CMRPC Quarterly Draws Record Crowd
Nearly 90 people poured into the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) Quarterly Meeting, November 14, with its featured panel on “Best Practices in Solar Development”. The dinner meeting took place at the Spencer Country Inn in Spencer. Mass.

The November meeting, typically utilized as a welcome meeting and orientation for new delegates and alternates, featured informational presentations by Executive Director Janet Pierce, Deputy Directors Sujatha Krishnan and Trish Settles, and Business Manager Dianna Provencher. Prior to dinner, members new and old were treated to informal presentations and demonstrations by CMRPC staff illustrated by more than one-dozen colorful posters that they had designed.

Solar Development Panel Draws Spirited Commentary

It was the Solar Development panel, however, that was the focal point for a crowd of people who streamed into the building following the dinner and business meeting. The panelists included:
·        Michele Buck, AICP, Town Planner/Director of Inspectional Services, Leicester;
·       Rebekah L. DeCourcey, Director of Planning and Community Development in Ware, and
a planning board member in West Brookfield;
·       Jonathan D. Eichman, Attorney, KP Law, P.C.;
·       Kaitlin Kelly, Deputy Director, Massachusetts Dept. of Energy Resources; and
·      Dean Smith, Senior Civil Engineer, Borrego Solar Systems.

A spirited discussion ensued with moderators Rob Barron and Sarah Adams carefully directing questions to the panel to secure the facts while tempering strong opinions in the audience.  While most recognize that solar energy is an available and desirable replacement for fossil fuel, some small towns in Massachusetts feel that its benefits have been over-promised and that Massachusetts General L aw does not offer them sufficient protection.

Massachusetts is a recognized national leader in solar power. The state has strongly promoted its growth as a “protected commodity” to ensure clean air and realization of the state’s ambitious renewable energy targets. 

However, many small towns indicate that that there are not appropriate installation sites for solar energy in their communities. There are not enough large buildings or strong roofs for solar development. Thus, they are besieged with developers who buy farm land and cut down forests to install large-scale, ground-mounted solar projects. Moreover, some towns allege that early promises of lucrative tax payments and cheaper power have not paid off. At least one town voted to place a moratorium on solar power, but Massachusetts’ protective laws have made this process difficult.

The discussion provided an opportunity for Central Massachusetts residents to hear from individuals representing a diverse array of backgrounds in the industry. Panelists encouraged the towns to continue to communicate about their issues with state legislators and agencies.  

Is your Town interested in revising your solar bylaw, or do you have questions about how to support responsible deployment of renewable energy in your community? Email Sarah at sadams@cmrpc.org

Photo 1: Moderators and panelists are (from left): Sarah Adams, Ron Barron, Michele Buck, Dean Smith, Kaitlyn Kelly, Jonathan Eichman, and Rebekah L. Decourcey 

Photo 2: Claire Bayler, CMRPC Assistant Planner, demonstrates the versatility of CMRPC’s new Drone.
Holiday Lights Challenge
Here’s a photo of Worcester’s City Hall lit up for the Festival of Lights. Please send us photos of homes or buildings in your area that get an extra special makeover for the holidays.  We will post them on our Facebook page and credit you. Send photos to Anthony Senesi: asenesi@cmrpc.org Photo: Chelsea Ouellet, Discover Central Massachusetts
TIP Ready? Contact CMRPC
Communities with candidate projects for the Central Massachusetts Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) will receive invitations this month to present their projects to the Central Massachusetts Metropolitan Planning Organization (CMMPO) at their January 2020 meeting.

Once endorsed by the Central Massachusetts panel, these projects will be included in a master list of all Tip projects forwarded by the state’s 13 Regional Planning Agencies for federal review and approval for inclusion in MassDOT’s 2021-2025 funding cycle.

Performance management criteria for successful TIP projects reflect goals from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s ten Transportation Planning Factors including: reducing congestion, improving pavement conditions, and increasing safety. Also encouraged are projects that promote the use of public transit, bicycling and walking are also encouraged.


CMRPC counsels towns that are considering applying for a TIP project. Our agency also participates in the selection process which combines an analysis of project information and an evaluation of project importance. Interested towns should contact Kevin Krasnecky: kkrasnecky@cmrpc.org.

North Brookfield Woman Wins Massachusetts APA Award
Sheila Orsi, a resident of North Brookfield, Mass., has been selected by the Massachusetts’ Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-MA) for the 2019 Citizen Planner Award. The prestigious award will be formally presented at the APA-MA Annual Awards Luncheon, December 13, 2019 in Boston.

