  Under the current Zoning Ordinance, new dwellings with a ground floor area of less than four hundred eighty (480) square feet – tiny houses – are prohibited. The proposed amendment would allow special exceptions for tiny houses in all districts except Village and Forest and Agriculture, where the Planning Board feels that they would be incompatible with the character of the village areas or with rural farm and forest landscapes.

3. Board of Adjustment Powers for Variances.  Parties asking the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) for a variance from the rules of the Zoning Ordinance must meet certain tests to ensure that the new construction or use is consistent with community standards.  The proposed amendment makes Andover’s standards for obtaining a variance clearer and consistent with current state law (RSA 674:33).   [NOTE:  This is a new proposed Amendment 3.  The previous proposal – “3. No Building on Class VI or Private Road” – was withdrawn]

4. Purposes of the Zoning Ordinance.  The stated purposes of the Zoning Ordinance are important when town officials, boards, and committees make decisions – for example in granting or denying variances and special exceptions, or reviewing subdivision and commercial site plan proposals. The current Zoning Ordinance has very little language describing its purposes. The proposed amendment adds purposes allowed in state law as well as the guiding principles of Andover’s Master Plan.

5. Update of the Special Exception Process. Under Andover’s Zoning Ordinance, any use in any district may be approved by the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) as an “additional” or “unlisted” special exception, providing flexibility to deal with special cases as they arise.    This amendment adds concise criteria and safeguards that an unlisted special exception must meet in order to be approved, to ensure that any exceptions that are allowed are appropriate, are in keeping with the Master Plan, and are determined in a consistent manner.  In addition, the amendment updates the ordinance to make clear, in line with state law, that while the Planning Board may provide input and advice, the ZBA alone has the power to decide on special exceptions.   

Complete copies of the 5 Ordinances may be found on the town’s website, in the town office, and during the voting hours on March 13, 11 AM – 7 PM.