SRPC Awards Dover Planning and Community Development with 2018 Annual Excellence Award

Each year staffers at Strafford Regional Planning Commission (SRPC) spend the spring months preparing for the annual luncheon. This event gives us an opportunity to celebrate another busy and successful year with our partners and colleagues, a chance to share some new information with our guests, and an opportunity to meet new stakeholders and share with them what it is we do at SRPC.

The meeting centers on a theme—this year’s was trails—and includes a time for guests to network, enjoy a nice meal, and learn about the featured topic. Another not‑to‑be‑missed highlight of the meeting is the presentation of SRPC’s Annual Excellence Award, which recognizes a partner who has done exceptional work over the past year.

SRPC Executive Director Jen Czysz presented the 2018 Award In Excellence and Innovation in City Planning to Dover Planning and Community Development. This well-deserved award recognized the Garrison City for its region-leading planning initiatives, which have served as a model of innovation across the state and throughout Northern New England. Dover’s forward-thinking approach has linked land-use planning, zoning, transportation, economic development, natural resource protection, trails, responses to climate change, and energy efficiency to create what is arguably one of the most vibrant and livable communities in New Hampshire.

In presenting the award, Jen shared a list of Dover’s recent and notable accomplishments including:

  • Being the first community in Northern New England to adopt, in 2009, a Form Based Code enabling greater flexibility in the development and redevelopment of Dover’s downtown. In combination with zoning changes, the city improved opportunities to redevelop vacant and underused city-owned parcels, encouraged mixed uses, and expanded transit use and pedestrian activities in its downtown.
  • Acting as a steward of the Great Bay estuary, recognizing and responding to the harm caused by untreated stormwater and the potential for flood damage, pollution, erosion, and loss of habitat and aquatic life.
  • Amending its subdivision and site plan review regulations in 2016 to require low-impact development (LID) techniques and employing LID techniques for municipal improvements, acquiring conservation land, and restricting the use of toxic pesticides.
  • Recognizing the importance of adaptation and resiliency in the face of coastal hazards by adopting regulations more stringent than required by the National Flood Insurance Program–requiring that the lowest floor of new or substantially improved structures to be two feet above base flood elevation.
  • Using innovative planning techniques when considering the effects of rising sea level on the Cochecho Waterfront Development project. Preliminary site designs for the mixed-use district along the Cochecho River will incorporate a “living shoreline” to address sea level rise.
  • Being one of four New England sites chosen in 2012 to partner with MIT and the Consensus Building Institute and test new and innovative ways to increase public awareness about climate change risks and adaptation opportunities. The effort engaged 120 residents in a mock decision making exercise and was published in the New England Climate Adaption Project report (2014).
  • Being one of 10 communities to complete a vulnerability assessment report as part of the Climate Risk in the Seacoast (C-RiSe) project. The effort identified key assets and resources potentially at risk from sea level rise or coastal storm surge flooding.
  • Integrating climate change into its updated, FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan.
  • Receiving the 2018 Plan of the Year award from the New Hampshire Planner’s Association (NHPA) for the climate adaptation chapter of the Dover master plan. The new chapter was completed this year and is the first of its kind in the state. It addresses in detail water availability and quality, health and safety, food, energy, infrastructure, and natural resources. This effort has set a new bar for climate resiliency planning.
  • Receiving the NHPA 2016 Plan of the Year for its Downtown Pedestrian and Vehicular Access Plan.
  • Finishing, in 2016, its Silver Street Reconstruction connecting neighborhoods, downtown, industry, and transit via bike/pedestrian infrastructure and road upgrades. The project evolved into an upgrade of a gateway to the downtown and consisted of water main replacements, drainage improvements (including a rain garden near the Woodman Park School), street and sidewalk reconstruction, landscaping, wayfinding, lighting, and traffic signalization improvements.
  • Receiving funding and upgrading its Community Trail. Additional segments will be constructed, and the trail extensions will connect multi-family housing to the high school, middle school, and downtown, providing a safer and shorter travel route for bicyclists and pedestrians.

In his brief remarks Chris Parker, assistant city manager, said he was accepting the award on behalf of the entire city. He noted that the accomplishments cited by Jen would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of all the city departments. City planner Steve Bird and community development planner Dave Carpenter were also present to accept the award.

We would like to congratulate Dover for its efforts and accomplishments, and to honor the city as this year’s awardee. We are excited to see what the next year has in store for the Garrison City, and we are confident it will continue on this influential trajectory.