Mrs. Orsi has chaired the North Brookfield Downtown Development Committee since its inception in 2018. Under her leadership, work is underway to rejuvenate the downtown area including working to restore the community’s historic 1864 Town House and former North Brookfield Town Hall into a Creative Arts Center to support and capture the creative culture already brewing in North Brookfield. 

When an influential local support group, Friends of the Town House, agreed to join forces with the town of North Brookfield to rejuvenate the entire community, Friends President Jim Buzzell was pleased to learn that Mrs. Orsi would be heading the effort. “She has not disappointed. Under her leadership the (Downtown) Committee is well on its way to completing the tasks set before them.”

An avid runner, Mrs. Orsi has worked with the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) to identify and map trails that could potentially link North Brookfield’s downtown with its Rail Trail System, currently under construction. She also was part of the CMRPC Local Hazard Mitigation Team, which helped identify the town’s infrastructure and natural hazards.

CMRPC Principal Planner, Kerrie Salwa, has worked with Mrs. Orsi, on several of the North Brookfield projects, and nominated her for the award.  If your town is considering developing or updating your Economic or Master Plan, contact Kerrie Salwa: ksalwa@cmrpc.com Photo: Sheila Orsi
November Legislative Breakfast Hosts Paul Matthews
An enthusiastic membership turned out for the CMRPC Legislative Affairs Breakfast, Friday November 22 at the West Boylston Senior Center, to hear Keynote Speaker Paul Matthews, executive director of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau and Brittney Franklin from the Massachusetts Municipal Association. Here are some scenes from the event.

Coffee Hour
Keynote Speaker Paul Matthews (far left) talks with Massachusetts State Representative. James O’Day (West Boylston) and Harriette Chandler, the 94th President of the Massachusetts Senate and the State Senator for the 1st Worcester district.

Welcoming Remarks
Barur “Raj” Rajeshkumar, Vice Chairman of the Select Board of West Boylston, Mass, welcomes the group of approximately 40 who attended the breakfast. He is accompanied by Trish Settles (left), CMRPC deputy director and Nancy Lucier, (right) Town Administrator, West Boylston.

Opening the Meeting
Douglas Martin, Chair of the CMRPC legislative committee, welcomes attendees to the Legislative Breakfast.

CMRPC Has Drone Power
Consider the help of aerial data in preparing and communicating your town’s planning projects. CMRPC can help you with this and more. Our Visual Services Program, which has been helping our clients illustrate their planning concepts in action and in context, recently acquired a Mavic Pro 2 Drone. This will enable us to give you and your constituents a bird’s eye view of areas slated for planning projects. The Mavic 2 Pro is capable of producing updated orthographic map data over small to medium size areas, 3D modeling data, and stunning video and photos. We have found that photos and artistic renderings are an effective way to illustrate to the public how planning elements being discussed in planning initiatives may look or help resolve challenges in their own community.

Our renderings can range from simple Photoshop editing to original 3D computer models.  We have created façade illustrations and concept plans that have proven to be effective in helping our clients refine their planning projects and catch the attention of the public. Now, we can add the “wow” factor of high-resolution drone footage. For more information on how our Visual Services can help you, contact: Claire Bayler at cbayler@cmrpc.org Photo: An example of a CMRPC rendering.
Encouraging Business While Retaining Small Town Charm
Upton is a small, east-central Massachusetts town that prides itself on maintaining tradition and managing growth. So, when the talk of the town turned to “doing something” to attract more business, alarm bells sounded in some quarters.

More than 100 residents showed up at Town Hall when planners brought the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) in to discuss work on an Economic Development Plan. While Upton, Incorporated in 1735, had a rich manufacturing history, residents did not wish to return to the factory town of the past. In the 19 th Century, its William Knowlton Hat Factory was the largest hat maker in the world with more than 1,000 workers. Town factories produced boots, shoes and other manufactured goods that traveled to retailers on the now defunct Grafton & Upton Railroad.

CMRPC’s Principal Planner Kerrie Salwa explained that economic development planning, done right, could only enhance the town’s values. CMRPC organized interested residents into teams of 40 people to build a vision and a strategy for the town’s next 25 years.
After nearly a year of meetings and discussions, CMRPC facilitators helped town residents fine-tune their community business map by updating old zoning bylaws to create a business district that would encourage a variety of new service businesses, retailers and arts and recreation opportunities. The final hurdle was to create and pass bylaw that would create the new business district.

