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Montague plans wishlist for new year

MONTAGUE — Redevelopment of vacant properties, primarily town-owned buildings, and development of the Turnpike Road Industrial Park top the town’s list of planning priorities for the coming year, a list that also includes handicapped accessibility, a new senior center and public works facilities, a skate park and expanded Internet access.

These projects and more, in various stages of planning, are among the 22 listed in the 2014 Community Development Strategy developed by the town planner and approved by the Board of Selectmen this month.

Town Planner Walter Ramsey said the list is not set in stone, nor does acceptance of the list commit the town to undertaking the projects listed.

Higher ranking of some projects, such as the downtown accessibility improvements and skate park, third and seventh on the list, were in response to public comment and hearings. A volunteer group is in the process of raising funds and seeking grants for the skate park.

Redevelopment of vacant properties tops the list, with the town in possession of more than half a dozen unused properties around town, most abandoned to the town or taken in lieu of taxes. These include the former St. Anne’s rectory on Sixth Street, the former Montague Center School on School Street, the former Strathmore Paper Mill complex on the Power Canal island and the Powers Block building and associated structures at 26-28, 30 and 34 East Main Street in Millers Falls.

The Montague Center School shows signs of imminent reuse, with a plan in place to renovate the building as apartments.

A group interested in converting the Strathmore into artists’ studios, apartments and shops backed out this summer, citing access and other issues. Interest in the Millers Falls buildings similarly evaporated, as the town and various claimants to the property continue to engage in legal disputes in Land Court.

The town is pursuing a slum and blight designation for a slice of downtown Millers Falls and the area of the Strathmore to qualify the buildings and a garage on East Main Street for potential state money targeting rehabilitation of blighted areas.

The full 2014 Community Development Strategy can be found on the Montague website, montague.net, currently under a link from the home page.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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