By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – Members of the Westborough Master Plan Advisory Committee (MPAC) presented a final draft of the town’s master plan at a Planning Board meeting on Sept. 9.
The final draft is the product of input from the 25-member Advisory Committee, made up of residents, department heads and elected officials, as well as feedback from community members over a two-year process.
It considers Westborough’s future growth and development while identifying long-term goals and policies for the community.
“I think Westborough has produced quite an extraordinary document,” Advisory Committee Chairperson Lester Hensley said.
Communities are required by state law to make a master plan and update it “from time to time.”
In Westborough, though, Hensley said, the master plan adds two new elements that are not required by state law. These are the additions of chapters devoted to public health, as well as sustainability and climate change.
The master plan suggests examining the feasibility of hiring a public health nurse educator, conducting a comprehensive community health and wellness survey, and planning for food security in Westborough alongside a larger goal to prioritize community health in Westborough.
“I think these are appropriate additions to a master plan, particularly as we have experienced and are managing the global pandemic, but also as we continue to face a changing climate and its impact on our infrastructure and our lives,” Hensley said.
The master plan has chapters encouraging land use and development plans that revitalize the downtown Westborough area and maintain a New England village feel for the town.
It recommends the adoption of a policy promoting the conversion of vacant properties into uses needed or wanted by the community, as well as a review of town bylaws to ensure the town is well-positioned to attract office and industrial development.
The master plan also recommends that Westborough seek the passage and adoption of the Community Preservation Act and evaluate a potential Scenic Roads Bylaw to help preserve trees and aesthetic characteristics in the Westborough public right-of-way.
Donny Goris-Kolb, a consultant for the project from VHB, presented the master plan draft, mentioning how the plan was the result of a five-step process carried out, in part, by subcommittees of the Advisory Committee focused on different areas of the master plan.
“It was imperative at the very beginning of the process that the MPAC support a broad and inclusive outreach program, and to that point, we created a community outreach database,” Goris-Kolb said. “That database included all of the different groups, with emphasis on those groups that are typically not included or do not voluntarily participate in town decision-making.”
Goris-Kolb said that the Advisory Committee established ambassadors in the MPAC to reach out to those groups during key milestones for the plan.
The next public event in the master plan draft process will be a joint meeting between the Planning Board and the Select Board on Tuesday, Sept. 21.