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Tourism, Environment & Sustainable Development Cluster


Throughout the United States, land use and development are shaped by the plans and decisions made at the local level, typically by municipalities and counties. Since the Standard City Planning Enabling Act was passed in 1928, planning commissions and planning boards have been empowered to develop and adopt master plans to guide the physical development of our landscape and public improvements. Today, in New Hampshire, as in most states, one of the primary duties of local the Planning Board is to create and adopt a Master Plan that guides the development and future land use of a municipality (NH RSA 674:2). Master Plans are designed to provide a comprehensive vision and land use goals for a community. They typically include objectives for population, housing, transportation, utilities and public services, community facilities, recreation, natural resource conservation and preservation, and economic development. These plans guide decisions about the future development of our communities and can have profound impacts both regionally and statewide.

Despite being the official source of information about the vision and goals for our communities and land use, little research has been done to analyze the content of these plans in New Hampshire or any region. We lack a comprehensive analysis how New Hampshire communities are addressing environmental issues related to our air, water, forests, and other natural resources and habitats. We do not know if our communities are concerned about climate change and what their plans are for adaptation and mitigation. We do not have a complete understanding of the goals that are in place to help our landscape, communities, and people adapt to the future. This research project will use qualitative research methods to address these gaps.

Data for this study will come from publicly available Master Plans from the 232 New Hampshire communities that have Master Plans. All Master Plans in New Hampshire are required to have a vision and land use sections and these components will be analyzed to determine the content, themes, similarities and differences across communities using NVivo qualitative research software. Data will be coded and themes developed to produce the analysis of the Master Plans. Our goal is to sample approximately 25% of these communities distributed across all of the state’s nine regional planning commissions.


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