 “This was a thorny issue… that required many revisions to our town map,” said Steven Rakitin, a member of the Upton Economic Development Committee. “Kerrie was able to get these revisions made very quickly so that we were able to present the final map at the special town meeting to pass a bylaw to create a new business zone. The bylaw was approved.”

If your town would like to discuss an Economic Development Plan contact: Kerrie Salwa: Ksalwa@cmrpc.org
Confronting the Housing Crisis with Community Planning
There is no question that there is a housing crisis in Massachusetts and it is not confined solely to the larger cities such as Worcester and Boston.

Smaller towns, too, are wrestling with concerns raised by an aging demographic, declining school registrations, the price of real estate, flat population growth, and rising homelessness.  Moreover, seemingly well-meaning state statutes further complicate the issues by allowing developers of affordable housing to bypass local zoning controls. Central Mass towns also want transportation-to-jobs systems that will encourage young working families to move farther out from the large suburbs to their areas. 

CMRPC has been counseling towns in its region to get out ahead of the situation by formulating their own comprehensive housing plans. “No two towns are alike and so there is no cookie-cutter solution to these problems,” Ron Barron, principal planner, said. He tells town leaders, “We can quickly develop the data you need to shed light on your specific needs. Then, we can follow up by working to help you develop a community-based plan to provide solutions to your issues.”

Most recently the towns of Brookfield, Hardwick, Sutton, Auburn and Sturbridge have partnered with CMRPC in this planning process. The most common concern, so far, has been senior housing. Long-time residents want to age-in-place in a smaller household. Bylaws from 20 or 30 years ago sometimes prevent the building of new, smaller, cluster homes and apartments.  

“We can help get a clear picture of population growth and housing development patterns, costs of housing and variety of housing,” said Barron. “Then, we can help you to develop a plan that respects your communities’ needs and wishes, while attaining its goals. We can also help secure grants and other resources you need to follow through with implementation.”

For more information on developing a plan for housing in your community contact Ron Barron: rbarron@cmrpc.org or Emily Glaubitz: eglaubitz@cmrpc.org.

Photo:  West Brookfield, on the Quaboag River in Central, Mass., is working with CMRPC to find solutions for its need for senior housing.

Reviving “The Aud” through EPA Grant
A $300,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency in fiscal 2019 has given CMRPC the resources to help towns, nonprofits and businesses investigate brownfield sites in our region. 
Five sites are now in the approval and startup process. Perhaps the most well-known is the Worcester Memorial Auditorium in center-city Worcester.  Built in the 1930s to honor war veterans, and known for generations as “The Aud”, the Classical Revival-style building was the scene of multiple, diverse entertainment events ranging from sports and music to theater.

Vacant since 2007, the City of Worcester has agreed to sell the property to the Architectural Heritage Foundation, a Boston nonprofit, and plans are underway for a $94 million renovation to redevelop the building as an educational and cultural center connected to e-sports and the digital economy. 

Due to the suspected presence of lead-based paint and asbestos that complicate reactivation of the building, The Aud is eligible to receive funding through the brownfields assessment program. Worcester has asked CMRPC to participate in the building’s redevelopment by directing its contractor to survey hazardous materials in the building and recommend remediation strategies

For information on CMRPC’s Brownfield Program contact Andrew Loew: aloew@cmrpc.org .
Community Spotlight: Southbridge
"The Town of Southbridge has just released a video to promote all that the Town has to offer -- to businesses, investors, and visitors. I am proud to say that It was produced in house by a collaboration between the wonderful Southbridge Cable Department and the Economic Development Director. Please help us spread the word about this fine community."-- Rosemary Scrivens, Director of Economic Development & Planning, Town of Southbridge, MA

Southbridge! There's Something In It For Everyone!

CMRPC is the Regional Planning Agency for the City of Worcester and 39 Surrounding Municipalities in Southern Worcester County. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for those who live and work in the region.
Save the Date
  • Quarterly Commission Meeting 1/9/2020
  • Quarterly Commission Meeting 3/12/2020
A Call for Delegates and Alternates
We have sent out the annual Appointment of Delegates and Alternates letters to Planning Boards, Boards of Selectmen, and Town and City Managers in the mail. If you have not yet done so, please fill out the forms in their entirety and direct any questions to Janet Pierce at  jpierce@cmrpc.org  or 508.459.3319. An updated list can be found on our website .
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If you have any questions about the newsletter, please contact  jpierce@cmrpc.org or 508.756.7717.