Land Use

New Hampshire law allows each municipality to adopt zoning regulations and create a Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment, Historical District Commission, among other land use and construction management boards and bodies.  It is important to keep in mind that New Hampshire is not “homerule state.”  As such the towns only have the powers granted by the legislature.  The Planning Board, generally has four (4) functions.  It is charged with creating a master plan and updating it from time to time.  It is charged with approving site plan reviews and subdivision applications.  It is also required to propose, from time to time, amendments to the Zoning Ordinances as they become outdated or amendments become required through advent of technology, passage of time, and increased construction and population.  In addition to these duties, the Planning Board has been charged with enforcement of certain state laws such as RSA 155-E which governs sand and gravel pits.  The Supreme Court has held that a New Hampshire Planning Board sometimes acts in a quasi judicial capacity (similar to a judge presiding over and ruling on a case) and sometimes acts as an expert board applying the ordinances to a particular application.  
The Zoning Board of Adjustment, on the other hand, has only quasi judicial powers.  The Zoning Board of Adjustment may hear applications for variances, applications for special exceptions, grant equitable relief, and hear appeals from land use boards or officials in the matters of interpretation of zoning ordinances.

It is always advisable for a Zoning Board of Adjustment to seek counsel before analyzing a case and applying the facts to a particular case and type of restriction which may be imposed.  The restrictions imposed by the Zoning Board of Adjustment and by the Planning Board have the force and effect of a zoning ordinance, the violation of which may result in the same severe consequences as breach of a zoning ordinance.  

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