Selectmen seek revisions and clarifications to open space plan

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – Town Planner Bernard Cahill, Mimi Kaplan from the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission and members of the Open Space and Recreation Plan (OSRP) committee met with the Board of Selectmen at their Nov. 10 meeting. They presented their final draft of the updated Open Space Recreation Plan with the hopes of gaining approval to forward the plan to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation Services.

The process began in 2019 with the purpose of articulating the “community’s vision and strategies to preserve and enhance the town’s open space.”

A committee was formed which collected data and constructed a community profile. Environmental and water quality issues were identified, and open space was inventoried. A survey of the community was conducted, and a public forum was held on August 31.

“Plans need to be updated every seven years to be current and approved by the state. Having an approved plan makes a community eligible for land and park grants,” Kaplan noted.

She explained that in this plan open space refers to conservation forest, recreation and agricultural land and parks but it can also refer to undeveloped land with an interest in conservation or passive and active recreation.

Since the plan was last updated in 2012 several of the goals had been met such as the creation of a Trails Committee but others were not which have been included in this updated version.

One of the provisions of the updated plan called for the formation of an OSRP Implementation Committee which would meet with nonprofit conservation organizations relevant to open space activities and identify and prioritize unprotected land.

While the draft was met with general praise, the Board agreed that considering the recent adoption of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in the Nov. 3 presidential election, they shared concerns of overlapping committees.

Towns that have adopted the CPA must form a Community Preservation Committee to assess community needs including open space and recreation.

Kane said that he didn’t support the creation of another committee that would strain town resources. He suggested perhaps adding two additional persons to the Parks & Recreation Commission.

In commenting on several items, he noted relative to water aquifer protection: “I think we’ve established a pretty good track record as recent as this past Town Meeting of undertaking an effort to protect the land around the various well heads…I think you can put that in an accomplishment column as well.”

“There could be a lot of overlap here and until we have some clarity on what’s happening with the CPA, I think we should be holding off,” added Selectman Moe DePalo.

Cahill replied that the intent of the OSRP plan was not to create a whole new committee per se but to make sure that action items of the plan were implemented.

He assured that Board that he will take into consideration the Board’s feedback and will come back with a revised plan for them to review and vote at their Nov. 24 meeting.