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Planning Board suggests new master plan

Date: 9/13/2010

Sept. 13, 2010

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM -- The Planning Board is set to have a meeting with the Board of Selectmen on Oct. 25 to further discuss the possibility of writing a new town master plan.

The Open Space and Recreation Committee has been a major proponent for the new plan Planning Board Chair Fredrick Fuller III said at the board's Sept. 8 meeting.

A master plan estimates the future development of a town, including population, open space, land use and zoning, economic development and housing.

"I think we've been pushed, probably properly so, by Open Space to push for a new master plan from the town, so you go to the selectmen and kind of see whether or not they think it is appropriate and you might have to then rummage up some money to do it," Fuller said.

According to Fuller, the last master plan was written in 1963.

"Just looking through some of the early pages, it took the growth of Springfield, Mass. from 1950 to 1960. This was quite significant because it was the only city of over 100,000 that had growth," Fuller said. "They used a lot of projections based on that 10-year period of growth in Springfield and its surroundings and it really pumps the number up as to what Wilbraham's possible population would be. It sort of went out to 1970 only."

The process of constructing a master plan usually costs about $100,000 and takes approximately two years to complete, said vice-chair Richard Butler, who voiced his support for the formation of a new plan.

"I think it's time. I thought it's been time for a lot of years," Butler said. "This is a long, hard discussion that we've thought about for many years, but always said, 'No. We're doing just fine.' Well, maybe we're not anymore."

Planning Board clerk Dean Stroshine did not outwardly object to the proposal of a new master plan, but voiced concern over whether or not the plan was worth the time and money that would be required to put into it.

"People who have had a master plan for two or three or four or five years are happy with it and it's working for them," Stroshine said. "But I don't know. It seems like an awful lot of work and what do you get out of it? You spend a lot of money and three years down the road, it's out of date."

Board member John Boudreau agreed that the work and money could be wasted, especially given the uncertain economic climate.

"If we were making this decision three years ago and started the planning process and then ran into this change in the economy ... we'd be a year into it and way off base from where we were going," Boudreau said.

Butler stressed that if a new master plan project is approved, it will not be the Planning Board's project, though they would have some involvement.

"The bottom line, as far as I'm concerned, is that the Board of Selectmen are really the people who will be driving this," Butler said. "I think the Planning Board can say that there are some deficiencies and we really need to get information on all these categories and we would be a willing participant at the table."

He also added that a master plan would only be effective if the town understands that the process involves more than just the Selectmen and the Planning Board.

"It really is the town's process and people have to accept that everybody has an iron in the fire," Butler said.

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