Update Master Plans

Communities rely on master plans to justify and defend land use regulations. The NRI provides an effective tool for developing or updating the natural resources section of the master plan. Conducting an NRI at the same time that the Master Plan is being updated is an ideal situation - the NRI can serve as the basis for the natural resources chapter, ensuring consistency between the two, and making the process more cost effective and efficient. By including the NRI in the master plan, it provides the necessary base information from which municipal officials decide the management or future use of these resources.

  • If an NRI is developed after a recent master plan update, it can be incorporated as an addendum to the Master Plan. The NRI can also build on the natural resources information put together for the master plan.
  • If the master plan is in the process of being updated, the NRI can provide the basis for revising and updating the natural resources section of the plan.

Ideally, the master plan should also include a conservation plan or open space plan based on the natural resources inventory. The master plan is the foundation for zoning, and the statutory prerequisite for a zoning ordinance is planning board adoption of the statement of objectives and future land use/natural resources sections of the master plan.

The next logical step after the master plan is to develop or revise a set of land use regulations that will give the planning board, landowners, and developers the ability to do the best possible job of protecting important natural resources on developed properties (keeping in mind that the conservation plan focuses on protecting important resources on primarily undeveloped land). Land use regulations are widely used in New Hampshire communities. The majority of the state’s communities have adopted master plans and have zoning ordinances and nearly every community in the state has subdivision regulations.