By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
NORTHBOROUGH – Northborough was awarded grant funding in the amount of $10,000 to further investigate and compile data on the impacts of the new Amazon facility on local infrastructure. The news was shared by Northborough Town Planner Kathy Joubert and Planning Board Chair Kerri Martinek on April 6.
The grant funds have been provided by the state through the District Local Technical Assistance (DLTA) Program. This program enables the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) to allocate funds and provide technical assistance to member communities on eligible projects.
Priority categories of the projects include planning ahead for growth and development at the local level and technical assistance to support regional efficiency.
Northborough is a CMRPC member community. In addition, Martinek serves as the Planning Board delegate and was elected to the CMRPC Executive Committee, while Board of Selectmen delegate Julianne Hirsh serves on the Physical Development Committee.
This participation earns the town hours of resources from CMRPC.
Grant matches Amazon’s prior commitments
In February, the Planning Board utilized these resources and the CMRPC did a presentation regarding the traffic and safety impacts of big e-commerce facilities, such as Amazon, on the town roadways. The two recommendations made by CMRPC were a post-occupancy monitoring study and a neighborhood walk audit.
A portion of the grant matches Amazon’s commitment to help fund that Post Occupancy Monitoring Study once fully operational, as discussed at a March 8 Board of Selectmen meeting. Amazon approved $80,000 in funding for traffic mitigation on Bartlett Street to also include items such as flashing lights, a crosswalk in front of the entrance to Algonquin Regional High School, and the creation of bike lanes.
Neighborhood audit addresses resident concerns
The Neighborhood Walk Audit Report will provide recommendations to improve safety, alleviate traffic concerns and improve coordination between a diverse group of stakeholders including Town Planning, Engineering, Department of Public Works, Police and Fire Departments, residents, businesses, Algonquin High School and others as identified.
“The overwhelming message to the Planning Board from residents over the last six to nine months has been that we need to better counter the intensity of growth in the development of warehouses and distribution centers with solutions that account for the right to safe streets and quiet neighborhoods,” said Martinek when reached for comment. “A post-occupancy study combined with the neighborhood audit will provide our town with a blueprint to deal with this type of development and the impacts that it brings.”
Data collection and analysis for the study will begin this month and run through July 2021. Coordination of stakeholders will take place in August. The Neighborhood Walk Audit is scheduled for September, and a draft report with recommendations is expected by November. The final report is scheduled to be delivered in December.