Updated Vision Statement
An Economic Vision for Bow
Bow Development Commission
October 17, 2007
On September 24, the Bow Development Commission hosted an open forum with the community's residents and businesses to discuss its current and future activities. The forum was attended by approximately 50 individuals, and others have submitted comments since. It was then the subject of further public discussion at a second forum on October 17. The following is a summary of all of the direction and input received to date.
Goals for a Bow Economic Development Program
There should be multiple sub-goals, but the over-arching goal should be to strengthen the Town of Bow as a community through economic development. To that end, the Bow Development Commission should:
- Continue to evaluate the need and opportunity for additional water and/or sewer infrastructure in the Route 3-A Corridor
- Explore opportunities both to assist existing businesses in Bow and to attract others from away who may be interested in re-locating or expanding to our community
- Seek and work with businesses that will provide a variety of economic opportunity, from unskilled, to semi-skilled, to highly skilled, to professional and managerial levels
- Seek new businesses that will round out the mix of existing retail and other establishments, so that citizens could conduct more of their business in town, rather than having to travel to other communities for even basic needs (grocery, hardware, medical, banking, etc.)
- Work to build a stronger non-residential tax base, so as to stabilize the existing tax rate as much as possible
In undertaking activities to achieve these goals, the strong directive from the community was that the Bow Development Commission should be proactive. It should be responsive to the needs and interests of existing businesses, to those of potential new businesses, and to those of the citizens at large. Finally, it should be responsible, acting in ways that balance the achievement of the goals above while still retaining the character and natural resources of the community as they exist today.
To the extent that lines of communication could be improved between the community's existing businesses and other elements of Town Government, the Bow Development Commission was urged to be an agent or catalyst to see those lines improved.
Finally, there was recognition among those assembled that in order to do all of these with a volunteer board, there will need to be additional resources provided in the form of staff and other support services.
There were a wide variety of potential actions suggested for the Bow Development Commission. With limited staff, time, and resources, these will necessarily need to be prioritized. For discussion purposes, they have been grouped under three separate headings:
The Northeastern/CURP identified a number of project review processes where Bow appeared to lag behind other communities. These should be investigated, evaluated, and corrected where practical and prudent.
There was a sense among those gathered that some elements of the Town's regulatory framework (zoning, sub-division, etc.) are unduly restrictive, and that these could be revised without unduly compromising the underlying goals of those regulations: to provide a healthy, safe community that retains Bow's rural environment.
There is a strong sense among some of the existing businesses that Bow is not a business-friendly community in which to work. Correcting this, whether it is perception or reality, is the key to any business development program, whether it is focused on existing or new businesses.
Suggestions as to how to improve this included:
- A business visitation program
- Developing a marketing program, but only after developing stronger working relations between the Town and local businesses
- Establishing a community TV channel to cover local meetings
- The establishment of a list of land that is currently available for development
- An improved website, with answers to Frequently Asked Question posted
- Meetings with private landowners concerning potential development and/or re-development of their lands
- A review of local ordinances and regulations
Significant concerns were expressed by some present that, among developers, business owners, and others, there is a concern regarding the consistency of local regulatory boards. Rightly or wrongly, there is a perception that small projects frequently are reviewed with considerable rigor, while larger ones are perceived to avoid this strict level of review.
Recognition of Challenges & Agreement
It was recognized that sometimes projects which appear similar at first glance may have certain elements that warrant different levels of review.
It was further recognized that different boards have different responsibilities, and may approach seemingly similar projects from a different perspective with a different outcome. However, there was agreement that all should be trying to serve the best interests of the community and its citizens as a whole.
All Boards Meeting Suggestion
It was suggested that it might be useful to hold an annual "All Boards Meeting", perhaps in April and led by the Town Moderator or some other independent party. The likely attendees would (at a minimum) be:
- Board of Selectmen
- Conservation Commission
- Development Commission
- Planning Board
- Zoning Board
The outcome of such a session could be as simple as information sharing, or it could be as complex as two boards establishing a task force to work together on a particular issue of mutual concern.
There was a strong sense among those present that the Selectmen and the Development Commission should continue to evaluate the potential that water and sewer lines could provide for increased business opportunities in the Route 3-A Corridor, but that the utilities extension should be discussed as separate issues and not automatically linked one with the other.
There was a further sense that there should be no long-term capital commitments made by the Town until there had been further public discussion about the potential risks and rewards of such an investment.
