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Greenfield’s new ‘green’ master plan almost finished

GREENFIELD — A new “sustainable” master plan that will carry the town through at least the next 10 years includes suggestions for preserving open space and agricultural land, promoting energy efficiency throughout town, and encouraging more use of pedestrian and bike paths, as well as public transportation, to reduce the town’s carbon footprint.

The words that came up again and again as a 35-member Sustainable Master Plan Advisory Committee met over the last 13 months to write the sustainable master plan were: resilience, vibrancy and quality (of life).

Now, the sustainable master plan, which will go to the town’s Planning Board for approval, is in its final stage, according to Eric Twarog, the town’s director of planning and development.

The committee looked at everything from agriculture and natural resources to housing and education, along with tourism, a creative economy, economic development, transportation, facilities, services, energy, and natural, historic and cultural issues facing the town. It consisted of residents, community leaders, town leaders and local environmentalists.

The last comprehensive master plan in Greenfield was completed in 1974 and updated in 2001.

The current project, which was led by Vanasse Hangen and Brustlin, was funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

Twarog said HUD gave the town $40,000 to help pay for the project and the town used a Community Development Block Grant of $78,542 to pay the rest.

The committee, which formed several subcommittees, looked at several elements: land use, transportation, economic development, housing, natural, historic and cultural issues, education, and public facilities, services and energy.

The sustainable master plan will reflect the committee’s findings, thoughts and suggested implementation strategies, including where and how to focus on development and what infrastructure improvements should be priorities for the town over the next decade.

“We’re in the final editing stages,” said Twarog. “We will have a community presentation later in January so that residents and town councilors can see the final results of more than a year’s worth of work.”

Twarog said the sustainable master plan will need a majority vote of the Planning Board.

“By February, the town will have its new master plan,” said Twarog. “It’s a great plan. Unique. It weaves sustainability throughout the entire plan. That’s not typically seen.”

Twarog said the committee did a good job.

“This will be a guide that could eventually lead to new ordinances,” said Twarog. “A master plan is a guide and doesn’t have to be consistent with land-use regulations, but Greenfield wants one that will be.”

Twarog said those who worked on the plan, along with town officials, hope that the new plan will be used each time a developer wants to come into Greenfield.

Nancy Hazard, a member of the advisory committee and of Greening Greenfield, said the plan includes the town’s vision, as well as suggestions for implementing 70 strategies the group came up with while writing the plan.

“I’m so excited about this plan,” said Hazard. “Sustainability is integrated everywhere throughout the plan, instead of just having a separate chapter on sustainability.”

Hazard said she learned a lot through the process and hopes others did, also.

“Sustainability isn’t just about the environment, but also about economics,” said Hazard.

She said the advisory committee talked about everything from roads and other infrastructures in town to trees and energy upgrades to buildings throughout town.

“This is a guide, but we’re hoping it leads to some permanent changes, good changes, in Greenfield,” said Hazard. “The next step is to turn some of these ideas into ordinances.”

Hazard said the new sustainable master plan will be the town’s “big picture” for the town.

Hazard said, for instance, the plan looks at meeting the housing needs of all Greenfield residents over the next 10 years, including residents over the age of 65 — currently they are 10 percent of all residents, but it is expected they will make up 20 percent by 2020.

She said the plan also looks at ways to boost tourism and maintain and enhance Greenfield schools. She said it also suggests ways to protect the town’s natural resources.

Hazard said the new master plan is one more step for Greenfield to become a truly “green” community.

“It will improve our town, our land, our services and our quality of life,” she said.

Once the sustainable master plan has been approved and “officially” becomes the town’s new plan, it will be found at: www.greenfieldmasterplan.com.

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