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Bellingham Town Planner Jim Kupfer Briefs Seniors on Hows & Whys of the Planning Process

Mar 30, 2021 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson

Bellingham Town Planner Jim Kupfer

written by Dave Dunbar for the Bellingham COA Newsletter

Despite the 2020 nationwide economic disruption caused by the pandemic, the town of Bellingham has not seen an equal slow-down in development. The land use boards made up of the Bellingham Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Conservation Commission have continued to remain busy. Recognizing the complications the pandemic has had on the town’s normal day-to-day operations and to public meetings, the Boards have sought innovative ways in which to engage the public and garner feedback. The town has adopted the ever-popular Zoom online platform which allows all residents to simply click on the town website link from their living rooms and enter the public hearing and engage with the Board members. For those not able to join the Boards online, Town Planner Jim Kupfer has been hosting occasional development open houses at Town Hall in a one-on-one setting for those interested in learning more, as well as conducting site walks with abutters of proposed projects to better understand their concerns.
    
Mr. Kupfer, who now provides staff support for the land use boards, joined the town in 2015, which was an exciting time as the building boom had just commenced. He joined Bellingham after stints with other Massachusetts’ municipalities as well as some time in the private sector working with small architecture and planning firms. He has a bachelor’s degree in planning and received a Master’s in Public Administration (M.P.A.) from Suffolk University. Mr. Kupfer sought out Bellingham as he lives just over the town line in Franklin and recognized the opportunity to work for a growing community that he is familiar with while also being close to his wife and two growing boys.

As Town Planner, Kupfer has had many opportunities over the years to attend functions at the Senior Center and hear from active residents, and is mindful of the needs of the senior population when discussing short- and long-term planning and development initiatives.
    
Beginning in late 2019 and concluded this past December, the Master Plan Committee developed a 10-year, town-wide plan to guide policy and development. The task that the Committee set out to tackle was, as Committee Chairman Brian Salisbury states in the plan, “the challenge of maintaining Bellingham’s historically low and affordable residential tax rates with the increasing cost of municipal services and preserving Bellingham’s character and quality of life for its residents.”

As the plan advanced, the Committee developed goals, objectives, and aspirations, many of which targeted ways to assist the senior population. Some of those listed in the plan are to ensure that Bellingham will remain affordable, provide diverse housing options for those looking to down-size or remain in the community, and provide for healthy living amenities such as proper sidewalks and recreational activities.
    
Achieving these goals can come in many different forms. As Kupfer mentions, applicants that present before land use boards seeking to add housing are quickly guided to the Master Plan. There the plan recommends quality forms of housing that prioritize Bellingham residents’ needs such as to require a developer to seek ways to include diverse housing options including first floor master bedrooms, smaller lots for minimal upkeep, or not exclusively large lot, single family homes. The Boards also look for amenities to balance the development with features that may improve residents’ quality of life such as preserving open space, adding walking trails and, most recently, a new connection to Silver Lake.
    
You can contact Jim Kupfer through the town’s website (www.bellinghamma.org/planning-board) or reach him by phone at 508-657-2893.

 

 

 

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