Hampton Beach Master Plan: Recommendations for Revitalization and Improvement / Land Use
A. Recommendations for Revitalization and Improvement
This section of the Hampton Beach Area Master Plan presents a series of general strategies and specific planning recommendations to help realize the vision for Hampton Beach. Strategies and recommendations reflect the primary planning needs and issues that were researched and studied during the planning process and respond to the current conditions at Hampton Beach, and the directions of the town’s citizens expressed at meetings and through the Hampton Beach Master Plan Advisory Committee.
The strategies are organized around five planning elements: Land Use; Economy and Tourism; Transportation; Environment; Infrastructure and Public Facilities. Each of the strategies provides a basis for implementing a series of actions or recommendations. The transportation and land use recommendations also include illustrations to explain physical relationships between uses and planned activities. Note that in most cases recommendations that are independent of other events such as investment decisions, zoning changes, and environmental regulations, specify a timeframe for implementation whereas those that do depend on these events, do not.
A table of recommendations is presented in the Implementation Section to facilitate the reader’s understanding and relationship of the various planning elements.
Land use improvements are at the core of this plan to revitalize Hampton Beach. These strategies propose a more coherent land use pattern that reinforces the value of land and improves the image of the beach, traffic patterns, economic activity, and recreational areas for visitors and residents alike. These strategies consider zoning regulations, business improvement and housing programs and incentives, and existing and potential land use activities and are intended to be developed in combination with other appropriate strategies. Design for new commercial and residential development or re-development shall reflect achievement of the environmental priorities stated within the master plan.
Short-term Strategies (0 - 2 years)
Strategy 1. Establish visible changes to the various physical amenities at the beginning of the implementation program.
and safety for pedestrians
Visible changes serve a dual purpose: They can make the areas more attractive and aesthetically pleasing, and they can send a message to visitors about the quality of life in the area. Visible changes will help reinforce the perception of positive change as part of the Master Plan. The plan envisions physical improvements that include landscaping along the boulevard and main and side streets. This type of strategy has been used successfully in the National Main Street Program.
People need to see changes early in the revitalization process. Painting sidewalks, new benches and signs, and other visible improvements will remind visitors and merchants that the Master Plan is underway and succeeding. These changes should occur on both the state and town properties so that people see and enjoy the area as a complete experience. They should not have inconsistent or negative impressions when they cross the street.
Specific recommendations for visible changes include the following:
- New gateway entrances at Highland Avenue and the State Park
- New boulevard lighting, benches, and other streetscape improvements
- Side street sidewalk improvements
- Interpretive and directive signage improvements.
Strategy 2. Define neighborhood sub areas between the State Marina and Great Boars Head to provide a sense of place and to target specific areas that can be incrementally revitalized.
Distinct residential, recreational, and mixed-use areas near Hampton Beach and along Ashworth Avenue serve different populations and uses (see Figure 27). Many of them need building and street improvements, which need to be coordinated and implemented incrementally. Improvements could be focused on individual neighborhoods and sub-areas as a way to improve and reinforce the existing look and character as well as provide a sense of place. Although other areas such as many of the neighborhoods near North Beach need improvements, they would not necessitate a program that focuses on distinct sub-areas.
Each of these neighborhoods has different characteristics and qualities that need to be enhanced and reinforced. For example, there are many seasonal "camps" on the west side of Ashworth Avenue. The neighborhood known as the "Island" located east of Ocean Boulevard and north of the State Park parking lot is comprised mainly of larger, owner-occupied homes. The strategy for these sub-areas needs to address the distinct characteristics of each neighborhood.
Strategy 3. Coordinate all design review, streetscape, signage, and zoning changes to establish an overall look and character of the area.
The Hampton Beach area, in particular the mixed-use district, needs to be updated by the actions of a coordinated program that addresses all design, streetscape, signage, and zoning issues simultaneously. The building fabric, street life, sidewalks, benches, and other amenities all play an important role in the overall appearance of the area. A central theme and designs should be visible throughout the area so that it provides continuity and a sense of place.
Plans before, during, and after construction improvements all need to be scheduled and coordinated. Zoning changes should reflect desired outcomes that agree with other regulatory and physical improvements such as establishment of view corridors to enhance the visual aesthetics of the area and off-season building façade requirements to reduce the "boarded up" look. For example, programs could be established to encourage painting of building exteriors by establishing a completion for creative designs or by starting a community painting program and give out free paint to property owners to paint boards or murals. These and other programs should be thoroughly organized to ensure that property owners are current with and understand themes and designs, and have some direction about how to improve there homes and businesses.
Strategy 4. Identify and recognize important historic buildings and landmarks.
