Town Planner discusses town center rezoning with selectmen

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Public Forum to be held Dec. 11

By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – Bernie Cahill, town planner, met with the Board of Selectmen at their Oct. 22 meeting to give a presentation on the Town Center rezoning.

Cahill described possible future scenarios such as tree-lined sidewalks with vibrant shops and interesting places to spend an afternoon or evening with art galleries and a brew pub or café to visit with friends.

“During the past three years through different studies of the town the people of Shrewsbury have made it plain that they would like to see the town use the tools at their disposal to create a path for the Town Center,” he said.

Spurred by recent grants that Shrewsbury has received such as Town Center visioning, a parking study and for wayfinding and branding as well as the creation of the Shrewsbury Town Center Association and the eventual redevelopment of the current Beal Early Child Center, the town is in the process of looking at options for rezoning.

Cahill outlined goals which include a unified zoning district, establish the Shrewsbury Town Center as a vibrant, pedestrian-oriented environment with day and night vitality, create a more robust cultural and economic center and promote a traditional New England Town Center aesthetic and character.

He then shared public feedback from the Shrewsbury Town Center Study conducted last year that supports these goals.

Recommendations to achieve these goals include developing comprehensive zoning that establishes a new Town Center District.

Updated zoning in the Town Center will allow for uses to be reevaluated, inform new parking standards and requirements, establish minimum lot sizes and setbacks and pedestrian and cyclist accommodations and setting design standards and guidelines.

“Zoning sets parameters for how land can be used, but it does not make development happen,” he noted. “Development in the Town Center would still require responsible landowners, enlightened developers, financiers and skilled architects and builders. New zoning would only impact new development in the Town Center and new zoning would not force owners of existing buildings to comply.”

“Great approach, love it and if there is anything you need, please ask,” stated Selectman Jim Kane. “If we are going to serious, we just have to recognize and be willing to do what we need to as a town on issues of maintenance particularly in the winter.”

Selectman John Lebeaux said that it was a great concept and he hoped it could become a reality.

He showed some concern for existing business and home owners in the limited business districts relevant to how they are directly impacted by rezoning.

Kristen Las, assistant town manager, added that the rezoning could be done by using concentric zones taking into account where existing commercial and residential activity is specifically located without eroding the character of existing neighborhoods.

A public forum will be held Wednesday, Dec. 11, from 6-8 p.m., at the Shrewsbury Public Library, 609 Main St.

For more information, email Bernard Cahill, Town Planner, [email protected]., call 508-841-8512 or visit www.ShrewsburyMA.gov/TownCenter.