There was a recognition that the aquifer that lies beneath the Route 3-A corridor is a rare resource, and that the Town should continue to pursue a withdrawal permit for up to 1 million gallons per day so as to control the use of that resource.
Some suggested that the Development Commission should represent the community during any Federal Energy Regulatory Commission re-licensing procedures regarding the Eversource power plant. Upon reflection, it was agreed that the Development Commission should be aware of some of the impacts that actions in this area could have on sensitive lands, but actually working to protect them would be better left to another group.
Also, that the Commission should be evaluating the possibility of creating a Tax Increment Financing District along the Route 3-A corridor.
As the Development Commission becomes involved in the details of undertaking these many tasks, it needs to keep reminding itself of the overarching goal of strengthening Bow as a community.
It needs to reflect on the rural nature and good environmental quality present in the community, and be alert to activity that would add undue traffic, noise, and risk to the natural environment.
In a visioning exercise (attached) participants were asked to break away from today, and to look into the future. They were asked to imagine that it was the year 2030 and that they were on a drive down Route 3-A from the Grappone Auto Dealerships in Bow Junction southerly towards the Hooksett town line. They were asked to imagine that all of the issues noted above had been resolved, and that the efforts of the Bow Development Commission were widely viewed as a success.
Descriptions of Imagined Future
These future drivers were asked to describe what they saw, what success looked like from three different perspectives:
- What did things look like physically?
- What had happened to employment, to the tax base, and to area 's finances?
- Finally, what were the levels of communication and cooperation, both here and within the community as a whole?
Some saw additional auto dealerships, perhaps intermixed with warehouses, distribution centers, and construction headquarters. There was a view of better landscaping along the Route 3-A corridor, and perhaps extending all the way down to the river. There was a willingness to see planned development and a reconfiguration of the street network where there was sufficient space to accommodate it.
Others hoped that this corridor might include some cluster of retail services, from banking to groceries to a post office.
Isolation Concerns & Praise
Some praised the degree to which I-93 had isolated the community from any business impacts along Route 3-A, while others expressed concern that this barrier is part of what prevents better communication between the businesses and the citizenry as a whole.
Work Force Housing & Highway Widening
It was suggested that there might be areas developed as work force housing here. Still others noted that housing here might suppress business development, and perhaps those businesses would be looking for sites west of I-93. Some thought that would be a good idea.
Others expressed concern about the ability of this two lane highway to carry the traffic it was likely to see, and the need to be planning for its widening to four lanes with signals.
In the end, it appears that bringing the infrastructure discussion to a close, deciding fully and finally whether to extend water and/or sewer into the Route 3-A Corridor is critical to any substantive discussion about a future vision of the area. The presence of one or both of these utilities is critical to calculating the allowable density of development, and no reasonable vision can be developed until that issue has been fully explored and resolved by the community.
Revised through October 18, 2007
An Economic Vision for Bow: Exercise Details
"It is the year 2030. You are just pulling onto Route 3-A from the Worldwide Headquarters of The Grappone Companies, an international network of automobile dealerships. The former family-owned company has gone public and is now listed on the New York, London, and Tokyo stock exchanges.
You are doing a test drive of a brand new Toyota Prius, whose body is made of tightly woven corn stalks, and whose hybrid engine now gets 100 miles to the gallon. You turn on the radio, and Laura Knoy is doing her 2000th and final program on NH Public Radio. As you head south, the longest serving NH commissioner ever, George Bald of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, is praising the highly successful efforts that have been undertaken by the Bow Development Commission over the last two dozen years.
As you drive along, it is clear to you that Commissioner Bald is correct, because of one or more developments:
- You see an array of fully developed lots fronting on Route 3-A, most of which have easy access directly onto Route 3-A.
- You see that the Bow Development Commission has been successful in working with private landowners, and in a cooperative venture involving public and private partners, has reassembled the smaller parcels that existed in 2007 into an array of larger parcels that now contain many high paying businesses with a variety of economic opportunities, new streets with fewer curb cuts on Route 3-A, all yielding a much needed new tax base
- The physical changes are not as significant as you might have thought, but regularly you see a sign on newly developed properties that reads "Another successful project developed for the Citizens of Bow by the Bow Development Commission, in cooperation with the Route 3-A Business Owners Association?
- What is it that you see that warrants this praise from Commissioner Bald? What does success in this area really LOOK like? Big businesses? Little businesses? High tech? Modest tech? A mix of all of these? Better spirit? What does success look like here?"