Hampton Beach has a history that can be developed and enhanced by identifying the historic buildings and landmarks in the area and providing interpretive information about these historic assets. Some of the buildings could be updated and preserved as part of the community’s preservation program. North Hampton, for example, developed the Heritage Walks pocket guide that describes some of the areas in this town and homes within different parts of them. Great Boar’s Head in Hampton Beach is one example of a similar area that could describe its history and the old beach homes. The Casino is a landmark that could be included as well. Recognizing the Town’s historic assets is critical to developing a diverse beach community and destination.
Strategy 5. Change the zoning ordinance to improve the design and quality of buildings and uses at Hampton Beach.
Changes to the Hampton Zoning Ordinance will help improve the design and quality of buildings and uses at Hampton Beach. This is one component of the overall changes recommended in the Master Plan that will work with other land use, transportation, economic, and environmental recommendations. This section identifies changes to the zoning ordinance, and does not express specific zoning language, which must be carefully expressed as part of a specific zoning study and ordinance. Additionally, updates are recommended to reflect changes in state land-use law, case law, remove internal inconsistencies, and improve the manner in which the ordinance is presented so that the ordinance itself becomes user-friendlier.
- Reduce maximum amount of sealed surface per lot in RA and BS districts.
- Establish front yard setbacks according to street conditions.
- Increase minimum square footage per dwelling unit in the BS and RB districts.
- Consider either on-site commercial parking or a contribution to a parking fund that will create parking within designated commercial use areas.
- Protect raised landscape beds in parking areas.
- Provide parking and landscaping standards.
- Allow shared parking for commercial uses in the BS district to increase utilization of parking lots and allow businesses to grow.
Design and Site Review
- Establish design guidelines.
- Expand site plan review of all projects, which could include an addition or new construction regardless of use. Exterior appearance will be regulated through standards established for exterior design review.
- The design standards will consider the types of materials and design qualities that are appropriate for the district in which they are located and the uses and buildings occupying adjacent and nearby sites.
- Establish landscape standards.
- Require shrubs and trees in appropriate areas.
- Establish design review of signage.
- Limit the total number of signs to one principal sign that identifies each business. Exceptions will be made for identifying signs on principle entrance doors, awnings, or canopies. One secondary sign should be allowed in these locations.
- Change the definitions of the "area" of a sign to encourage interesting signs.
- Limit the number of signs on each building.
- Limit the amount of sign area as a fraction of the total facade surface.
- Prohibit signs that advertise a product and the name of an establishment together.
- Ensure that the Zoning Ordinance standards are upheld.
- Establish a clear set of written policies regarding variances and other exceptions to the ordinance that ensure state codes are followed. The intent is to discourage the incremental problems with granted changes, and to improve zoning and adhere to it.
Flood Plain Development
- Ensure that the zoning ordinance reflects current flood zones including AE and AE500 zones
Mid-term Strategies (3 - 9 years)
Strategy 1. Revitalize and enhance the uses at the State’s park areas with more recreational activities, upgraded buildings, and improved services, access, amenities, and events.
The State Park needs to take advantage of the amenities that it offers to thousands of people in the region. As the State’s main coastal recreational area, the State has the opportunity to enhance the area substantially and make it more of a year-round place to live and recreate. Although the Parks Division of DRED is self-funded, the state and/or federal sources will have to provide significant levels of funding to support improvements.
A new gateway from the south along Route 1A and a reconfigured State Park and RV Park can substantially improve the quality of the visitors’ experience as well as the visual attractiveness of the area as whole. Figure 28 provides a potential configuration for the Hampton Beach State Park and gateway area. A new gateway would have appropriate signage, identifying Hampton Beach as a recreational area and directing visitors where to park and get information. The new lot would have the following improvements:
- Reconfigured parking lot with 1,000 parking spaces
- New visitor center and trolley stop with 15 parking spaces
- New restaurant with 20 parking spaces
- Parking for 10 buses
- New playground
- Bike rental facility
- Retention of original number of RV sites (28)
- Walking and bike path along the river that connects to the State Marina lot. (Since the height is limited under the existing bridge, the path may have to be built when the new bridge is constructed.)
The parking lot would be reconfigured to hold about 1,000 vehicles. This net increase of 100 spaces from the original 900-space lot would maximize the use of this parking area. Since this parking lot typically fills with about 600 vehicles on peak days, that would leave about 400 parking spaces that could be used for remote parking for the main beach area.
There would also be reconfigured lanes Route 1A to help reduce congestion when the bridge opens. These changes are explained in the Transportation Strategies.
