Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How can I contact the Planning & Community Development Department?

A: The Planning Department (and rest of City Hall offices) are open Monday-Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Fridays 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. We welcome you to stop by our office on the First Floor of City Hall, call us at 603-516-6008, or email Dover-Planning@Dover.NH.Gov

Q: What zoning district am I in, and what are the dimensional regulations and permitted uses in each zone?

A: All lots in Dover are zoned either residential, non-residential, or mixed-use. You can find out your zone by visiting maps.dover.nh.gov and searching for your property. Each district has a zoning table created for it. The zoning ordinance is online at https://ecode360.com/32591412, and the zoning tables are a link within the ordinance. If you need more assistance, please feel free to call us at (603) 516-6008 or email us with your property address at e.piekut@dover.nh.gov

If there is an asterisk (*) next to the zoning district on the property record, the property may be located in more than one zoning district. Please inquire in the Planning Department office at City Hall or contact the Zoning Administrator for a final determination based on the official map located in City Hall.

Q: Do you have a building plan or plot plan for my property?

A: We may have a subdivision or site plan on file. It may be worthwhile to check out Dover’s GIS at maps.dover.nh.gov to see your approximate property lines, figure out what ward, zoning district, or elementary school district a property is in, and so much more. The Division of Inspection Services office at the Liberty North End Fire Station, located at 262 Sixth Street, may have a foundation certification and building plan, so feel free to give them a call at (603) 516-6038.

Q: Can I have a swimming pool?

A: Yes. Swimming pools, much like accessory structures are allowed and have setbacks (10 feet in a residential zone). There is a requirement that a minimum four-foot-tall fence or wall surround the pool for safety of the property owner and general public.

Q: Can I place an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on my property?

A: RSA 674:71 allows all homes in zones that allow single-family dwellings to have an Accessory Dwelling Unit. In Dover, these are units subordinate to the main dwelling unit and may be located in the main structure or as part of a garage or carriage house. You will also have to pay an impact fee for the ADU (attach impact fee schedule). The application is located here: https://www.dover.nh.gov/government/city-operations/planning/.

Q: Can I place an Accessory Structure on my property (detached garage & sheds)

A: Accessory Structures are allowed in most zones, except the Central Business District.  Contact the Zoning Administrator with a description of your proposal and the property address. There are separate setbacks for these types of structures (10 feet in a residential zone).  If you have a non-conforming lot you may be able to place the structure closer to the lot line. All accessory structures need to maintain distance between any main building and any accessory building not structurally attached to such main building shall be no less than the height of the rear wall of the accessory building.

Q: Are there size limitations for an Accessory Structure?

A: Any structure less than 100 square feet, there are zero setbacks required; however, we recommend leaving room to maintain structure. A structure over 100 square feet, but less than 200 square feet, must meet the setbacks for an accessory structure (10 feet in a residential zone) and no building permit is required. A structure over 200 square feet must meet the setbacks for an accessory structure (10 feet in a residential zone) and requires a building permit. The distance between a detached accessory structure and the main structure (detached garage from house) needs to equal or exceed the height of the wall of the accessory structure. So, a 10-foot tall garage needs to be at least 10 feet from the house.

Q: My property is a corner lot, does this impact me?

A: The main impact would be that you have two front setbacks, as well as side and rear setbacks. It will affect the placement of structures, but other than that, there are no real impacts.

Q: Is my lot conforming?

A: To answer that question, we would need to review your property. Please email your address or map and lot ID to the Zoning Administrator and we can review it. An informal email can be used, or for a more formal verification, you can complete a zoning verification or compliance form, and submit it.

Q: My lot is considered non-conforming, do the dimensional/use regulations change?

A: Lots that were made non-conforming by way of a zoning change are considered legally non-conforming and may continue to exist. There may be limitations on expansions or replacement of a structure or use within it. If your lot is 5,000 square feet and has 50 or more feet of frontage, you have the following relief: 50–75 feet of frontage: 6 feet side setbacks; or 75–100 feet of frontage: 10 feet side setbacks. Please contact the Zoning Administrator with a description of your proposal and the property address.

Q: Is there a setback or buffer from wetlands?

A: Yes, the Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 170-27.1) regulates development in wetlands and sets forth a 50-foot buffer from wetlands for most activities that change the surface configuration of the land, such as buildings, parking lots, fill, etc. For septic systems, the setback is increased to 75 feet. Any development that is proposed within a wetland or wetlands buffer would require an application for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP).

Q: Is there a setback or buffer from rivers, ponds or streams?

A: Yes, the Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 170-27) establishes a Conservation District that regulates development near tidal and freshwater water bodies. For tidal water bodies, freshwater rivers and natural ponds, there is a 100-foot setback for most activities that change the surface configuration of the land, such as buildings, parking lots, fill, etc. There is a 50-foot setback to any stream, brook or other freshwater body. Any development that is proposed within the Conservation District would require an application for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP).

