FROM THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR’S DESK – September 20, 2016
By Gregory T. Federspiel
What will be today’s legacy projects? What will people living in Manchester 50 to 100 years from now be thanking us for doing that has had a lasting, positive impact on the community? What is today’s equivalent of a project like Tuck’s Point or Masconomo Park? Is it a new Senior Center? A new track of preserved open space? Additional affordable housing? New climate resiliency measures? New harbor oriented businesses? What would your suggestion be?
This topic came up at a recent meeting sponsored by the Master Plan Steering Committee and will be one of the “stations” set up for people at the upcoming open house the Committee is sponsoring at the high school on Monday, September 26 from 6-9PM. It is also one of the questions on the citizen’s survey that is available through the Town’s website. Hopefully hundreds of citizens will weigh in to help answer this and a host of other questions that will be used to guide the future look and feel of the town.
The creation of a new master plan provides a unique opportunity to articulate what we treasure most about our town and what aspects of our community we want to improve. The new plan will give us a roadmap to the types of changes we want to see. There is an old adage that is very applicable to community building – you get what you plan for. Thus we should be purposeful in detailing what we want our community to be and lay out the necessary actions that will ensure this is what we get. Change will happen. We will be well served to shape and guide the changes toward a collective vision of our desired future rather than simply let change happen to us.
Discussions about our future as a community have raised the question of how encouraging and accommodating we should be to visitors. We are first and foremost a residential community. But we also have many wonderful assets that attract visitors – Singing Beach, the harbor, acres of preserved lands with trails to name a few. These assets are treasured by residents. They also offer opportunities for economic activity for the town. There is tension between wanting to preserve these assets, keeping them largely for ourselves, and welcoming others to enjoy them as well. To what extent should we be rolling out the welcome mat? Are there new opportunities to generate revenues for the town through carefully planned business expansions? Or is the preference to focus on remaining a bedroom community that relies almost exclusively on residential property taxes to fund municipal operations? Perhaps this is a false choice. Can we remain a tight-knit residential community while rolling out a small-scale welcome mat?
The answer to these questions should help shape a wide range of municipal action from the type of zoning regulations we adopt to the amount of parking we provide, from the size and extent of our water and sewer utilities to budgetary decisions. Help us develop the answers as we chart our course for the future of the town. I hope to see you at Monday’s Open House.