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By Katina Caraganis


ASHBY — The Planning Board is looking for residents to support a proposed bylaw and new zoning district that would allow more commercial development while maintaining the rural nature of the town.

The board on Wednesday night presented its proposed Ashby Village Center Overlay District bylaw, which would help ensure that future development and redevelopment in the town’s center retains the rural character of the town.

Chairman Alan Pease said the overlay district would encourage economic and residential development that fits Ashby’s small-town feel and character, build upon the historic development of the existing village center, maintain the architectural integrity of the area, and encourage walkable streets and neighborhoods.

Pease said the bylaw and the district would promote development of a type and scale that would enhance Ashby’s economy for the future.

“We’re trying to get feedback from people and see if we’re heading in the right direction,” Pease said. “Last fall we voted on a drive-through window for a project going in, and people were concerned we’d be getting fast-food businesses in town. This is focused on maintaining the integrity of the town.”

The overlay district would also allow for mixed uses in the same building, Pease told a handful of residents at the meeting.

“Typically, it would be a business at street level and residences above,” he said.

The Planning Board would have oversight of projects via a special permit, he said.

The board is also preparing regulations that address site design, architectural guidelines and landscaping.

The Planning Board will review the comments received at the public meeting and any subsequent meetings. From there, board members will develop a draft bylaw for the district, which would then be presented at a public hearing in the spring, Pease said.

They are also asking residents to fill out a survey about different design standards they like. The survey can be found at the library or on the town’s website.

Then, he said, the Planning Board will likely place a warrant article for approval of the bylaw on Town Meeting in May.

If approved, the Planning Board will hold at least one public hearing before adoption of the regulations.