PEPPERELL — After nearly eight months of balking and tweaking from the selectmen and Planning Board, Pepperell’s Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) was created in October and held a meeting on the evening of Dec. 6.
The board is made up of selectmen appointees Keith Bagley, Walter Dwyer, Stephanie Cronin and John Masiello, and Planning Board appointees Tracie Ezzio, Sandra Ciccone, Diane Cronin and Hal Sartelle. Town Administrator John Moak serves as an overseer.
“Whatever we decide are the most important things to do is what we can move on,” Moak said, explaining the intended loose nature of board guidelines.
At the meeting, the nine members outlined a plan to kick off the new year, which included brainstorming a vision statement, prioritizing challenges and coming up with a “Pepperell asset list.”
The town’s challenge lies primarily with archaic zoning, which has residential abutting industrial and commercial. It is especially checkered along the Main Street corridor.
“I have had businesses interested, but they say ‘we know we are going to have a fight’ when they see the zoning,” Moak said.
Sartelle commented on tying culture into the economy, saying a YMCA would be a good asset to bring to a central area like the Peter Fitzpatrick School.
“Success could be tied to culture, and we have a community center,” Sartelle said. “But it’s a bit invisible.”
Pepperell’s wealth of conservation land was discussed, too.
“Our conservation land is underutilized; fly fishing is great in the Nissitissit, but there is little access,” Bagley said, adding that visible sporting goods or outdoor stores and greater ease of access would help.
Other attractive assets were public sewer, good traffic flow and a rich history, but the board felt many of these are not being capitalized on.
Diane Cronin, who also chairs the Historical Commission, added that visitors could be better directed towards the town’s rich history.
Aside from Harvard, explained Moak, Pepperell has the largest horse population per capita in the state.
“But you wouldn’t notice it driving through town,” he said.
Another topic was down town accessibility and more specifically, its “walkability.”
“I think of towns like Exeter, N.H., Portsmouth or Keene,” Bagley said. “Here I am, all over Pepperell every day, but I rarely walk through town.”
The group also mentioned several “kicked-off” Main Street businesses and the jointed nature of Main Street (a rotary, a bridge and two quick turns.)
Keeping people and revenue in town is certainly a goal of the committee.
“Eighty million leaves Pepperell for basic stuff yearly,” Moak said. “We want to keep some of that, not all of it, but some of it.”
Sometime next year, the committee will report to the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen with a strategy, plan or other message to better Pepperell’s economy.
EDAC’s next meeting will be on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. at Masy Systems, 10 Lomar Park Unit 6.