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Master Plan Steering Committee disbands after first meeting

Date: 4/18/2011

April 18, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM — Town officials are looking for public assistance in creating a new master plan.

The five-person Master Plan Steering Committee, which consisted of Town Administrator Robert Wietz, Selectman Patrick Brady, Planning Board Chair Frederic Fuller III, Director of Planning and Development John Pearsall and Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee member Joseph Calabrese, agreed to disband and reorganize with an 11-person committee, per Pearsall's recommendation, at its first and only meeting April 14.

"[The Planning Board and Open Space and Recreation Committee] met with the Board of Selectmen and this committee was created pretty quickly," Fuller told Reminder Publications. "What I think we realized today is we need more voices. This process is supposed to help us plan for the future of this community and we think that future is going to be very different. We need to find out what the different views of that future are in the community."

Fuller said it would be most helpful to the community if volunteers for the new reorganized committee, which will be called the Master Plan Advisory Committee, were current or former members of town boards or long-time town residents.

"That doesn't mean we don't value the opinion of new-comers, but this is a project [in which] we're looking for perspective on where the town has been and where it is going," Fuller explained. "It would be hard to have someone new to the town step into this kind of role."

The Master Plan Advisory Committee would be charged with overseeing the activities of and offering suggestions to a separate group led by Open Space and Recreation Chair Charles Phillips.

Phillips' group would be responsible for the bulk of the visioning of the project.

The development of a new master plan or the updating of the current one is being explored because of a strong push by the Open Space and Recreation Committee because the old plan was seriously outdated, having been drafted in 1963, Fuller said.

Unlike many other communities that have recently updated their master plans, Wilbraham is attempting to do so strictly on a volunteer basis.

"John Pearsall brought us six or seven recent master plan updates and what we found is most of those communities used professional help, either through UMass or the Pioneer Valley Planning Council," Fuller said. "Most of those probably cost somewhere between $60,000 and $140,000. [The Planning Board] doesn't have a budget, so we were hesitant to get on board with a new master plan."

Fuller conceded that because the effort is reliant on volunteer input, a full master plan, which is a comprehensive, long-term strategy, the town may develop a sort-term plan instead, but added that it would be better than what the town currently has.

"It's clear that the master plan we have is not relative to anything going on these days," Fuller said. "It would be sloppy of us to leave it alone."

Those interested in serving on the Master Plan Advisory Committee can contact Town Hall at 596-2800.

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