Strategy 2. Make the boulevard friendlier by enhancing its amenities for all non-motorized vehicle and pedestrian users.
The Boulevard area is where most of the interactions and activity occur: people go there to walk, ride bicycles, sit, stand, watch and be watched, participate in the events, and similar boulevard –related activities. However, it could be more attractive if there were these additional park features:
- Benches – places for people to rest along the boulevard wall and other locations
- Sun or shade awnings – places for people to seek shade from the hot sun and or rain
- Bike racks – places for people to store vehicles while at the beach or in the commercial areas
- Trees – places for people to rest from the sun
- Lighting – places to provide security for users of the boulevard
- Picnic tables – alternative places to eat than on the sand.
These and other amenities could be added to attract more people to different areas of the beach instead of concentrating them at the Seashell Stage area.
Strategy 3. Redistribute the people along the Boulevard by adding several beach pavilions along the central area of Hampton Beach.
The Hampton Beach area is a relatively small and dense area that supports a diversity of uses focused on recreational and commercial opportunities. It should capitalize on these features and characteristics by enhancing pedestrian uses and linkages.
A large percent of people tend to utilize the services provided at the Seashell Stage area, and at times it becomes overcrowded, especially the bathrooms. The State should build two pavilions at two other areas on the boulevard (see Figure 29). The intent is to redistribute the people along the Beach, reduce lines and overcrowding at the Seashell Stage, and provide the following benefits:
- A variety of alternatives for users
- Higher quality experience for users
- Redistribution of large crowds to other areas of the beach and boardwalk
- Improved utilization of the boardwalk and beach
- Reduced demand for parking spaces near the Seashell Stage area
- Provision of shaded areas with benches for people to sit, rest, or eat
- Reduced wait times at the Seashell and Ross Avenue restrooms.
Furthermore, the pavilions should be universally accessible for persons with disabilities and have appropriate amenities such as benches, landscaping, and bike racks. Walking and bike paths should also be established between and through the main parks and parking lots.
The location of these pedestrian and pavilion areas are illustrated to help understand the principle of making the area more pedestrian friendly and distributing the people along the beach. The final locations would be determined after careful consideration of the street patterns and the adjacent uses. This is also explained in the transportation section.
Strategy 4. Establish development programs and change the zoning to encourage investments and improvements to the commercial and residential areas.
This strategy, in conjunction with other baseline improvements, would help improve the overall condition of the core area. The intent is not to change the land uses, but to significantly build up and improve the existing activities. Potential actions could include the following:
- Changes in setbacks
- Building design standards and review
- Streetscape and park improvements, and new pocket parks
- Parking, pedestrian, and bicycle linkage improvements.
Long-term Strategy (10 - 50 years)
Strategy 1. Change the land uses at the core commercial and beach activity areas to create the image and character of a neighborhood village.
The current uses at the center of the commercial area do not represent the highest and best uses for that area, nor do they enhance the uses of adjacent areas. However, the large lots and strategic location of the town parking lot, Casino facilities, the Seashell Stage area, and the adjacent properties have high potential to become developed as a main anchor of mixed-use facilities for the commercial area.
A new village center with small businesses, restaurants, and other small-scale businesses would help create a new image of this area. Some buildings may have to be rehabilitated or demolished to support this strategy.
Strategy 2. Maintain the existing character and scale of the residential areas in both Hampton and North Beaches.
The image of the residential areas in North and Hampton Beaches is typical of many older beachfront communities. Although most of these areas are very dense and built out, their scale is small with low building heights and many narrow streets. These features should be preserved and enhanced as part of future building, street, and façade improvements are planned and zoned for the areas. Building heights should be kept the same, design review should encourage building types and facades that represent the area, and streets should only be widened to eliminate vehicular bottlenecks.
Hampton Harbor and WaterfrontHampton Harbor has the capacity to support a variety of activities and uses. Management of the harbor area, however, requires a coordinated effort to overcome constraints and issues and ensure a long-term, sustained use that enhances the commercial, recreational, and economic value of the Hampton Beach area. This section provides the land-use, infrastructure, and management recommendations for Hampton Harbor and the adjacent land uses.
Land along the harbor waterfront is used for residences, businesses, and parking. Most of the businesses are either water-dependent such as charter boats and marinas, or water related such as a bait and tackle stores. The parking areas support mainly commercial and recreational users of the water. There is a small amount of vacant land, and it could support additional water-related or water enhanced businesses. The following recommendations for land use in the harbor area include:
- The Town and the State should develop programs and policies that support water-dependent and water-enhanced uses.
- Options for public access to the waterfront such as public viewing areas and a designated waterfront walk should be explored and provided.
- Maintain diversity of residential and commercial uses in this area.
