Westborough Planning Board unanimously adopts master plan

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By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer

Westborough town iconWESTBOROUGH – The Westborough Planning Board voted unanimously to adopt the final
draft of the town’s master plan at a meeting on Sept. 21.

The plan passed after a presentation by Master Plan Advisory Committee Chairman Lester
Hensley and Donny Goris-Kolb, a consultant for the project from VHB.

“I think we have got a very solid foundation which we will be able to use for many years to improve the quality of life in our community for everyone,” said Planning Board member Hazel Nourse.

Consultant discusses changes made to master plan

The master plan Advisory Committee first met in Dec. 2019. The master plan itself was then recently a topic of discussion on Sept. 9 when the Advisory Committee presented a draft of the plan to the Planning Board.

Speaking on Sept. 21, Goris-Kolb noted changes made to the master plan since that meeting.

References to “bicycle facilities” were changed to “micro-mobility facilities” to accommodate other types of small vehicles like scooters. Those changes came alongside other terminology changes in discussions about accessibility in town. Mentions of “improved walkability,” for example, were changed to note goals for “improved walkability and bikeability.”

A separate new addition discussed updating site plan review regulations to help drive
implementation of bike, pedestrian and electric vehicle friendly facilities.

Additional changes added language to a master plan section about building sidewalks to connect neighborhood.

The new language specifically mentions large multi-family developments as a focus for this interconnectivity.

The plan now also includes a section about investigating opportunities to encourage purchase of electric vehicles. New language in that section refers to rental vehicles as well as purchased ones.

‘I learned an awful lot about a town’

Massachusetts municipalities are required by state law to create a master plan for their future. These master plans are generally produced in 10 to 15-year intervals, Goris-Kolb said.

Hensley thanked everyone who contributed to the master plan process, particularly thanking the residents of Westborough.

He said that the town could be proud of the committee’s dedicated work on the master plan despite the challenges of the pandemic.

“I learned an awful lot about a town that I thought I knew well, having done my schooling career here and raised my children here,” Hensley said. “It’s incredibly rich, and it’s really rich because of all the participation and the extraordinary amount of volunteer hours, not to mention the professionalism and commitment, of all of our staff and town officials.”

‘It’s a guide for us, it’s not the ten commandments’

Goris-Kolb outlined the details of the master plan, particularly noting the inclusion of chapters dedicated to sustainability and climate change, and public health.

He described the process of creating the master plan, which involved identifying challenges that Westborough faces and creating a community outreach database to seek the input of groups traditionally uninvolved in planning processes.

Planning Board Chair Mark Silverberg applauded the master plan and described it as adaptable as town officials make decisions going forward.

“It’s a guide for us, it’s not the ten commandments,” Silverberg said.

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