Community master plans provide a unique vision for what residents and public officials would like for their towns and cities over a multi-year time frame. Master plans also help guide local decision-making in areas like land use, energy, conservation, recreation, housing & transportation, business, and cultural and historic resources, among other topics. Lebanon, like many communities around New Hampshire, is revising the 2012 master plan using a dynamic new approach of working on a few chapters each year.

This year, the Natural Resources and Energy chapters are being updated as opposed to rewritten, says Planning & Development Director David Brooks. “Some communities do their master plan this way, taking a chapter or two each year, which affords a rolling cycle of updates. The 2012 master plan was prepared for an 18 year time period which is much longer than normal. We’re trying to do an update for the process rather than re-writing all of the chapters.”

These chapters were selected for updates because there are existing citizen groups – the Conservation Commission and the Energy Advisory Committee – that are very active and engaged with residents and can easily host public meetings to work on the updates. David explains that each committee is charged with going through the actions & strategies from 10 years ago, and highlighting the ones that are completely done, in progress, or should not be pursued. “The full chapter will then be updated to reflect what’s already been done, where we are now, and what the focus will be for the future,” says David. “We also asked the committees to take a look at the vision for their chapters to see if it is still relevant.”

The Conservation Commission has updated the Natural Resources chapter to include climate adaptation and mitigation, and recently approved an Open Space Plan in March. ‘Wild About Lebanon,’ a collaboration with the Upper Valley Land Trust to explore conservation lands, has recently been revived as a result of a recommendation in the 2012 plan. The overall goal of the chapter is to promote a balance between protecting natural resources, economic growth, and quality of life for residents.

The Energy Chapter is still under review by the Energy Advisory Committee, and includes strategies and actions pertaining to energy efficient buildings, the City’s use of renewable energy, and converting street lights to more energy efficient models, which is an ongoing project. In addition, residents can receive a property tax exemption for implementing renewable energy projects.

This first round will serve as a template for how the remaining chapters will be updated. “This first round is being used to create a process that can be replicated in future years. All of the committee meetings are public meetings, and we encourage residents and business owners to attend and share their opinions and ideas.” A survey and public outreach process to study the current vision statement is likely to occur in the near future.

While the process is still being formulated, public input is an important component of the master plan update, notes David. “At the end of the process, the planning board will adopt these two chapters at a public meeting.”

So consider becoming involved in the master plan process by attending a meeting and sharing your ideas, either in person or virtually. A complete meeting schedule is available on the City’s website.