Northfield to convene forum for input on town’s master plan

Recorder file photo/Paul Franz
The Northfield Food Mart in downtown Northfield.

Recorder file photo/Paul Franz The Northfield Food Mart in downtown Northfield.

NORTHFIELD — The town is beginning to shape a 20-year master plan, and all its residents are invited to weigh in on it.

The Master Plan Steering Committee and hired consultant Martha Lyon are in the process of planning the public participation process they will soon enter, according to Richard Fitzgerald, committee chairman.

The master plan coincides with the search for a recipient of the 217-acre former Northfield Mount Hermon School campus. Last fall, the campus was offered to Arizona’s Grand Canyon University, and was to become a 5,000-student college. GCU declined the offer a month later, and it is again uncertain whether the campus will be home to a small organization or another large institution. Recommended zoning changes and other regulations on development that may come out of the master plan could help guide the property’s future.

“We’re dying to get started,” but without proper preparation, the finished product could leave something to be desired, said Fitzgerald.

That planning has already taken care of one potential problem.

Initially, the town sought to form a committee with as many as 30 members, who would form subcommittees tasked with different aspects of the master plan.

“We realized that we might have trouble getting a quorum,” said Fitzgerald. Town boards and committees may not conduct business without more than half their members in attendance. “It could be a challenge getting 16 members of a 30-member committee together for meetings.”

So, a seven-member steering committee was formed, and its first task was to hire a consultant. Fitzgerald said this irritated some residents who had applied to be on a larger master plan committee, but he said they will still have their chance to get involved.

The committee decided the solution to quorum issues was to go with a forum rather than an official committee — the Master Plan Roundtable.

“This will be the group that’s really working on the master plan,” said Fitzgerald. “People won’t be sworn members, so there won’t be any quorum issues. Still, we hope some people will come to every meeting, and treat it like a real committee.”

The steering committee will remain the official body behind the master plan, but will rely heavily on the roundtable. There will also be broader public input forums throughout the process.

“We want everyone to feel that they can come out and talk, give their opinions, share their ideas, and help with things that may need to be done, like research,” Fitzgerald said.

The Master Plan Roundtable’s kickoff meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 6 in Town Hall.

The steering committee is Chairman Rich Fitzgerald, Brian Brault, Dianne Cornwell, Kevin Leger, Steve Malsch, Jack Spanbauer and Gwen Trelle.

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