By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Last August, Shrewsbury’s Annual Town Meeting approved a slate of zoning bylaws that created a new Town Center Zoning District. As such, after waiting for the commonwealth’s attorney general to approve the bylaws (which took place last fall), Town Planner Bernard Cahill is urging prospective developers to consider what the Town Center has to offer.
History of the Town Zoning District
Spurred by grants that Shrewsbury has received within the past couple of years, (e.g., the Town Center visioning, parking and wayfinding and branding studies and the eventual redevelopment of the Beal School), the town was looking at options for rezoning.
Cahill shared at a Board of Selectmen’s meeting in July 2020 that the different studies have allowed town residents to express their feelings and that “they would like to see the town use the tools at their disposal to create a path for the Town Center.”
He noted that a unified zoning district would help 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.”
Also important was the need for safe accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists.
Further, he said that by updating zoning to create a Town Center Zoning District and allowing for uses to be re-evaluated, a new Town Center will emerge. The vision is for one that sets design standards with new parking standards and requirements and established minimum lot sizes and setbacks.
Elements of the Town Center Zoning district
The approved bylaw slate has provided a defined Town Center District with provisions for new development to enhance the New England style. Emphasis is on walkability, pedestrian friendly spaces with continuing sidewalks and accessible green spaces with green buffers between pedestrians and roadways.
One of their primary goals is to see mixed use development with store fronts having office and residential spaces above.
“These practical changes (we hope to see) will generally create a more inviting atmosphere,” remarked Rowen McAllister, the town’s assistant town planner. “We have a fairly robust small business community in the Town Center but we want to continue to foster and enhance economic development.”
“The changes will take time and changes from the bylaws don’t happen overnight but this is an investment and a long-term vision,” she stated. “We are hoping to gain traction and get things moving as soon as possible.”
Shrewsbury is currently seeking developers who are interested in the Town Center and will “bring their ideas and imagination to the table.”
McAllister added that within the next couple of weeks they will reach out to regional planning networks and work with the Shrewsbury Media Connection public television to produce a marketing video.
Developers can contact the Planning Department by emailing [email protected].
Click here for more Shrewsbury news.