AYER — The new town planner has two main goals: improving the built-up areas of town and overseeing what happens in the more rural areas.
Mark Archambault started his new job at the end of September. This is the first time in 10 years the town has a planner.
He is already getting into the nitty-gritty of the town’s outdated zoning bylaws. Updating the laws and providing more guidance for permit applicants will encourage growth, he said.
Archambault is getting to know the community. Downtown is very nice, he said, and there is room for more or new commercial development.
Older laws leave a challenging legacy. Some areas of town have incompatible zones, such as industry and residential, close together.
Many of the current rules date back to the 1999, with some updates.
This year, Town Meeting passed a general and a zoning bylaw regarding recreational marijuana sales. The town will vote on these bylaws in a special election Nov. 28.
A few years ago, the town hired a consultant to make recommendations about the zoning bylaws. The recommendations never got to Town Meeting. The proposals languished because of staff turnover, Archambault said.
Proposed zoning updates will be voted on in the March 19 Town Meeting. In the months before, Archambault plans to hold a series of public workshops. He will introduce, describe and explain the reasons for proposed changes.
Big changes, like a solar energy bylaw, will be in separate articles. The bylaw, which addresses small, medium and large installations, is planned for the March meeting.
Archambault wrote a similar bylaw for Ashby, where he worked before taking the job in Ayer. It was based a model provided by the state.
Archambault, 57, is a resident of Nashua, N.H. He worked for both the city and the state there.
A position at the Nashua River Watershed Association as a Smart Growth Circuit Rider was funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“I got on my horse and galloped to different towns,” he joked. He focused on wetlands and aquifer protection along with storm water management.
He remained at the NRWA part-time after the grant expired and took another part-time job in Ashby.
When he worked at Nashua City Hall, Alan S. Manoian, now Ayer’s director of community and economic development, worked there too.
“A blast from the past,” Archambault said. He expects to work together a fair amount with his former colleague.
Being able to work in his field so close to home made applying for the job in Ayer a happy decision.
“I’ve got to go for it,” Archambault said. In his field, a full-time job within commuting distance is a rare thing.
Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.