Hosting a Land Management “Summit”
By Gregory T. Federspiel
On August 10th starting at 6:30PM our land management boards along with the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee are meeting together (virtually of course!) to review the status of various land planning initiatives as well as to participate in a workshop on the 40B process. As always, the public can listen in as well – dial or log in information can be found on the agenda posting for the meeting.
With the recently adopted Master Plan as the guide, various planning efforts are underway. One of the studies is to examine how we might take advantage of the state’s “40R Smart Growth Overly District” statute to help expand the diversity of housing options in town while at the same time allow for greater flexibility in the type of development we allow in the Limited Commercial District which lies to the north of Route 128. Providing more housing options and growing the commercial tax base of the community are two important goals identified in the Master Plan. The Town has been awarded a grant for technical assistance from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council for the first phase of the effort. We anticipate a second grant to help pay for the actual crafting of proposed zoning amendments that ultimately would go before voters for approval if the decision is made to move forward with a new 40R overlay district.
Another effort to expand housing options in town is being undertaken by the Manchester Housing Authority and the Manchester Affordable Housing Trust. These two entities have teamed up to study renovations and expansion options at the two senior housing complexes in town as well as to explore the feasibility of converting the existing DPW facility off Pleasant Street to housing. It may be possible to partner with a non-profit developer in such an effort.
Protecting open space and critical natural resources is another important goal contained in the Master Plan. Recently voters approved the purchase of a twelve acre parcel in the “western woods”, a 500 acre area of undeveloped land in the northwest corner of Town. Over 60% of this area is now under permanent protection from development. A forest management study is to get underway soon assessing the condition of the woods and how we can best take care of both the town owned lands and other protected lands in this part of town. Private as well as public efforts to preserve more of this area is likely in the years ahead.
The Town also has an Open Space and Recreation Plan that is due for an update. Again, with grant assistance for technical support, a new OSRP committee is getting underway to update the plan. Representatives from various boards along with “at large” members will be meeting over the coming months on the revised plan. These meetings are posted and open to the public.
One of the capital projects funded by voters is a study of our cemetery spaces. We are nearly at capacity with our current layout at our cemeteries. We have hired a professional to analyze our cemetery space to see what we might be able to do to create more room and to explore expansion possibilities.
We are also updating our Housing Production Plan. Using voter approved funds from the Community Preservation Account, a specialist will be assisting us in updating our soon to expire plan. The Housing Production plan analyzes our current housing stock and makes recommendations as to how we can diversify the types of housing available in town.
A look into the feasibility of having our wastewater processed by a regional facility by piping our effluent over into the Beverly sewer system is underway as well. Our current wastewater plant will need significant renovations in the not too distant future, and it is vulnerable to rising sea levels thus alternative options make sense to pursue.
Finally, during the second half of the meeting on the 10th, a workshop will be held to explain the permitting process and options for negotiating the details of a proposed “40B” project. This is in anticipation of a proposal for a large apartment complex located across the street from Atwater Avenue on Upper School Street.