City of Somersworth – 2013 Award Winner
The 2013 Excellence in Planning Award is given to the City of Somersworth. It is easy to smile when thinking about the City of Somersworth – a city awash with civic pride and enthusiasm for their community. It is a great pleasure to present this award to Somersworth.
Every year we look at the multiple aspects engendered in successful municipal planning, knowing that it is a journey, a commitment of political will, a vision encompassing several generations, and the financial wherewithal to make it happen. When other municipalities over the last five years have found reasons to delay planning and building for the future, the Somersworth City Council, Planning Board, and other Boards and Commissions, continued to move forward with their plans to build a 21st century downtown, schools, bridges, and government services that will continue to meet the evolving needs of the citizens and businesses of Somersworth.
- During the course of two decades, and several sets of national and regional financial ups and downs, the City Council and City Administration have stayed focused on downtown revitalization – believing that it could happen and that it would happen. Putting the pieces in place to make it a reality takes courage and fortitude.
- Looking back to 2001, the City embraced SMART Growth principles with its decision to relocate City Hall in the downtown through the opening and rehabilitation of the Bank Building. This building was originally designed in the International style, and is now structured to meet the needs of an open government in the digital age.
- In 2002 the City was designated a Main Street Community to continue the focus on the revitalization of the downtown through support of local businesses and community events.
- From 2005 through the present, City staff has received yearly Certified Local Government grants to develop a comprehensive survey of all the properties in the Somersworth Historic District – the largest in NH with over 300 properties.
- In 2009 the City received a competitive NHDOT Transportation Enhancement Grant for downtown streetscape improvements.
- And in a funding tradition that is coming to a conclusion, the City received an appropriations request – an earmark from the NH Congressional Delegation for $500,000- to rehabilitate the Route 9 Bridge on the Salmon Falls River.
- Moving forward with the other financial instruments, the City Council voted to issue up to a 4.5 million dollar bond for the downtown to upgrade utilities, reconstruct roads, and widen sidewalks, with the goal of making the downtown a vibrant focal point and economic engine of the City – a livable, walkable community.
- Somersworth also has improved their public recreation facilities – such as Noble Pines Spray Park and Pavilion, and is gradually updating the landscaping of City properties.
- The City received State Department of Resources & Economic Development approval for the creation of two Economic Revitalization Zones.
- And in February 2013, the City Council adopted RSA 79-E, the Community Revitalization Tax Relief program, and has approved its first on-going project.
- In other aspects of preparing for downtown revitalization, the City Council created a Vision 2020 Committee with the goals of improving the community image, working towards excellence in education and municipal services, and creating a greater sense of quality of place.
- In 2010, the Planning Board and Vision 2020 Committee updated the City’s Master Plan creating the following vision: Somersworth will be a vibrant and highly sought after community in which to live, work and play that celebrates its history, culture, diversity and industrial roots.
- Somersworth was one of the first municipalities to implement Low Impact Development regulations in New Hampshire.
- Dave Sharples, Director of Planning and Development Services, received the 2012 Source Water Protection Award from NH Department of Environmental Services for his professional efforts in water resource policy at the local and regional level.
- Additionally, Somersworth was recognized as a key partner in the Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative that received the U.S. Water Prize in 2012 from the U.S. Water Alliance
- The Division of Economic Development and Planning was reorganized to create an Economic Development Manager to be a liaison between the business community and local government with Christine Davis ably filling this position.
- The entire development process was reviewed and streamlined to avoid unnecessary delays in permits while insuring protection of the public safety and welfare.
- Finally, Somersworth has been an active member of the Technical Advisory Committee, Executive Committee, and Policy Committee. Always appreciated!
Congratulations City of Somersworth on your successes, and our best wishes for the next phases of your planning journey toward your vision – a vibrant and highly sought after community in which to live, work and play!