Your input is needed! The work on the Town’s new Master Plan is entering a critical phase and the committee has a final survey that residents are urged to fill out online. A large response rate is essential to ensure that we are capturing the collective viewpoint of the community. This is important as the Master Plan will prescribe specific action steps that will shape the look and feel of the community for years to come as well as influence the financial resources we have available going forward.
The 11-question survey begins with taxpayer preferences for how to fund needed infrastructure improvements which was identified as the number one priority in the initial Master Plan survey. Should current municipal services be scaled back in order to divert existing tax dollars toward capital projects? Is there a willingness to pay higher taxes in order to pay for specific voter approved projects? Should we encourage commercial development in certain segments of town as a way to increase our tax base?
The survey moves on to ask about town facilities. What is your opinion about building a new DPW garage? How crucial is a new fire and/or police station? Is a new Senior Center a priority? What about a bigger Library or an upgraded Town Hall? These and other municipal needs will need to be prioritized as we lack the funding to do everything. Tell us which you feel are most important. Then tell us where you think various town buildings should be located – at their existing places or at other town-owned land? (Don’t be too surprised to see signs on town lands asking “What should happen here?”!)
Other priorities that were identified during the “visioning” phase of the planning process were preserving the character of the town, including natural resource protection and expanding the diversity of our housing stock. How should we accomplish these goals? Is there a willingness to alter zoning regulations to allow for smaller, more densely built housing? Would a continuing care facility (independent living to increasing levels of assisted living) be a welcomed addition to the town, perhaps on lands near the Manchester Athletic Club? Are there lands currently privately held that should be targeted for permanent preservation through conservation easements or public purchase?
Manchester’s commercial base is under 5% of our total property valuation. Is there an appetite for expanding our commercial base? If so, what types of businesses would be preferred and where? Are there opportunities to expand our harbor-based trades? What role should tourism play? 100 years ago the town had hundreds of guest beds that accommodated a bustling influx of summer visitors. Do we want to allow some of our remaining grand estates to recreate a small portion of this trade as a way to bring in room tax dollars to the Town?
The answers to these questions will help guide the final recommendations and action steps that the new master plan will contain. No doubt there are differing viewpoints to these questions but with enough people responding, a consensus opinion will emerge. Please, take 10 minutes to complete the online survey. Make sure your voice is heard as we chart a course for the future of our community. (Hard copies are also available at Town Hall and the Library.)