Home Business Bylaw Hearing Set

The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on a bylaw proposal that spells out new rules for any trade, professional or other occupation that is carried out in a residential dwelling. The Rochester Planning Board announced at its February 14 meeting that the public hearing for a new “home occupancy bylaw” will take place on February 28 during its 7:00 pm meeting at the Town Hall.

The home business bylaw would remove current rules that essentially list which professions are allowed in private homes, and add new rules that apply across the board to all types of home-run businesses. These rules discuss parking restrictions, setbacks for roadside stands, etc.

A public hearing is required before the Planning Board can submit the bylaw changes as a warrant article. More information is available at the Rochester Planning Department office.

In other business, the board continued its discussion on the formation of a new Village Zoning Overlay which would allow residents near the town center to pursue mixed-use projects. The board currently is working on drawing out an exact map detailing what areas the overlay would encompass.

In the meantime, the board voted to authorize Town Planner John Charbonneau to draft a letter to neighbors asking if they oppose living inside a new Zoning Overlay that would allow limited commercial in their agricultural/residential zone.

“We may get feedback from people who don’t want to see neighbors use their property differently… We’ll see how they respond,” Mr. Charbonneau said.

“They may have ideas we have never dreamed of, and we’ll want to know,” commented board member Susan Teal.

Discussing the issue of how homes in the Overlay would be taxed, Chairman Arnie Johnson said he spoke with John Mello in the Assessor’s Office, who said that Rochester most likely will remain under a unified tax rate during the next several years. However, Mr. Johnson said an Overlay could boost property value, affecting taxes.

The planning board had considered incorporating the land at the Old Airport on Marion Road in the Overlay, but some members felt it is more appropriate to look at that land in a separate warrant article. Mr. Johnson said previously that the lot may soon be open for development.

“That is a big chunk of land, it is sizeable enough for someone to do something,” said board member Gary Florindo, noting that the property is on a state road and has access to town water.

However, Mr. Charbonneau cautioned that the wrong kind of development could come at the detriment to the town center.

“It’s still close enough to the town center that if you get the wrong kind of development in there, it could spoil the town center,” he said.

Chairman Johnson said a Zoning Overlay proposal “could potentially be ready to go for the fall town meeting.” The board would host forums, then public hearings, before finalizing the bylaw and submitting it on the warrant.

In other matters, the board is working on an additional agricultural enterprise overlay bylaw, which it intends to show to the newly formed Rochester Agricultural Commission in March. The board agreed that any subdivisions with 10 or more homes would be excluded from such an overlay.

Lastly, the board noted that board member Peter Geldmacher is not seeking re-election, thus anyone interested in running for the Planning Board opening should contact the Town Hall.

By Laura Fedak Pedulli

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