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Greenfield unveils new master plan

Weaves together local vision of environmental sustainability, quality of life, economic development

GREENFIELD — The more-than-300-page master plan that will guide town leaders over the next decade envisions downtown development — including turning the former First National Bank building on Bank Row into a cultural center — the town becoming both a food and cultural hub and improving public schools to attract out-of-town students.

A 35-member committee consisting of residents, town and business leaders, and local environmentalists worked with a consultant and spent the past year and a half creating the new, green master plan with an emphasis on sustainability. On Wednesday night in Sloan Theater in Greenfield Community College, it was unveiled before more than 60 people.

The committee looked at natural, historic and cultural resources, housing, economic development, transportation, land use, education and public facilities, service and energy with an eye toward going greener in each category.

Greenfield, which has a “Green Communities” designation by the state, has been moving in the more sustainable direction for several years, but authors of the plan wanted more.

According to the new master plan, that goal will be reached by the town revisiting and revising some of its zoning ordinances, building new facilities that are producing the energy they are using, creating more walking and bike paths so that residents can easily walk to the downtown and children can walk and bike to school, as many of their parents did years ago, and preserving all of the town’s agricultural land so that developers cannot come into town and build large developments on the town’s open space.

Natural, historic and cultural resources

The goal is to make natural, historic and cultural resources an integral part of the town’s identity, with plenty of recreational opportunities for residents and visitors and much of its open space preserved.

The plan suggests the town establish a marketing plan and use all different types of social media outlets as a way to get information to people.

According to the plan, the town would create a permanent Open Space Committee, provide more recreational opportunities for teens and seniors, and create a new, year-round recreational facility.

The town would identify and preserve much of its open space — a lot of town-owned land has wetlands and marshes, so can’t be developed anyway — by encouraging privately owned agricultural land to be preserved.

The suggestion is for the town to protect much of that land through Agricultural Protection Restriction and Chapter 61A programs. The plan also suggests that the town explore ordinances to reduce noise and light pollution.

The former First National Bank building on Bank Row would become a cultural center, where there would be performances and exhibitions.

Some of the costs for many of the ideas could be covered by the town partnering with public and private organizations, the plan’s writers envision.

The plan also encourages outdoor seating at restaurants throughout the downtown and the creation of a children’s museum.

Housing

The plan offers suggestions for ensuring housing that adapts to the town’s changing energy needs and suggests new housing be located closer to the downtown so that residents can walk, and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan suggests that the town take part in a comprehensive regional housing needs assessment and that it update its zoning laws to allow smaller lot sizes for cottage-style housing.

New town rules would also encourage energy-efficient construction wherever possible and provide incentives to homeowners and landlords.

Another suggestion is for the town to create a staffed resource center to assist homeowners, tenants and landlords on home purchases, energy use and upgrades, renovations and financing.

Also, the town would eventually adopt zoning to ensure ongoing replacement of low-income housing.

Neighborhood amenities would include improved sidewalks, bus stops in each neighborhood, updated parks and more community gardens.

Economic Development

The plan reiterates that Greenfield would become the cultural, shopping and services center of Franklin County. Businesses would provide living-wage jobs and Greenfield’s downtown would be vibrant, dynamic and walkable.

The plan also hopes for 10 to 15 percent growth of new residents in the next decade.

The town would be marketed as a cultural, tourism and recreation destination through a town-funded marketing plan and the town would create manageable permitting and licensing for special events.

The town would also create an “entrepreneur” loan fund that would provide revolving funds to businesses that host events drawing people to Greenfield.

There would also be a push to target and facilitate continue food-related industry development and the town would support efforts to develop an additional “anchor” department store. The plans says nothing about a large discount department store, which has been a bone of contention for years since chain department stores near the Route 2 rotary closed and have not been replaced because of resistance to big box development.

Transportation

The plan calls for a municipal garage, and the downtown be safe for all types of transportation. It also calls for the use of public transportation by many more people than already use it to reduce fuel use and climate-changing emissions.

The town would have a beautification plan in place, which would include intersection and roadway improvements, updating downtown parking and installing more benches.

Land use

The plan not only suggests that all agricultural land be preserved, but that Greenfield market itself as a food hub that includes everything from growing and production of food to processing and distribution.

The plan also suggests “compact development,” both commercial and residential, in the downtown and in areas already developed.

The town would partner with land trusts and the state to target priority conservation corridor areas that would be off limits to major development and would pursue preservation options that include affordable “whole farm” preservation that would include buildings on farmland.

The town would also foster backyard gardening by providing different types of incentives and would offer incentives to homeowners to plant and maintain trees.

Education

The plan suggests that all Greenfield schools have updated equipment, be safe, have adequate space and be attractive and well-maintained over the next 10 years.

It also hopes for more students choicing into the system than leaving.

Plans include schools becoming green through structural updates and the products they use.

It suggests that the teacher-student ratio never exceed 1:22 and that a curriculum coordinator or assistant superintendent be hired.

All communication systems, including computers, telephones and wireless Internet access would be updated and security systems would be current.

The town would evaluate all security policies for schools and make sure every school follows the same policies.

Each school would also incorporate a compost program in its cafeteria and a farm-to-school program would be established with local farms and farmers to teach students how to grow and use their own food.

Public facilities, services and energy

The plan looks at the town building a public safety complex with a satellite police station in the downtown, expanding the library, and finding safe, clean and larger spaces for seniors and youth.

It suggests that the public works capital improvement budget grow over the next decade so that improvements can be made and facilities maintained.

The plan also sees Greenfield as a “clean energy city” and that within 10 years it be 40 percent of the way to meeting its 2050 goal of reducing emissions by 80 percent.

Any new municipal construction would be zero-net-energy and green construction materials would be used whenever possible.

All municipal vehicles would be fuel efficient and would be replaced before they reached 20 years old, and the town would implement a curbside composting program.

The new master plan will have to be approved by a majority vote of the Planning Board. That vote will most likely happen during its Feb. 6 meeting.

The town’s master plan is currently a nonbinding guide for town leaders and boards who control development, said Eric Twarog, the town’s director of planning and development.

Twarog said Massachusetts is one of the few states that does not require that town and city master plans be consistent with state and local zoning laws.

He said it will be up to the town and its residents to amend and create zoning laws that are consistent with the master plan. He said state legislators could also help by passing a law that requires consistency.

“I believe we are all committed to following our new, sustainable master plan when making decisions,” said Twarog. “We’ll be looking at the plan each year to see if we need to add or amend anything.”

Twarog said the new master plan will be available online within the next few days. To access the plan, visit: www.townofgreenfield.org.

He said eventually there will be copies of the plan in the Planning Department, 114 Main St., the town clerk’s office in Town Hall and in the library.

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