Have your say about Manchester’s new Zoning Ordinance

The first draft of Manchester’s revised Land Use Code (a.k.a. Zoning Ordinance) is now out for public review. At 250 pages it’s a whopper, and not exactly a bodice-ripper nor the latest Jason Bourne thriller. But it absolutely is very much worth your time to download and page through. From its many graphics you will learn fascinating things about our city, and why some things are set up and arranged the way they are.

A sample image from the draft Zoning Ordinance

It’s also very much worth your time to watch the one-hour summary video put out by the city and Jeffrey Belanger, Director of Planning and Community Development. Jeffrey does us all a service with his very clear, even eloquent, overview of the new zoning plan and some of the changes from the earlier version.

After digesting the video, or the document, or both, the city would like to hear your opinions. Here’s how, and what will come next.

Ward Meetings

The city planning staff will host twelve meetings, one per ward, at which they will:

  • explain the ordinance
  • record and catalog comments & feedback
  • answer questions

These meetings will be done in partnership with UNH Extension and their professional meeting facilitators who are skilled at eliciting feedback and ensuring smooth discussion.

The meetings will be held according to the following schedule:

  • July 10 6pm — Ward 12, Northwest Elementary
  • July 13 10am — Ward 10, Parker-Varney Elementary
  • July 17 6pm — Ward 8, Jewett Street Elementary
  • July 27 10am — Ward 11, Gossler Part Elementary
  • July 31 6pm — Ward 1, Webster Elementary
  • Aug 3 10am — Ward 7, St. Anthony Community Center
  • Aug 14 6pm — Ward 6, Green Acres Elementary
  • Aug 17 10am — Ward 5, Manchester Community Resource Center
  • Aug 21 6pm — Ward 4, McDonough Elementary
  • Aug 28 6pm — Ward 2, Smyth Road Elementary
  • Sep 4 6pm — Ward 9, Bishop O’Neil Youth Center
  • Sep 7 10am — Ward 3, Palace Theater Spotlight Room

If you can’t make the designated time for your ward, you are welcome to attend other meetings.

Survey

The city will also request and gather feedback using a public survey, covering a range of topics about the new ordinance. This survey will be distributed by a physical paper letter mailed during the first week in July to every household in Manchester (more than 56,000) containing a schedule of the above mentioned meetings and also containing a QR code and website URL for the survey. The city will also make available paper copies of the survey for anyone who prefers that.

The city will also work with the Chamber of Commerce and the Manchester Economic Development Office (MEDO) to notify businesses of the meetings and the survey.

For the survey the city will partner with the UNH Survey Center. They have much experience running surveys for presidential primaries.

Data Presentation

Collection of surveys will end in September. That will be followed by two reports:

  • a report cataloging comments & questions collected during ward meetings
  • a report presenting data from the survey with analysis from the UNH Survey Center

The goal of this information gathering is to help revise the initial draft of the Zoning Ordinance to produce the Final Draft.

Steering Committee

A steering committee will guide the writing of the Final Draft. Membership of this committee will be:

  • Aldermen
  • 1 member Planning Board
  • 1 member Zoning Board
  • 1 member Heritage Commission
  • 1 member Housing Commission
  • 3 citizens chosen by the Mayor

These members will be chosen as follows. All boards & committees providing members will choose them internally according to their own rules. The three citizen members are nominated by mail to the city but those nominations were closed on June 28.

Timeline w/ Milestones

Below is a summary of upcoming significant dates (and a few past) relating to the new Zoning Ordinance. Later dates are not precise because of the amount of work required and the difficulty of forecasting so far out.

  • June 21 — Draft ordinance publication & presentation
  • June 28 — Applications due for citizens to serve on steering committee
  • July 1-5 — Letters sent to all households in city
  • July – September — Community meetings and survey collection
  • Early October — Wrap-up meeting to share gathered data
  • September – December — Review of data / Meetings of steering committee / Edits to ordinance
  • November – January — BMA committee meetings / Public hearing / Adoption

So in early 2025, barring onforeseen circumstances, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen will be voting to approve the new final draft of the Zoning Ordinance.

Following these events into 2026 there will be a process of coming up with new Subdivision and Site Plan Regulations. Details about that will be forthcoming.

A sample image from the draft Zoning Ordinance