Master Plan Implementation Committee Holds Open House
Nov 29, 2019 06:00AM
By Pamela Johnson
Town Planner Jim Kupfer opens up the Master Plan Committee's Open House
What’s your vision for Bellingham for the next ten years?
That was the question at the Bellingham Library on Wednesday, October 23, when the Master Plan Committee held an open house to gather input from citizens of the community. It’s only one part of a yearlong process. Since February, the Committee has been holding meetings with town boards and committees and has already collected information from town departments, including the following:
- Bellingham schools and 10-year projections, from Superintendent Peter Marano.
- Town’s organizational structure, the Town Charter, role of the Selectmen, and how goals are set for the upcoming year, from Town Administrator Denis Fraine.
- The budget process, from Bellingham CFO Mary MacKinnon.
- Infrastructure existing conditions and future needs, from DPW Director Don DiMartino.
- Input from Conservation Agent Anne Matthews and Conservation Chairman Cliff Matthews.
- Input from Building Inspector Tim Aicardi.
Public comments from an online survey were also preliminarily reviewed. The public was asked for their satisfaction level with several town issues. Preliminary data showed that satisfaction with police and fire service, as well as trash services, ranked high, and sidewalks/walking infrastructure, as well as traffic, were things to work on.
Kupfer reviewed a quick history of the town. “Bellingham has changed quite a bit in the last decades,” he said, noting the housing boom in the 60s (including the building of the Wethersfield development), industrial and big box retail openings in the 80s and 90s, and growth in 495 corridor sprawl in the last decade. “We’ve seen a lot of growth over the last decade,” he added, “and now’s the time to direct how we’re going to plan for our future and what we truly desire for the next ten plus years.”
Kupfer introduced the Chairman of the Master Plan Committee, Brian Salisbury, who thanked the public for coming out and explained a bit about the Committee and whether the status quo is appropriate or desirable going forward. “I really think our town is at a crossroads for the level of services we receive versus the level of taxation that we pay,” he said, “and where we prioritize our needs.” That evening was an attempt to engage the public on their priorities.
Iolando Spinola, from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), stepped in to explain the master-planning process and his role in it. He described the Master Plan as “a strategic framework that can guide physical development and economic development for the town. It helps to give the town a specific vision for it to move forward. It sets specific goals for the town that they can try to work on executing.” He also explained what the master plan is not. It does not impact zoning ordinances, regulate subdivisions, or impact the budget, and it shouldn’t be considered a capital improvement program or other regulatory document.
“It’s really a vision piece, to help us decide where we’re going in the future,” he finished. The idea is to bring the town’s stakeholders together to try to execute that plan. The MAPC works with many Master Plans throughout the 101 communities they serve. The plan will touch on the same topics that were surveyed, including housing choices, sidewalks/walking infrastructure, biking infrastructure, traffic, cultural facilities, trash service, police and fire service, water and sewer service, conservation land, recreational facilities, retail opportunities, employment opportunities, and the school system.
After community input is taken into account, the Committee will present a draft plan, which the public will again have input on before its submission to the Board of Selectmen and the Planning Board in the summer of 2020. Additional comments are welcome and can be directed to Town Planner Jim Kupfer at 508-657- 2892.