April 20, 2023
Numerous Studies Underway
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Nearly a dozen important Town sponsored studies are or are about to be underway. These studies cover a range of topics but they all have a direct bearing on future projects for the community and are aimed at improving both the Town’s infrastructure and long range management of the community. Here is a brief run-down of the studies.
Vulnerability Action Plan: A state grant from the Coastal Zone Management Division is supporting an analysis of the core village area in relationship to sea level rise. This is a property by property look at how vulnerable existing structures are to flooding from elevated seas and bigger storms. The resulting report will provide recommendations on how we can better protect this area of town from future flooding. The next public presentation on this effort will be in mid-May. The study will be completed by the end of June. Priority recommendations will be pursued as the next step.
Water Resources Task Force: This effort began over a year ago. The group of volunteer citizens have been examining our water supply, what additional measures might be taken to better protect our drinking water and what changes in how we manage our drinking water from fee structures to processing methods might be made. The Task Force also has been engaged in the efforts the Town has been taking to deal with PFAS. We were early to start testing for the chemicals and have commissioned a design for treating the water from the Lincoln Street Well. A similar effort is now underway for Gravely Pond. Final recommendations from the Task force are expected in the next month or so.
MBTA Zoning: A new task force is forming, and its work is about to begin to determine how the Town should best respond to the new state mandate for by-right multi-unit housing near commuter rail stations. The Town has until the end of 2024 to respond to the new law, Section 3a of Chapter 40A. Background materials can be found on the Town’s website and new materials will be added as the work of the Task Force progresses. This will be the topic of many public forums as the Task Force explores options. If the Town is to comply, new zoning will have to be proposed and put before voters at a future Town meeting.
Future Zoning Amendments: The Planning Board also continues to work on amendments to the zoning regulations. It is likely that the Board will propose some modifications to the existing rules regarding the Administration of the Town’s zoning, revisions to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), new Senior Housing regulations, and revised flood plain regulations. Some or all of these may come before voters at a Special Town Meeting in the fall.
Facility Master Plan: The Town has hired an engineering firm to help craft a plan for the upkeep, renovation or replacement of town buildings. The plan will address the future facility needs of the DPW,, Police, Fire, the Library, Town Hall, a new Senior Center and our water treatment plants over the next 20-30 years. With so many of these facilities 20, 40 or even 60 years old, the Town faces the need for substantial reinvestment in these important facilities. Of course, we will need to prioritize which ones will be taken on when in order to have a financially viable plan going forward. We expect the facility master plan to be completed by the end of the summer, again after hearing from the public their views on priorities and options.
Tuck’s Point Rotunda: A more detailed engineering study is underway on the Rotunda. The pilings holding up the structure are rotting and must be replaced. New regulations due to sea level rise will require us to raise the structure up some five feet or so if it is to remain in its current location. Even so the iconic structure will be vulnerable to bigger storms. An alternative plan relocating the Rotunda on land will be presented. A public forum on the options will be held in the coming months.
Harbor Management Plan: Sticking with the harbor, a new citizens group is forming to help guide the creation of a new management plan for the harbor. A consultant will be hired (most likely with assistance from a state grant) to help craft the new plan. A regular schedule of dredging will be part of the plan. In the meantime, permitting efforts continue for proposed dredging of the main channel and Proctor’s Cove, planned in the next few years.
Phase II Downtown Improvement: The Downtown Improvement committee is nearing completion of its recommendations for a second phase of improvements, focusing on the streetscape along Central and Union Streets as well as further down Beach and out along Summer Streets. In conjunction with this a study is underway with ways to improve parking, signage and the streetscape throughout the village. Both of these efforts are being funded through state grants.
Governance Project: This initiative by the Select Board is taking a hard look at how our system of committees, boards and departments all interact and how effective our operations are. Initial recommendations are focused on improved communications and better coordination of priority goals.
A full slate of studies is geared toward making sure we are appropriately preparing for the future needs of the Town as well as meeting today’s needs. Your input on these topics is welcome.