Millbury’s Master Plan update is underway!
It has been 20 years since Millbury’s Master Plan was last updated. During that time, many recommendations from the original Master Plan were implemented while others fell by the wayside for one reason or another. The passage of 20 years has yielded a changed Millbury- one that saw the construction of a new Route 146 Interchange and the siting of the Shoppes of Blackstone Valley- Central Massachusetts’ largest open air shopping center. Many acres of forest and farm fields gave way to sprawling solar farms, various other types of commercial/industrial development and more than 700 homes that brought newcomers attracted to Millbury’s central location, excellent highway access and affordable housing. Meanwhile, former mill buildings long after their heyday, including the Cordis Mills and the
Felters Mill, enjoyed an exciting rebirth as mixed use complexes that now host luxury apartments, doctors’ and engineering offices, an old time ice cream parlor, café, and cute assortment of shops. Given Millbury’s tremendous growth and changing face, the time has come to take stock as to where we stand as a community and determine our path going forward.
What is a Master Plan and why does Millbury need one?
A Master Plan sets forth a vision for the future physical development of a community and includes a road map for achieving that vision. It will help Millbury actively shape the community’s future by managing its growth- ensuring that development occurs where it is most appropriate. The Master Plan will examine the demographics of the community, housing stock, economic development, transportation network, open space and natural resources, historic resources, and community services and facilities. Through the creation of a community profile, the Master Plan will yield a comprehensive understanding of present conditions, needs, long-term challenges and opportunities, and changes that may
occur over time; guide future decisions and remind local leaders of the Town’s priorities; be optimistic yet realistic and, by setting achievable goals, it will be implemented. Since municipalities with a current Master Plan have an edge in securing a variety of state and federal grants, it is likely that Millbury’s Master Plan will pay for itself within a couple of years.
What is the Master Plan Committee’s charge?
Appointed by the Town Manager and confirmed by the Board of Selectmen, the Master Plan Committee is charged with the following tasks:
The Master Plan Committee provides expertise, guidance and support to the consultants, who will serve as the primary authors of the document.
Through surveys, workshops, interviews, and roundtable discussions, the Master Plan Committee gathers input from Town staff, boards, commissions, regional agencies, the citizenry, and the business community that will result in a vision for the community and a specific action strategy for fulfilling that vision.
Once the Plan is complete, the Committee may choose to continue its work by encouraging and assisting municipal staff, boards, committees, and the community with the implementation of Plan recommendations.
Phase 1: Listening to the People
Key to the success of any planning endeavor is public participation. It is essential that the Master Plan Committee understands exactly what you, the residents and business community, want for Millbury. To that end, the Master Plan Committee launched Phase I of the Master Planning process by hiring a consultant, Community Circle, to facilitate a series of workshops aimed at gathering your thoughts, impressions and hopes for Millbury.
A variety of forums were provided for residents and business owners to provide their input. In the winter of 2016, residents were invited to a town-wide public forum to discuss their concerns and desires for the future of Millbury. Smaller visioning sessions were held with senior citizens and high school students. Downtown business owners were asked to participate in an on-line survey. In March 2018, a comprehensive Master Plan survey was distributed to 5,082 Millbury households. Consisting of 25 questions, the survey asked a variety of questions asking respondents what they think about our community, what should be preserved or enhanced, what needs improvement, and what might be missing. The Committee is thrilled to report the receipt of 970 responses,
which represents a 19% response rate.
Surveys are currently being tallied and the results will be posted as soon as they are available.
Input from the community forums, business survey, comprehensive resident survey, and Master Plan Committee combine to create a vision and goals aimed at achieving the vision. The vision and the goal constitute the foundation upon which the Master Plan’s recommendations will be built.
Phase 2: The Plan
A consultant team led by BSC Group, Inc. has been hired to guide us through Phase 2 of the Master Planning process. Currently underway, Phase 2 focuses on what the community “has” in the form of an inventory and assessment of existing conditions. These will be examined in terms of: housing, economic development, natural and historic resources, open space and recreation, traffic and circulation, land use, demographics, public facilities and services. Finally, an implementation plan will be developed that outlines the steps necessary to take us from where we are in terms of existing resources (as described in the inventory) to where we want to go (as described in the vision and set of goals developed in Phase I). The implementation plan will be comprised of action steps, key
responsible parties, possible partners, needed policy changes, and potential funding sources for implementation.