City Launches Master Plan

City Launches Master Plan
City Officials Aim to Complete Master Development Plan
By Brian Boyd

NEW BEDFORD — The city will complete a master plan for development that brings together the pieces of earlier efforts and creates “a road map” for the future, Mayor Scott W. Lang announced Friday.
City officials have finished or made progress with various planning projects, including the Hicks-Logan area, the downtown, the harbor and recreational areas. Now, they have money to draft a citywide plan and submit it to the Planning Board and City Council by October, officials said. “We are well on our way to different incremental types of studies, but the fact is we need to pull it all together now, and we need to have a blueprint for the next several decades,” Lang said at a news conference in City Hall.
The planning process, titled “New Bedford 2020,” will help shape the city’s approach to zoning, development and historical preservation, he said.
“The master plan is going to provide a road map,” he said.
The city is receiving $50,000 from the Garfield Foundation, a New Bedford-based organization that provides grants for environmental and urban renewal initiatives, and an additional $80,000 in state economic development grant money. Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. of Watertown has been hired as the lead consultant.
Vanasse also will work with RKG Associates Inc., an economic analysis firm, and Chan Krieger Sieniewicz, an urban planning company, said James Fasser, VHB’s director of landscape architecture, after the news conference.
A new steering committee, consisting of about 20 residents, will meet April 16. The process will include 12 focus group meetings and a review of zoning rules by the consultants. Zoning updates will also be submitted to the Planning Board and City Council, said Jill M. Maclean, the assistant city planner.
“We will revise as much as needed to meet what the residents and stakeholders of New Bedford want,” Maclean said at the conference.
The public will be able to comment during 30-day review period on a draft master plan before city officials approve it, Fasser said.
City and state officials flanked Lang during the announcement and took turns touting the potential benefits of creating a master plan to guide development.
“In the short run, it’s easier, particularly for older cities, to accept all comers that are offering to write a check, to allow them to do just exactly what they please in the neighborhood they please,” said Sen. Mark C. Montigny, D-New Bedford.
While it be can tempting to abandon planning for expedience, it can hurt the city in the long run, Montigny said.
“New Bedford has in place the infrastructure that other areas don’t have,” said Rep. Robert M. Koczera, D-New Bedford. “It’s a question of being prepared and ready to take the initiative, and seek to, by our own bootstraps, develop areas of the city that are in need of development.”
At-large City Councilor Debora Coelho said the master plan will help city officials work together under a shared vision and avoid mistakes.
“Having a master plan in place is going to create a sense of vision and commitment,” Coelho said.
Ward 3 Councilor Kathy M. Dehner, a member of the new steering committee, said: “This is going to move forward, and I’m so excited for the first time to have this enthusiasm to know that New Bedford is on its way up, and we are moving forward.”
Fasser said New Bedford offers many opportunities for neighborhood living, and it can capitalize on the desire of many people to regain a sense of community that was lost amid suburban growth during the last century. Cities also provide easy access at a time of high gas prices, he said.
“There is just a real interest … across the nation of people moving back into communities,” Fasser said.
Contact Brian Boyd at bboyd@s-t.com
April 04, 2009
Source URL: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090404/NEWS/904040338

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