Master Plan Process Moving Ahead, Opportunity to Get InvolvedOct 27, 2020 10:04AM ● By Susan Manning
If you want to have a say in what Hopedale will look like over the next few years, now is your chance to get involved.
The town of Hopedale is working with Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission —CMRPC— to create a master plan.
Principal Planner Ron Barron, said the process will happen in two phases: phase 1 will be completed by fall of 2021; phase to completion will depend on funding.
“This plan is set up as a two-phase process. This phase will cover the Land Use, Population and Housing and Economic Development elements and will take approximately one year.
“Phase two will focus on the Natural and Cultural Resources, Open Space and Recreation, Transportation and Circulation and Facilities and Public Services.
Additionally, the town has applied for funding through the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to complete the Natural and Cultural Resources and Open Space and Recreation elements,” he said.
Typically a municipality will review its master plans every 10 years or so. But Hopedale has never had one. Barron said although the plan for developing one is in state law, it is not a requirement of towns.
“The closest plan the town has is the Community Development Strategy document created in 2007. This plan covered a number of the same elements covered by a master plan, but not all of them.
“We are in the process of determining what goals from all prior land use plans have been acted on and which have not. This process (called a Benchmark Review) is slated to be completed by the end of the year,” he said.
So what is a master plan and why is it so important to town?
Barron explained, “A master plan is the guiding document for all town planning. The process collects baseline data, examines trends and develops a guiding vision and goals for the town across several metrics.”
There are seven elements that, by law, must be included in a master plan: land use; population and housing; economic development; natural and cultural resources; open space and recreation; transportation and circulation; and facilities and town services.
“Massachusetts General Law (MGL) says that a community must have at least those seven elements, but communities are free to add any other elements they feel are relevant, such as resilience, emergency management, or others,” Barron said.
The process of developing a master plan also guides a municipality in developing a vision statement, which is necessary “for the community and a comprehensive strategy for implementation,” according to Barron.
“Having a master plan allows communities to set clear, actionable objectives for achieving its stated vision,” he said.
Barron said so far there are seven residents or business owners serving on the Master Plan Steering Committee, led by Chairman Jim Abbruzzese and and Vice-chairman Carole Mullen.
The Board of Selectmen is looking at appointing two more members for a total of nine members, he said. In addition, there is plenty of opportunity for residents not on the committee to have a say.
“Residents who are interested in the topic can be involved in a variety of ways. First, all meetings of the Committee are open to the general public and posted on the town website.
“Second, there will be a survey covering the master plan elements we are working on that will be released in early November.
“Third, residents are encouraged to attend one of the two public workshops that will held in early 2021,” said Barron.