Planning Board kicks off mixed-use/design guideline study

There was a fundamental question raised at last night’s Planning Board meeting: should we encourage or allow new commercial development in the town center at all?

The Planning Board kicked off its mixed-use/design guideline study last night in a well-attended meeting that featured an engaging hour-long discussion. The newly hired Metropolitan Area Planning Council consultant, Mark Racicot, gave an overview of the scope of work as well as his preliminary assessment of Bolton zoning bylaws and existing conditions. He requested feedback as to the extent of the town to be covered by this review (i.e.  just the village center, or multiple areas). Although there seemed to be agreement among board members to include most of Route 117 in the scope of deliverables, much of the discussion nonetheless focused on the town center and an intense interest in the disposition of the Smith property, and how design guidelines and mixed-use zoning could impact that property and the town  center in general.

The last 20 minutes was devoted to audience comment. Several speakers addressed the more basic question of whether it is appropriate and desirable to encourage expansion of commercial uses in the town center. They said no and instead suggested that the town should focus efforts toward facilitating commercial expansion in the areas already designated as business zones, especially where roads and available space can handle it. And in the town center, the town should move instead to protect those authentically historic and predominantly residential characteristics that have defined the center for generations.  In other words, be very careful about opening the doors to commercial in-fill in the town center, regardless of the design. The consequences could be far-reaching.

I am providing audio of the full discussion (1 hour). It is worth listening to. Some of the defining characteristics of the Bolton of 20-30 years from now will be determined in these and subsequent discussions. Audio can be accessed here as an mp3 file or you can listen directly by clicking on the audio button below. The consultant handed out helpful notes during his opening remarks. Those notes are here.

—Roland

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9 Responses to Planning Board kicks off mixed-use/design guideline study

  1. Scottie and Rob Held says:

    There is much discussion about using the old Smith gas station for development so that the Bolton will have “amenities.” We would like to point out that we already have places in town to enjoy coffee or lunch with friends and neighbors; restaurants where we can enjoy Zagat-rated fine dining or family-friendly dining; we can buy groceries, liquor, gas, flowers, pizza and get our clothes cleaned without stepping outside the town line; and we can enjoy a massage or other spa services right on Main Street. These amenities are in many cases owned by local folk. Big, new “corporate” development might succeed but likely over the bodies of our current businesses.

    To the extent that we undergo normal incremental development, the Town Boards and the Economic Development Committee should be looking for tenants for the exisiting 7 underutilized business zones all along Route 117.

    We encourage our fellow Bolton residents to reject any zoning change that would bring business development into our residential Town Center.

    • Nancey says:

      Sorry, but I’d like to see the Town move forward and have some businesses. Yes, we can go to Hudson or Stow to get things but how nice would it be to go to our downtown Bolton with cute little shops and independant businesses and sit on a bench with our kids. I’d love to be able to have a Town Center, I think that we already have too much residential in town, Century Mill is building like crazy aren’t they? We need more homes in Bolton? No, we need more services in Bolton. Just my opinion, but I know many of my friends and neighbors feel the same way.

  2. Jonathan Keep says:

    Short List of Small Towns That Preserved Their Historic Town Centers for Civic Institutions & Residential Use.

    Petersham
    Hardwick
    Harvard
    Deerfield
    Bolton?

  3. Mary says:

    We had two cute little shops in the center and they didn’t last more than a year or so. If the townspeople were truly committed to creating a unique shopping destination in the town center than they should have supported rather than ignored these businesses. We have already allowed the Dr. Everett house, which is an important piece of Bolton’s history, to be altered to support a business that is now gone. We need to be more concerned about preserving what we have rather than creating something that we will regret in the future.

  4. Nancey says:

    Yes, the businesses were ignored, although not by me personally, but the one of the reasons they were ignored was a lack of parking, the Per Chance store and the little painted furniture place that was there before it had absolutely minimal parking, if we could get some parking spaces to support a business, that might help. Sorry Mary I disagree with you, the town doesn’t have a true Town center, it has a spread out bunch of businesses that really have no rhyme or reason. I’m not saying the businesses we do have it Town aren’t wonderful, they are! But I would love to have a Town center, where it’s all together, parking spots, benches, trees, coffee shop, whatever it is. I think creating some parking spots might really have helped some of the dying business in Town, PLUS and most importantly I think the saying ‘build it and they will come’ does apply in this situation, Bolton is not known for it’s friendly shopping district (to say the least) so no one shops, there is no small central walking area and places to rest in this area for shoppers, no one wants to go to one store with no parking, then get in their car and drive to the next store .5 miles away to shop again, then drive another half a mile to get some flowers at the flower shop and a sandwich at Subway. It has no flow, there is nothing there. That’s all I’m saying, I would like to see us move forward.

    • Joan Entwistle says:

      I agree that it would be great for Bolton to add a few small businesses and services with parking in the town center, ideally after the existing empty spaces are utilized.
      If the Smith property becomes a 40B residential development, the town will have no control whatsoever regarding the style and type of building.
      Some kind of mixed use overlay with the appropriate design guidelines, height, setbacks, density, and pedestrian/bike access is needed – otherwise we get more of the same, and the town center becomes less attractive and desirable place to shop. Unfortunately the current zoning regs pretty much dictate the car-centric business development that we currently have.

  5. Pingback: Calendar: Planning Board Wednesday 10/13 | Bolton Center Historic Neighborhood Blog

  6. Jonathan Keep says:

    Living in Apple Country is great this time of year! It is wonderful to see visitors from local towns and cities out for the day to celebrate Fall, pick apples, eat, buy cider & wine and support our rural economy. Local cider pressers are saying this is a vintage year due to the late season drought which has concentrated all the apple flavors. So put a few gallons down in the basement to drink in a couple of years in celebration of this years harvest.

    5 of My Favorite Local Old Apples
    (crunchy skin & flesh, juicy, Sweet and tart)

    Baldwin
    Golden Russet
    Mutsu
    Spencer
    Stayman Winesap

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