Westborough’s Master Plan Committee gets extension

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By Jennifer L. Grybowski, Contributing Writer

Westborough – The Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted May 26 to give the Westborough Master Plan Advisory Committee some extra time in coming up with their draft.

Master Plan Chair Lester Hensley told the BOS that the committee has continued to meet each week with VBH, the consulting firm, but that there had been a concern raised regarding the ability of department heads’ ability to be properly engaged in the process while they are so consumed with dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are missing out on their subject matter expertise and the benefit of their engagement,” Hensley said. “We don’t want to short the master plan process.”

He said the subcommittees suggested delaying the process by 60 days and give department heads time to clear some space in their schedules to engage in the master plan work.

“We want the best outcome,” BOS Chairman Ian Johnson said.

Selectman Allen Edinberg agreed.

“Getting it right is more important than getting it right now,” he said.

He asked if the public comment period could be reopened, and Hensley said not only that it could, but that there has been a “submit your ideas” tool where people can both submit their ideas and engage on the ideas posted.

Selectman Syed Hashmi pointed out that this process was started pre-COVID-19.

“That was another world,” he said. “It would behoove us to look at the assumptions we made pre-COVID-19 to see if they still hold true today.”

For example, he said, sidewalks are likely more important to people now than they were previously. He also pointed to considering the makeup of the committee, making sure there were some essential workers.

Hensley said discussions with VHB showed they were in agreement with the delay. Town Manager Kristi Williams said she spoke with town departments and found that staff felt relieved at the prospect of an extended deadline.