Voters approve Rte 28 rezoning; planners OK stormwater regs

After two years of discussion that included input from numerous residents and property owners in the area, Wolfeboro voters overwhelmingly approved new residential and commercial zoning for a set of properties near the intersection of routes 28 and 109 and at the West Lake business complex.

The new zone encompasses all four properties at that intersection, including the 7-Eleven, as well as the Trites auto dealership, Parsons Furniture, the Bly Farm stand, a small commercial strip, and a storage facility. This map shows the affected area.

In addition to single and duplex residential uses, the zone permits banks, business services, professional offices, bed and breakfast facilities, museums, libraries, educational institutions, and day care facilities. With special Planning Board approval, a developer would also be allowed to establish uses such as elderly housing, movie theaters, and restaurants.

The Planning Board removed inns and retail establishments from possible uses after members of the community pointed to potential conflict with the town’s Master Plan as well as potentially adverse impacts on both water resources and residential neighborhoods.

The change replaces highly permissive commercial zoning that had been put in place a number of years ago and that would have allowed any number of commercial uses that could pose a threat to nearby brooks and Lake Wentworth. Neighbors also expressed concern about potential impacts on nearby residential properties and on the Cotton Valley Trail.

The proposal approved by voters reflected a number of changes made in light of resident input as well as consideration of the Lake Wentworth Watershed Management Plan, which had identified weaknesses in the town’s zoning regulations. As originally proposed, the new zone would have stretched from the intersection of routes 28 and 109 up to the area of the New Hampshire Boat Museum.

Just as significant, it would have included few specific environmental safeguards, leading to concern about potential damage to Harvey, Hersey, and Fernald brooks, all of which cut through that original stretch of roadway.

In the end, discussion of the Route 28 proposal led the town’s Planning Board to review how it evaluates the environmental impact from development and to adopt a stringent, town-wide set of stormwater management regulations. Those rules – which did not require voter approval – will be used to assess future commercial and subdivision projects in the town.

The focus of the new standard is on keep runoff from hard surfaces such as buildings and parking lots from entering nearby streams, lakes, wetlands, and groundwater. The new Route 28 zoning has no environmental controls of its own and relies entirely on the stormwater regulations.

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