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Open Space, Recreation Plan remains a work in progress

Date: 7/24/2012

By Chris Maza

WILBRAHAM — The Open Space and Recreation Plan (OSRP) Committee will continue to hear feedback on and make adjustments to the town's action plan for 2011 through 2018.

The OSRP must be updated every five years in order for the town to remain eligible for Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding. While the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen can endorse the plan, final approval rests with the Conservation Commission.

OSRP Committee Chairman Chuck Phillips, who was scheduled to present the 2011 to 2018 action plan at the July 16 Board of Selectmen's meeting in hopes of getting the board's endorsement, suggested the board table the issue because changes to the plan needed to be made because of concerns raised by the Planning Board.

While the Planning Board endorsed the majority of the plan, they had concerns with certain sections, including its suggestion of historic district zoning, Planning Board Co-Chair Richard Butler told the Selectmen that his committee endorsed the plan overall.

"We have endorsed the plan with our concerns in mind," Butler said. "We have our concerns, but we hoped to push this along and then modify it where needed down the road."

Board of Selectmen Chair Robert Boilard responded by saying that he would prefer to have a document that was complete and did not require adjustment.

In addition to Boilard's concerns, the Board of Selectmen learned that the Conservation Commission had yet to see the draft plan in order to make any recommendations.

Resident Tara Kozub expressed concerns with the plan, stating that she felt it had a very negative tone regarding the future of Wilbraham.

"I feel that with this document you are saying that Wilbraham's best days are behind it and we are planning toward scarcity," she said. "Through reading this it seems as if you're saying Wilbraham should be planning for the worst."

Phillips replied that the town is "dealing with finite resources," most specifically usable, developable land.

"I think we are somewhat limited in terms of the land available for residential development," he said.

Kozub also questioned "cluster by right" residential and commercial zoning development, which Phillips explained to be a way of planning subdivisions and developments to have smaller lots with larger portions of community open space.

Kozub voiced her concerns about residents' "individual property rights being forfeited for community rights."

Resident Richard Howell suggested the committees involved in the process should host a large public forum.

"I am concerned about a lot of what I see," he said. "I think we have to know what we are getting into because once it's done, it cannot be undone."

The Board of Selectmen agreed to table the issue as the OSRP Committee re-works the document.