PEPPERELL — “That’s the nature of Pepperell, starting small is the way to go,” Planning Administrator Sue Snyder said at a May 23 Planning Board Meeting.
There the town moved one step closer to establishing an Economic Development Committee. After being awarded a $1,000 peer-to-peer technical assitance grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development, Pepperell hired a consultant in Ayer — Director of Community and Economic Development David Maher. Over the last six months Maher has created guidelines for establishing a committee on economic outlook, sustainability and development. Next the proposal is to be brought to the Selectmen on June 13.
“[The selectmen] are highly motivated to work with this board as much as we can,” Selectman Stephen Themelis said, who attended Monday’s meeting.
The proposed committee, which is referred to as the “Pepperell Better Business, Better Town Committee,” will be made up of seven members, including four private-sector representatives, two public-sector representatives and at the Planning Board’s revision, a resident-at-large member. An economic coordinator would serve as an overseer.
Maher’s report suggested the members be drawn from areas of finance, real estate, large industrial or commercial, small industrial or commercial and retail.
Maher’s report included a strategy outline that touted Pepperell’s diverse business community
“Capitalizing on Pepperell’s best assets, such as the predominance of historic buildings and a pedestrian-friendly corridor, emphasis should be to create a similar atmosphere all along Main Street to the rotary,” the report said.
The report established a four-point mission statement for the committee, which will aim to support local businesses, seek new business for job growth and services, develop a long -range plan balancing economic growth and overall quality of life, and establishing of incentive and marketing programs to highlight current Pepperell businesses.
Board members took issue with some of the proposed “design activities” that call for maintaining the look of business on Main Street.
Planning Board Chair Richard McHugh Jr. said he does not want to impose strict rules and regulations.
Some other activities, such as communication and coordination between businesses, maintaining public spaces and promotion signage were more attractive.
Another aspect is connecting commercial areas that “extend from Railroad Square to the Rotary.” Main Street’s residential zoning mixed with commercial zoning creates problems with Main Street frontage.
Pepperell is also getting help through an ongoing study “to review possible zoning changes to enhance commercial development” by the North Middlesex County of Governments on Pepperell’s current Main Street corridor.
“Overall the committee’s job will be to find what Pepperell is good at, contemplate it, and then complement it,” Planning Administrator Snyder said. Board Member Albert Patenaude Jr. said that Pepperell’s best overall economic strategy will be tough to identify, but small business and a unique Main Street corridor will help.
Patenaude and other small-business members on the board discussed Pepperell’s possibility as a destination, despite its closeness to Nashua, N.H., and tax-free shopping.