Lakes Region commission sees less growth in region
MEREDITH — Saying it is seeing mostly “lower-growth” demographic trends, including a huge drop in the number of building permits in recent years, the Lakes Region Planning Commission is shifting its emphasis for the region to a concept of “community resiliency.”
Among the chief concerns of the LRPC’s 2014 Lakes Region Plan, which is being sent to town officials and others working in the commission’s 30-town service area, are the lack of new building projects and an aging population, said Jeff Hayes, the commission’s executive director.
“Our towns are not as concerned about growth issues as they were before,” Hayes said. “We still have not recovered from the economic slowdown we all went through.”
Residential building permits for the Lakes Region peaked in 2002 at 1,205, but remained above 1,150 from 2003 to 2005. Building permits plummeted by 2009 and now appear to have settled in at about 200 a year, according to the report.
According to the commission, there has been a large increase in residents over age 50 and a decline in residents age 44 and younger.
“This trend is getting stronger,” the report notes.
And population growth rates have slowed. Between 1980 to 2010, the region’s population increased by 34,609, an annual average of 1.5 percent. For the next 30 years, 2010 to 2040, projections indicate the population will increase by 11,200, an annual average of 0.33 percent, or a reduction in the rate of increase from 1,153 new residents to about 370 per year.
The commission also found that the climate has changed somewhat in New England, and in Lakes Region towns.
New England experienced 70 percent more extreme precipitation in recent years as evidenced by dramatic downpours that increase the risk of flooding, according to the report.
The report will be presented to the public for comment on Sept. 29.
Hayes said the LRPC will try to promote more manufacturing jobs in the area by working with state legislators to make the permitting process for development easier, and by identifying key land areas for business development.
The commission will continue to collaborate “to create a continuous supply of trained workers for local manufacturers so that they can find the talented and skilled labor locally,” the report said.
The commission will also continue its focus on promoting good water quality management practices, and will work with towns on emergency management systems as it has been doing, Hayes said.