Grants Update: Advancing Our Master Plan Priorities
By Gregory T. Federspiel
The recently adopted Master Plan for Manchester, with its focus on preserving our natural resources, diversifying our housing options, and expanding our tax base to fund our infrastructure needs, provides a road map for actions to be taken by our boards, committees and staff. To help further these efforts, a number of new grants, totaling more than $400,000 have been awarded to the Town.
A grant through the state’s Housing Choice Program will enable us to explore the feasibility of repurposing the site of our wastewater treatment plant. If a new approach to treating our wastewater can be developed (e.g.: connecting our collection system to Beverly’s) then the site could potentially be utilized for new uses – residential, commercial, open space. While a long term project, this eventually would have the dual benefit of moving critical infrastructure away from the threats of sea level rise and enhancing our core village area.
Through the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Program, we have received additional funding to continue on to the permitting phase for the re-establishment of Sawmill Brook as a free flowing stream as it enters the inner harbor and the reconstruction of the stone embankments upstream of the Central Street culvert. This effort is in conjunction with the planned reconstruction of the dam and culvert at Central Street and will restore the natural flood mitigating properties of Sawmill Brook. We hope to receive future grant funding for the reconstruction of the streambanks.
As part of a new initiative to preserve a large swath of forest land in the western corner of the Town, we have been awarded a small grant from the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation to complete a forest stewardship plan for roughly 500 acres of open space. Much of this area of town is already under town or land trust ownership and, with a stewardship plan in place, we position ourselves to be eligible for future funding to preserve lands that are currently privately held.
While this important preservation effort is underway, a complementary effort has begun to see how we might encourage new commercial development in our Limited Commercial District. The LCD lies to the north of Route 128. Creating strong development standards that ensure protection of the natural resources in this area while allowing for a greater variety of uses could allow for new development. Bolstering our tax base in this way would provide important financial support to the Town. The Planning Board is moving forward with an exploration of creating a 40R (mixed use) overlay district and the state has offered to provide technical assistance to us as we undertake this initiative.
Another Planning Board priority is to analyze parking in Town. Before new development takes place we want to make sure we have a solid game plan to better manage the flow of cars in and around our village core. We expect to receive assistance from the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission to conduct a parking study with recommendations for traffic flow and parking improvements.
We are also in line for grant funds to improve access to our Town facilities. Through a state ADA grant we will identify needed improvements and put together an action plan for these improvements. Having the plan in place makes us eligible for implementation grants. And speaking of Town facilities, we anticipate the receipt of FEMA funds to help keep flood waters out of Town Hall and the Sewer Plant.