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Water, sewers necessities for development

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) and town officials are working to fill the holes in Agawam's economic development strategy.

Earlier this year, the town was awarded a grant from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development Chapter 43 D Program to complete a year-and-a-half-long economic development study. The study will identify vacant or underutilized parcels of land and outline a procedure for their development.

"It's the missing link," Deborah Dachos, director of planning and community development, said of the study, adding that not having one is "a big void in our comprehensive [economic strategy] for the town."

She noted that there is very little vacant or underutilized land left for commercial or industrial development in Agawam, however, the study will outline strategies to capitalize on that shortfall.

According to Town Assessor Kevin Baldini there are 40 parcels of vacant commercial land, 486 parcels of vacant residential land, 44 parcels of vacant industrial land and 217 parcels of municipal or exempt land.

Jessica Allan, senior planner at PVPC, said the team is currently working to complete phase two of an 11-step process to complete the economic development study by December 2009. The second step is to complete a Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping and infrastructure assessment, followed by preliminary site identifications for development.

Allan said several factors will dictate whether a parcel is viable for commercial or industrial development, including access to water, sewers and major roadways. The property must also be easily accessible to consumers and free of any environmental hazards. She noted that areas in Feeding Hills without sewer systems would not be viable for development.

Mayor Susan Dawson said expanding the town's sewer system into Feeding Hills is vital to commercial and industrial growth in this area of town.

She also noted the potential increase in job opportunities and tax revenue for the town as a byproduct of commercial and industrial expansion.

Having already completed the first phase of the Economic Development Study by updating the existing development handbook, the PVPC will be working to finish the GIS mapping by the end of the month. Phases three through five preliminary site identification, a profile of economic activity, assessment of municipal barriers to economic development will be completed by the end of the year. Steps six through 11, including the site analysis and land owner outreach, traffic impact analysis on identified sites, community visioning for economic development, final analysis and report production and developers conference will be completed by December 2009.