HARVARD — The intent of a Town Center Overlay District bylaw the Planning Board has in the works is to follow the master plan’s vision of the Town Center and fix zoning issues in the area.
“Concern about Town Center dates back to before we were all born,” said board Chairman Mary Essary.
Planner Joseph Sudol presented the background and current concept of the bylaw during the board’s first November meeting.
There are two published documents that cover the issue, he said. They are the master plan and the town center action plan.
Several months ago, he said, the board decided to merge the committees associated with those plans — the Master Plan Implementation and Town Center Planning committees — to gather input on how to proceed.
“We definitely want to maintain the residential nature of Town Center,” said Sudol.
The intent of this bylaw is to simplify the application processes for existing property owners of non-conforming structures, he said, while encouraging light commercial and business use with minimal impact on abutters.
Under the proposed bylaw, Sudol said current zoning will remain the same, such as the overlapping historical district. Any change to a structure within the area will still require a special permit from the board, he said, but those within the overlay district will be simplified.
Another goal of the bylaw is increasing mixed use, said Sudol, allowing small business and commercial use among the residential area. That’s part of the master and Town Center action plans’ emphasis on creating a vibrant, village concept for Town Center as a gathering place for people, he said.
The major concern voiced by Town Center property owners is the need for a septic solution.
The septic problems all around Town Center are a major impediment, said Adam Horowitz, a representative of the General Store. Everything done at the store is constrained by the septic system, he said, which prevents people from lingering there.
That conflicts with the idea of drawing people to Town Center, he said.
Horowitz’ sentiments were echoed by representatives of the three churches that fall under the potential overlay district. For example, the Unitarian Church is having trouble finding a suitable location for the septic system of its nearby community building.
While the Congregational Church has no immediate septic problems, the potential for them was acknowledged as a long-term issue.
The General Store and Harvard Inn are often taken for granted, said Victor Normand, representing the inn, also within the district, but they’re still at risk.
The board plans to hold another public hearing on the bylaw at its Dec. 3 meeting so the Master Plan Implementation and Town Center Action committees have time to process public input and respond.