Friday, October 16, 2009

Changing Population

At the October 8, 2009, Master Plan forum, the discussion focused on changes to the population of the Town of Wakefield that have occurred over the past 40 years, what trends may be developing, and how those trends may effect Wakefield in the future.

Our Town Planner presented statistics for the Board’s review and discussion and discussed how those statistics are developed and what they mean to the community.

The NH Office of Energy and Planning (NH-OEP) estimates the 2008 population of Wakefield to be 4,826. Local data, such as student population and voter registrations, indicate that the year-round population for the Town of Wakefield may be as high as 5,900.

The Town of Wakefield is one of the fastest growing communities in the state and has consistently experienced a higher growth rate than Carroll and Strafford Counties, and the State of New Hampshire. Population for the Town of Wakefield has increased nearly 240% since 1970. During the same period, Carroll and Stafford Counties and the State of NH experienced population increases of 155%, 74% and 78%, respectively.

The population for the Town of Wakefield increased by 57.5% from 1970 to 1980. Wakefield experienced additional surges in population growth from 1980 to 1990 (a 39.6% increase) and from 1990 to 2000 (a 39.1% increase). A review of population data with other available data indicates that a significant portion of the increase in population from 1990 to 2000 resulted from the conversion of seasonal or vacation homes to year-round residences.

Seasonal population is important to the community in terms of the potential for increased consumer spending, as well as increased demands on municipal services. A local survey would be necessary to determine with reasonable accuracy the number of seasonal residents in Wakefield. As that type of data isn’t currently available, the Planning Board will estimate the seasonal population using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and building permit data. A preliminary estimate of the seasonal population is 4,775 persons, but the Board will continue to look at this estimate during the November 12th Master Plan forum.

The population of Wakefield is aging. According to US Census Bureau data, the largest increase in population from 1980 to 2000 has occurred in the 30-44 year age bracket, followed by the 45-64 year bracket. The school age population (ages 5 through 17) demonstrated the third largest increase in population. The median age in Wakefield has increased from 36.4 years in 1980 to 40.1 years in 2000. This is a trend that is being observed throughout New Hampshire as families have fewer children and more young adults leave the state in search of employment opportunities.

Wakefield’s population is projected to increase in the coming decade, but at a slower rate than experience in previous decades. Over the next 12 years, the period covered by the Master Plan update, the Wakefield population is projected to increase approximately 23%.

The Planning Board will continue to discuss changes to the Town's population at the November 12th Master Plan forum.

Acton-Wakefield Watershed Alliance Completes Watershed Study

The Acton-Wakefield Watershed Alliance (AWWA) received a grant from the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from the clean water act to undertake a watershed study that included Great East Lake, Horn Pond, Lake Ivanhoe, and Lovell Lake – all of which are part of the Salmon Falls River watershed.

The purpose of the study was to develop a build-out analysis and to make recommendations to the Town of Wakefield and the Town of Acton regarding changes to zoning and land use regulations to better protect each town’s surface waters. FB Environmental, the consultant hired by AWWA to complete the study, presented the results of their study to the Planning Board at the Board’s Master Plan forum on September 10th.

FB Environmental began their presentation with a discussion of how to balance growth and protection of environmental quality. They identified the introduction of phosphorus into our surface waters as a primary concern affecting water quality. Phosphorus enters our surface waters through run-off from development and impervious surfaces, and leaching from septic systems, with fertilizers and detergents being the most frequent source of phosphorus. Erosion and the resulting siltation was another concern identified by FB Environmental.

Recommendations to minimize the amount of phosphorus included encouraging property owners to use phosphate-free fertilizers and detergents. To help control erosion, FB Environmental suggested that the towns encourage cluster developments and the use of low impact development techniques.

To learn more about the watershed study and surveys, visit the AWWA website at:

Following this presentation, the Planning Board began a discussion on natural resources planning. The Board requested the Town Planner to research the results of a natural resource inventory undertaken by the Conservation Commission about 5 years ago. The Board then went on to discuss viewsheds throughout town and the need to identify and protect them.

There will be more discussion on these and other concerns when the Board begins to update the natural resources chapter of the Master Plan.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A note about Comments

At the bottom right hand corner of the signature box directly below a post, you'll see the number of comments that have been added to a post. In order to view the comment(s), you can either click on the word "Comments" or click on the title of the post that comments have been added to. A new window will open to display both the post and comment(s).

Friday, August 21, 2009

East Wakefield Master Plan Forum

On Thursday, August 13, the Planning Board held a Master Plan public forum at the East Wakefield Fire Station.

As this was the first forum for many of the members of the public in attendance, the discussions provided a brief overview of the Master Plan process, the purpose of the document, and a summary of the discussions from previous forums. Those in attendance offered some additional comments regarding the economic development potential for the Town of Wakefield and discussed the types of businesses they would like to see in town. The discussion then turned to the population growth that the Town has experienced over the last 30+ years.

The Town of Wakefield has consistently experienced a population growth rate that exceeds that of neighboring communities, Carroll and Strafford Counties, and the State of New Hampshire. You may wonder why Strafford County is included in the comparison. The Town of Wakefield is unique in that while it is located in Carroll County, it is also part of the Rochester-Dover Labor Market Area. So characteristics of both counties may impact population growth in Wakefield.

