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AYER — The Planning Board has approved a request for proposal (RFP) to tap professional help in clarifying and updating the town’s bylaws.

The decision came after a presentation by Planning and Development Director Christopher Ryan.

Ryan proposed that the RFP include a cross-referencing system for the bylaws, eliminate loopholes and make the documents more user-friendly.

Optional items include a legal review of the bylaws, review of the town zoning map and preliminary modifications that could help the town adopt unified permitting at some point in the future.

The board approved the RFP with the understanding that the scope of work could be reviewed later in conjunction with the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee.

The work will be underwritten by $30,000 appropriated at Town Meeting last year.

The RFP will cover the first phase of the three-phase effort to improve the bylaws, said Ryan, and ultimately implement a number of recommendations from the town master plan.

Board member James Lucchesi said he’d support the RFP, but cautioned that past efforts to change zoning have often foundered in Ayer.

“There’s a different mix (now), but there’s a lot of people in town who don’t want to see the zoning in town changed one iota,” he said.

The zoning documents need work, said Ryan, and he carries a strong track record of presenting zoning amendments before skeptic town meetings. He laid claim to a near 100 percent success rate. The aim is to have at least some of these items ready to present at the Fall Town Meeting, he said.

Ryan also advised the board consider working with Nashoba Valley Medical Center to “get its feet wet” on new state legislation that allows for unified permitting in designated “economic opportunity areas.”

The program would put a 180-day time limit for the board to deliver decisions on projects for designated areas, but would also make the town eligible for up to $150,000 in state grants being made available to launch the program. Ryan advised they consider partnering with the hospital to look into it.

“I think this is a win-win-win for us,” he said.

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