SHIRLEY — Conservation Commission agent Nadia Madden brought the updated Open Space and Recreation Plan to the Planning Board for review last week, seeking input as she and the commission continue to fine tune the itemized, five-year to-do list.
After making the rounds and vetting the draft OSR plan with other town boards, the goal is to submit a finalized version to the state soon, Madden said, albeit a few years overdue.
State guidelines call for updating the OSR plan every five years, Madden said, but in this case, the span stretched to 14 years.
Acceptance of the plan comes with perks such as eligibility for state grants, Madden explained. The updated plan keys into the town’s master planning process, a 10-year cycle that has also overrun its state update schedule. It is now in start-up mode with the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission.
Madden read through OSR items of concern to the Planning Board, asking which ones made sense and if any should be amended or omitted.
Subdivision rules and regulations, for example, which Chairman Jonathan Greeno said should be updated but not in lockstep with the OSR, which calls for sidewalks.
It’s a good idea to have sidewalks leading from populated areas to business districts, he said. He noted that they’d be useful to add to Benjamin Road or Center Road if density in the village increases. But it’s not a priority right now.
Besides, there’s not much the Planning Board can do about it, he said.
Planning Board could weigh-in only when there’s an open permit, Greeno explained. But no new subdivisions have been proposed recently and there are none in the pipeline now.
Madden noted the Safe Routes to School survey, which indicated the need for added sidewalks in areas along the school bus route.
A sidewalk already runs on one side of Front and Main streets in the village all the way to the municipal complex, Hazen Memorial Library and the Ayer Shirley Regional Middle School.
“Should we take it out?” Madden asked. All things considered, yes, board members said. She scratched that item.
Another item that aims to step up cooperative communications with the MBTA should definitely stay in, everyone agreed.
The board didn’t favor items that would restrict business development.
“We have a hard enough time… as it is,” Greeno opined. “We wouldn’t want to focus on goals that might make things worse” by discouraging industrial and commercial growth the town needs, he said.
Otherwise, residents will bear the burden of an ever-increasing tax rate, he added.
Noting that some items on the list relate more to zoning than planning, such as “reuse” of existing properties, Greeno said, “Open space is a tricky subject,” in a town with so much protected land already on the books, mostly due to wetlands.
Summing up the updated OSR plan, which consultants helped create, Madden wondered how the board views it, overall. “Is it realistic?” she asked.
Ideally, she’s looking for more input, she said, and asked if board members would go over the OSR plan on their own and from a Planning Board slant.
“Ultimately, it has to be smart, and not … conflict with economic growth,” she said.