During the period of 1960 through 2008, the population of the Town of Wakefield increased by slightly more than 295%. The State of NH, Carroll and Strafford Counties experienced population increases of 116.7%, 199.4% and 105.4%, respectively, for the same period. The NH Office of Energy and Planning projects that the population for the Town of Wakefield will increase another 24.1% over the next 12 years.

What has brought about such a significant increase in population? Most likely, many factors are involved. The comparatively low housing cost combined with an exceptional quality of life is likely to attract many new residents to the community. Conversion of seasonal homes to primary homes would result in an increase in population as seasonal residents retire to these homes. Increasing housing costs in communities to our south, as well as decreasing availability of land in those communities, would contribute to an increase in population as people seek housing that is more affordable.

The age distribution of the population is another key component of a population analysis from a planning perspective. For example, an aging population will place increasing demands on emergency services while, at the same time, can contribute to declining revenues as more homeowners become eligible for the elderly tax exemption program. An increasing number of young families will place more demand on the school system. Therefore, it is necessary to understand more about the town’s population than just the number of residents. These analyses will be part of the Master Plan process and will be posted on the blog as they are completed.

And a note of thanks to Mary Richards. The Planning Board would like to thank Mary Richards for all of her assistance in organizing the East Wakefield Master Plan forum.

The next public forum will be at Town Hall on Thursday, September 10th. We hope to see you there.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Economic Development and other discussions

The Planning Board has now held three public forums to discuss the Vision Statement for the Master Plan. At each of these forums, the need for economic development has dominated the discussion. Residents explained that they want to see more opportunity for economic development in town to increase the Town's tax base and to create jobs for residents. The discussion then briefly turned to the need for more housing that is affordable to middle income families that would be the employees of these news business.

During the discussions, residents talked about the need to offer incentives to encourage appropriate businesses to locate in Wakefield. Those attending the forum also offered suggestions on what areas of Town would be suitable for business or light industrial uses. And there was a discussion about revolving loans funds and grant funding that might be available to provide incentives to businesses. There was also discussion about using historic structures, such as the old mill in Union, for business and light industrial purposes. The Planning Board and residents agreed that the Chamber of Commerce needed to be involved in the discussions on economic development.

The discussions then turned to other topics. There was a brief discussion on how residents comments and suggestions would be incorporated into the Master Plan. One resident stated there was a need to identify and map existing conservation easements, recreational areas, Town-owned lands, etc., as part of the Master Plan update. Another resident expressed concern about conflicts that might arise between different land use goals, such as water resource protection and increased light industrial uses. The residents raising these concerns learned that mapping projects and identifying and addressing possible conflicts will be part of the Master Plan process.

The Planning Board will hold the next two public forums at different locations so that it will be easier for residents to attend. The July 9th forum will be in Union at the Greater Wakefield Resource Center; the August 13th forum will be at the Fire Station in E. Wakefield. These forums will begin at 7 p.m.

We hope to you can attend one of these forums to share you thoughts and comments with the Planning Board.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Your comments

You can now add your comments to the Planning Board's blog postings. Comments will be moderated and only those comments that pertain to the Master Plan update will be posted here.

To post a comment, just click on the word "Comments" at the bottom of the posting you'd like to comment on and type your comment in the box. At the bottom of the "Comments" box, you'll have to enter the word verification as it appears on your screen.

Then you'll then need to choose an identity. If you have gmail (Google e-mail), you can post using your gmail profile. If you are a member of OpenID, you can select that option. You can select Name/URL to post a comment to include your name or website (URL). Or you can choose to post your comment anonymously. The identity that you select will appear at the end of your posting.

After you've selected an identity, just click on "Publish Your Comment". We will then be notified that a comment has been made to a blog posting. We'll review the comment to be certain it pertains to the Master Plan update and, if it does, we'll post it on the blog to share with other readers.

This feature will be effective for all future blog postings. But if you'd like to comment on one of the earlier blog postings, you can use the "Comments" link directly below this paragraph.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Paul School Master Plan Project

At the invitation of the Planning Board, Patrick Troy, Principal of the Paul School, and Priscilla Colbath, School Board member, attended the May 14th Master Plan forum to discuss the possibility of developing a school project related to the Master Plan. Mr. Troy and Mrs. Colbath were excited by the proposal and thought it would be a great opportunity for 4th and 5th grade students to look at Wakefield's past, present and future.

Some general project ideas that included essays and artwork by the children were discussed and Mr. Troy and Mrs. Colbath agreed to return to the June 4th Planning Board meeting with a written plan for the project.

At the June 4th meeting, Mr. Troy told the Planning Board that he had met with the 4th grade teachers who suggested that a series of panels that would contain student essays and artwork that show how Wakefield came to be and what we want to become. The project would be called "Wakefield - a Walk from the Past into the Future". Mr. Troy suggested that this would be an on-going project beginning in September and ending on Pride Day 2010.

More to come on this when school is back in session. In the meantime, the minutes from the May 14th discussion can be found here:

The link to the minutes from the June 4th discussion will be posted as soon as those minutes are online.