Q: My proposed structure can't meet the zoning setbacks. Are there any other options?

A: As a last resort you can apply for a variance. This is a form of relief from the Zoning Ordinance and is provided by the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which meets once a month on the third Thursday of the month. The application provides an opportunity for a property owner to explain their need and hardship for not meeting the setbacks.

Q: I have an idea for a project. Who can I meet with to discuss the feasibility?

A: The City Planner and/or Director of Planning are happy to meet with you to discuss the feasibility of a project before submitting for Technical Review Committee (TRC) or Planning Board approval. The Economic Development Office is also available to help select potential sites and opportunities.

Q: What is Technical Review Committee (TRC), and do I need it?

A: The Technical Review Committee (TRC) is made up of staff from various City Departments and Planning Board members who review plans to ensure that they meet the technical specifications for development in Dover as outlined in the Land Use Regulations. Technical Review is needed for larger projects and not every project requires it. 

Q: How can I present to the TRC?

A: The TRC meets weekly on Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. If your application needs TRC review, you would need to submit eight full size, 11-inch by 17-inch plans, electronically in PDF form, and eight copies of all other application materials three weeks before the TRC meeting you wish to be heard. There may be multiple items on each TRC agenda beginning at different times. Feel free to reach out to staff to discuss the process or have a preliminary review of the application to ensure it satisfies the items listed on the application checklist.

Q: Do I go to Conservation Commission or TRC first?

A: Many applications for major subdivisions or site plans require both TRC and Conservation Commission review. You would submit plans for TRC (as described above) first. The next step would then to present to the Conservation Commission and finally to Planning Board. This allows any changes to be made at the TRC level rather than needing to revisit the Conservation Commission.

Q: How long does the Planning Board process take?

A: It depends on the application, the schedules of any professional agents hired, and time of year (in terms of number of Planning Board meetings per month). An application that requires Technical Review Committee (TRC) and Conservation Commission review may take an additional eight weeks compared to a simple lot line adjustment that can go straight to Planning Board.

Typically, the TRC process takes five weeks including time for the applicant to make revisions before submitting for Planning Board. Then Planning Board typically takes an additional six weeks between submitting plans to Planning Board and getting a final signature from the Planning Board chair. Additional time may be needed if staff finds the application is not complete, if the Planning Board votes to continue or schedule a site walk, or if the engineer needs additional time for plan revisions, etc. 

Q: Why does it seem like the pre-Planning Board meeting application process is very intense compared to other communities?

A: In Dover, Planning Department staff works with applicants to provide the Planning Board with a complete, clean application or plan that has been carefully reviewed prior to presenting to the Planning Board. This requires more time and effort before the Planning Board but often allows only one Planning Board meeting to get approval for most projects.

Q: What are the meeting deadlines and meeting dates for the various land use boards and commissions?

A: Each board has its own deadline. You can find the schedule here: 2021 Application Deadlines and Meeting Schedule

Q: Is there a fee for processing the application?

A: Each application has a fee that is approved by the City Council. The current fee schedule is located here: Fiscal Year 2021 Adopted Fee Schedule.

Q: Are signs regulated?

A: Signs are regulated. Typically, residential zones allow signs for non-profits or conforming businesses and are limited to 20 square feet. In commercial and mixed use zones, sign sizes and requirements vary by zone. Your best bet is to view the Zoning Ordinance at https://ecode360.com/32591412. The zoning tables are a link within the Zoning Ordinance. Each table lists the sizes of signs allowed. Section 32 of the Code has the specific sign ordinance.

Q: I’m opening a business. How much signage can I have?

A: Signage is regulated zone by zone. You can find out your zone by visiting www.maps.dover.nh.gov  and searching for your property. The property record will tell you the zone, additionally, you can turn on the Zoning theme on the general map and see the zoning for all parcels within the City of Dover. Once you know the zone, you can review the zoning table created for it, which will indicate sign allowance. The zoning ordinance is online at https://ecode360.com/32591412, and the zoning tables are a link within the ordinance. If you need more assistance please feel free to email us with your property address.

Q: Can I operate a business out of my home?

A: In many cases Customary Home Occupation are allowed in homes. These businesses require an annual permit be applied for, and the business must be compatible with residential abutters. You can find the application and regulations by clicking here

Q: Is a building permit required for installing a fence?

A: Typically, no; however, if the fence exceeds 7 feet in height, then yes. Also, please be aware that while side and rear fences can be 8 feet tall, those in front of a house must be 4 feet tall or shorter within 10 feet of the right of way. See the Zoning Ordinance for additional regulations.

