Planning Board discussion

One of the purposes of this blog is to increase awareness of important meetings, discussions, and decision points relating to the development of property in the village center.

One such meeting is a Planning Board meeting scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, July 28.  A busy agenda is on their docket, and an item of interest related to this blog is the last item on the agenda:  the continuation of a discussion of design guidelines and the possibility of creating a village center overlay district for business or limited business use, and whether to hire a consultant to assist in the effort of researching and making recommendations on these topics. That discussion is scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m.

The Planning Board will likely be a significant player in this unfolding story. Their role in crafting and recommending zoning bylaw changes and design guidelines will be key as to whether and to what extent commercial development proceeds in the town center and elsewhere. A change in zoning is required to allow the Bolton Crossing proposal (or any commercially oriented proposal for that matter) to be developed on the Smith property site. Zoning articles usually originate from and are sponsored by the Planning Board.

I want to stress that decisions and/or in-depth discussions regarding Planning Board positions on zoning changes and design guidelines are NOT expected at this meeting. But there is expected to be a review of the consultant’s proposed scope-of-work (which could be directionally important as to where the PB wants to go on this topic) and possibly a decision as to whether to hire them.

The agenda for the meeting is here. The consultant’s scope-of-work proposal in draft form is here.


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2 Responses to Planning Board discussion

  1. Dave Wylie says:

    This sounds wide open. Once rezoned commercial, commercial is what we get. Limits on square footage, paved parking, set backs, etc. are helpful, but there is very little effective control that can be retained. The developer always insists that to be financially viable he has to do this and that. It has to be visible from the highway. You have to have signs.

    One tricky question is, who does the design and sign review? Hopefully there would be an independent commission with professionals – architects etc. But, then architects beholden to developers get appointed.

    The scope ought to include professional traffic analysis.

    I don’t see anything about housing and 40B.

  2. Dave Wylie says:

    Further thoughts, as I cannot make tonight’s meeting:

    – Some will say don’t spend money on consultants, leave it to the Planning Board. The Planning Board doesn’t plan. Not a criticism. In Massachusetts Planning Boards proverbially attend to the tasks originated and driven by developers and the legislature. They don’t have time to plan and usually lack the credentials as well. What they should do is listen to the citizens who elected them, and hire professionals to plan. After a developer has been designated, he should pay for the consultants. If the Town gets beholden to a developer in advance for consulting charges, it gets locked in to going ahead with that developer.

    – No ideas, plans, etc., ought to be considered without a parallel analysis every step of the way of the real estate tax return/added costs to the town ratio. There should be no guess work and no disagreement over this.

    – There should be guaranteed citizen input, not just public hearings.

    – One should be wary of the Planning Board’s penchant for permitting things under Special Permits – for two reasons – they don’t get expert advice and don’t listen to citizens enough, and they forget that once a Permit is granted for Use A or Project A, even though there are good reasons for it and no one objects, a precedent is set that can be enforced in courts by Use B or Project B, even though everyone in town objects to B.

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