Task force calls for master plan

Surveys, IPODs and master planning were topics covered at the West Concord Task Force’s public information forum Tuesday, the second such session the task force held at the Harvey Wheeler Community Center in the past few weeks. 

Chairman Dan Holin introduced the members of the task force, which was formed last year to review past plans and develop actionable recommendations about how to address issues facing West Concord.

“We love it,” Holin said of West Concord. “We know change is inevitable, and the question is whether to follow it or lead it.”

To that end, the task force solicited input from the residential and business community through surveys and made recommendations including a master plan, design guidelines and an Interim Planning Overlay District (IPOD), which they say would protect West Concord’s village center during the master-planning process.

Tuesday’s forum was a chance for the task force to share those recommendations with interested residents. 

Task force members Jimi Two Feathers and Sue Felshin presented the results of the WCTF survey, an open-ended survey asking what people wanted to protect, prevent and change in West Concord. They passed out more than 3,000 and received 202 responses.

The results — which identify the village character, small/local/independent businesses, open space and traffic as key concerns — have been reported through a guest column in The Journal and at meetings. The task force also hopes to have a written report printed prior to Town Meeting.

WCTF member Chris Sgarzi explained the action items, which include developing a village master plan, creating design guidelines, establishing a West Concord Stewardship Committee and implementing the IPOD, warrant article 38 at annual Town Meeting.

“The master plan is essentially a design tool,” Sgarzi said. “It will design out a future for West Concord development. … It’s a comprehensive vision that can be achieved.”

The master plan will cover areas like protecting affordable housing and business spaces, as well as natural and historical resources, traffic and parking, pedestrian and cycling access and zoning regulations.

It will also incorporate strategies for working with developers, as much of the land in West Concord is privately held, Sgarzi said. “Without their cooperation, we really cannot implement this plan at all.”

But the first step in the planning process is the IPOD, which Sgarzi, a member of the Planning Board, said will “keep a developer from developing something that will stand in the way of the master plan.”

The IPOD would temporarily change the zoning such that some uses would be changed in the zoning regulations from “yeses” to “special permit required” or from “special permits” to “nos” based on criteria established by the task force to discourage developments that are not desired, need more planning or that there are already enough of in West Concord.

“People need to be thinking about whether they want a Starbucks or Teacakes, if they want a CVS or a five and dime,” Holin said after the meeting. “And the IPOD is the means by which we can thoughtfully weigh in on those choices instead of them just appearing.” 

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