Q: Can I convert my single-family dwelling to two-family, three-family, or four-plus family dwelling? 

A: Possibly, as it depends on the zone you are in. Seventy-seven percent of the City of Dover is zoned for single family residential. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) are allowed in all single family homes, by state law. This type of unit is sometimes called an “in-law” apartment. If your home was built before May of 1964, you can convert to a two-family dwelling by right. Beyond two family, you will need to be in a multi-family residential zone or a mixed-use zone. You can find out your zone by visiting www.maps.dover.nh.gov and searching for your property. The property record will tell you the zone. Additionally, you can turn on the Zoning theme on the general map and see the zoning for all lots in the City.

 Q: How do I know if my property is near wetlands/shoreland/conservation district?

A: Unfortunately, we do not have a City-wide wetlands map, and these natural resources can change over time. You will need to work with a surveyor or wetlands scientists to review the conditions of your lot.  

Q: How do I find out more about the proposed waterfront development?

A: The waterfront development is overseen by the Cochecho Waterfront Development Advisory Committee (CWDAC), a committee of volunteers appointed by the Dover Housing Authority. To keep the public informed of the latest news about the waterfront project, CWDAC publishes an online newsletter that is issued a few times per year. You can sign up for the waterfront newsletter at this link.

Additionally, the City of Dover website contains a webpage devoted to the CWDAC and their activities, which can be accessed by clicking here. If you have any further questions contact City Planner Steve Bird at s.bird@dover.nh.gov.

Q:  Does the City of Dover charge impact fees for new development?

A: Yes, the Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 170-23) regulates the implementation of an impact fee ordinance. The purpose of impact fees is to provide adequate public capital facilities necessitated by new development and assess a fair share of the cost for those facilities to new development. Impact fees are collected for schools, recreation, police and fire facilities. The Planning Board has adopted an impact fee schedule for various types of residential and commercial development that can be viewed by clicking here

Q: Where can I find a Community Trail map?

A: Information about the Dover Community Trail can be found on the City’s Community Trail website or Facebook page. The latest trail map can also be found here

Q: How can I get more involved in the Community Trail?

A: The Community Trail Advisory Committee (CTAC) typically meets six times a year on the first Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. in the First Floor Conference Room of City Hall. The CTAC is continuously open to newcomers to attend meetings. They help oversee the trail extension projects, clean-up events, adopt-a-trail section program, and in general care for the wellbeing of the Community Trail. Email D.Benton@dover.nh.gov to join the CTAC email distribution list, to learn about updates on the Community Trail, and get notices of the CTAC meetings to attend. Or check out the Facebook page at facebook.com/DoverCommunityTrail.

Q: Am I allowed to cut down trees on my property?

A: In general, a property owner can remove trees located on their property without a permit except for the following exceptions: If the property is located within 100 feet of a river, pond or any tidal water body or within 50 feet of a stream or brook, there are limits to the number of trees that can be removed. Check in Chapter 170-27 for the standards or contact the Planning Department for more details.

Q: What do I need to do to construct a retaining wall?

A: If the wall is decorative and less than 4 feet tall, you can build it without a permit, however if the wall exceeds 4 feet in height, then you’ll need a building permit. Please contact Inspection Services at (603) 516-6038.

Q: I’m interested in a property that’s for sale. What is the best use of it? How many units can I build?

A: The City can’t tell you what the best use of a lot is. Our Land Use Analysis Master Plan Chapter will provide some guidance, and Planning Department staff are certainly happy to chat with you. In general, land use is regulated through zoning, and each lot has been assigned a zone. You can find out your zone by visiting www.maps.dover.nh.gov and searching for your property. The property record will tell you the zone, additionally, you can turn on the Zoning theme on the general map and see the zoning for each lot within the City of Dover. Once you know the zone, you can review the zoning table created for it, which will indicate allowed uses and density. The zoning ordinance is online at https://ecode360.com/32591412 and the zoning tables are a link within the ordinance. If you need more assistance please feel free to email us with your property address.

Q: I’m thinking about turning my building into condominiums. What do I need to do?

A: While the state law allows the City of Dover’s Planning Board to review and approve condominiums as a form of land use, Dover does not do this. Condominiums in Dover are a form of ownership and not land use. The Attorney General’s office for the State of New Hampshire can guide you through the process of creating a condominium. Click here for more info. 

Q: I received a notice about a Planning Board/Zoning Board meeting but I can’t be there. What do I do?

A: You can send an email or a letter to Planning Department staff and we will provide it to the Board, or you can call the Planning Department at (603) 516-6008 and leave a message. 

Q: Where do I go for a Building or Demolition Permit?

A: The Inspection Services Department located at the North End Fire Station or by calling them at (603) 516-6038 can answer all questions on building permits. They also have applications on their website.