The Harbor continually shoals due the river and tidal currents and its morphology. The commercial fishing fleet, recreational vessels, and other users, have the following needs:
- Sufficient channel length and depth including the federal navigation project
- Sufficient depth and size of mooring fields to accommodate these vessels
- Safe navigation to and from Hampton Harbor, especially through the Hampton River Channel and the Hampton River Bridge (Route 1A).
In addition, repairs to the floats, piers, and some equipment are needed at the Hampton Harbor State Marina. The State is currently addressing the marina’s infrastructure.
Recommendations to increase the utilization and public access to Hampton Harbor, including the Hampton State Marina, are as follows:
- Implement a periodic schedule of maintenance dredging to ensure that Hampton Harbor and the State Marina provide adequate navigation and berthing for fishing vessels and pleasure craft. Such dredging should provide for the following:
- A harbor channel depth at six feet and mooring fields that will allow for vessels with drafts of up to six feet
- A depth of six feet at the state marina facility.
- Implement a Seacoast dredge management plan to be prepared by relevant state agencies through the Dredge Management Task Force that would identify specific projects, project priorities and costs, and a timeline for implementation.
- Address the immediate capital needs of the state marina as outlined in the June 2000 facilities assessment report by Design Development and Maintenance Section of DRED. These needs included repairs to the office/restroom facility and the following waterfront structural improvements:
- Pile replacement
- Float dock replacement and upgrade
- Concrete dock repair
- Dockside hoist replacement and minor repairs to pier walkways, railings, and pier.
- Establish a short and long-term capital investment strategy for all the marina’s fixed assets.
- Explore the sharing of costs with the Pease Development Authority, Division of Ports and Harbors.
Management and Coordination
At present, there are many harbor users from commercial fishermen to recreational boaters to day rental jet skiers. Consequently, during the boating season conflicts often occur among these various users. Safety can be an issue. There are at least five state agencies and several federal agencies that have responsibility for specific activities in the harbor area. For example, the Pease Development Authority, Division of Ports and Harbors, controls the number and placement of moorings while the NH Marine Patrol controls vessel movement and speed. It is recommended to establish a coordinated approach to harbor management involving local, state, and federal interests.
There is also a need to ensure opportunity for public access to the waterfront and harbor area. At present, there is minimal accommodation for pedestrians and bicyclists. The vehicular parking facilities need to be managed to maximize vehicular parking demand while ensuring safety for pedestrian users.
- Establish a Harbor Advisory Group comprised of a broad representation of local and state governments and private entities with interests in the harbor, including Seabrook. Representation could be from such state agencies as the Pease Development Authority, Division of Ports and Harbors, NH DES, NH DPR, Fish & Game, and private interests such as commercial fishing and recreational boating.
The purpose of such a group would be to help coordinate harbor use policies, operations and maintenance, and capital improvements. They could address such issues such as a coordinated parking program for waterfront users, and an allocation of use areas within the harbor. This group could also provide guidance for policies and infrastructure maintenance at the state marina and play a role in the development of a Seacoast dredge management plan. Such a group might be under the auspices of the Pease Development Authority, Division of Ports and Harbors.
- Prepare a comprehensive harbor management plan for Hampton-Seabrook Harbor that is compatible with the Hampton Beach Area Master Plan.
- Establish a coordinated set of policies and programs to manage Hampton State Marina, including parking, access, fish-pier activities, and harbor use allocation. Such policies and programs must be coordinated with any agreements that the Division of Parks and Recreation has with private concessions at the marina. These policies might be incorporated into the comprehensive harbor management plan.
- Continue to support the presence of the NH Marine Patrol vessel in Hampton Harbor and personnel during the boating season to ensure safe use of vessels within the harbor.
- Coordinate with the NH DOT to institute a more predictable policy for opening the Route 1 Bridge over the inlet during the boating season.
- Since there is large fleet of commercial and recreational vessels on the south side of the Harbor in Seabrook, the harbor managers and vessel owners should be informed about any plans to change uses with the Harbor.
- Ensure adequate parking for all users. Potential changes in the road may require overflow parking to occur in the State Park lot during peak periods.
Harbor Capacity and Access
- Determine the potential for a physical pedestrian connection between Hampton Beach State Beach State Park and Hampton State Marina with a feasibility study, and define the pedestrian flow pattern in and adjacent to the State Marina. This waterfront project should be coordinated with an overall pedestrian/bicycle plan for the Hampton Beach Area. This recommendation is also mentioned in the Land Use Strategy section.
- Conduct a feasibility study to assess alternatives for additional vessel capacity in the harbor, including dry stack storage.