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Correspondent

TOWNSEND — It’s time again to review the document meant to guide decision-making by the town’s boards and commissions.

Unfortunately, though, the nine-member committee that will be charged with the review currently numbers two.

Planning Board administrative assistant Jeanne Hollows admitted that the committee that will undertake the first revision of the town’s Master Plan in nearly six years is forming slowly, but she’s optimistic that the remaining seven members will join soon.

Until then, work on updating the plan is halted.

“So far, we have two committed volunteers,” Hollows said. “We’d like to see nine on the committee. As soon as we have that number, then the meetings can begin.”

The town’s Master Plan was last updated in June 2001.

“What we prefer is to see it updated every five years,” Hollows said.

Hollows was optimistic that volunteers for the committee would be secured soon, although she admitted that the mix of public and private recruiting for the group had yet to bear enough fruit.

“We’ve put out posters, advertisements on the town Web site,” she said. “We’ve even made a few phone calls to a lot of people who came to mind as being excellent choices for the committee. Unfortunately, a lot of people we contacted said they are already overcommitted. I think they already feel out.”

Hollows said hope may already be on the way.

One of the volunteers who has already signed up for the committee has canvassed neighbors and friends, and believes there may be another four volunteers ready to join.

Hollows said several members of the previous Master Plan Committee had agreed to advise the new committee a little in the beginning.

Hollows didn’t know what costs might be associated with the Master Plan revision, but said the previous committee applied for and received a small grant to help cover some of the costs.

“There’s no money budgeted (for the review),” she said. “But one of the goals will be to look for the grant opportunities that are out there.”

As noted by the previous Master Plan Committee, Townsend uses volunteers, who work for free, while other communities may spend up to $50,000 on Master Plan updates prepared by professional consultants. However, the consultants are usually not residents and may lack in-depth understanding of the town.

The 2001 revision resulted in a 35-page document covering all aspects of life in Townsend.

The main goal of the Master Plan is to offer some guidance about the future of the town to official groups like the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen in making things like zoning decisions, budget proposals and capital improvements.

While the document is required by state law, its suggestions carry no legal weight and town boards and commissions are not required to follow them.

The latest edition will be the fourth, with the plan first drawn up in 1970 then revisions made in 1988 and 2001.

Work on the 2001 edition was actually begun in 1998, when the Board of Selectmen authorized an update to what had been seen as an overly-technical revision that was unwieldy and difficult to put into practice.

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