West Concord—A Call to Action
The fundamental character of West Concord is threatened by a combination of factors, and there is an immediate need to act to preserve that character. “A Call to Action” is a proposal which lays out the background and a plan of action in response to present and future challenges to the village of West Concord.
This proposal is for the appointment of a Fast Track Task Force to develop recommendations to address these challenges. This Task Force will be expected to learn from past town plans and integrate present realities and future possibilities into a new plan of action for West Concord, which will serve as an update to the 2005 Comprehensive Long Range Plan.
The “Long Range Plan for Land Use to the Year 2000” of 1987, the “West Concord Study of 1993,” the “Comprehensive Long Range Plan of 2005”, and most recently the “Concord Villages Study of 2007” have all stated the same goal: to maintain the character of West Concord.
This broad goal includes the following objectives:
· maintain its vibrant and diverse businesses, many of which are locally owned;
· preserve the character and village scale of West Concord by improving aesthetics and through the use of design guidelines;
· preserve and protect and enhance the use of its natural resources;
· educate residents to its historical significance and protect its historic resources;
· maintain and encourage its mixed use of housing and business; protect the integrity of the neighborhood;
· continue to offer affordable rents for business opportunities; and
· address transportation and circulation issues that impact the center.
The Call to Action is an opportunity for a much needed rallying point where participants can reconvene, carry out a reasoned critique of the current status of West Concord planning, set priorities, and recognize new facts on the ground. The Call to Action is further an opportunity to guide inevitable change, which will come to West Concord, in an effective manner by carrying out basic planning tasks.
Since even the most recent study, challenges have arisen which simultaneously threaten the character of the Village and also provide an opportunity to look more closely at the Village and guide its growth and development. These challenges need to be defined, prioritized, and addressed in order to adapt to change in a way which will preserve the vision for West Concord. Some of the major planning issues which face West Concord today are well stated in the Concord Villages Study of 2007, p.20. (See attached Appendix I) Added to the eight noted in The Village Study report are further issues concerning wastewater treatment, the Route 2 rotary, the MBTA, and preservation and protection of historical resources.
Underlying these major planning issues are the following questions:
- What role does Concord, specifically West Concord, want to play in regional transportation (including parking, roadways, rail)?
- What level of population growth and economic development is sustainable for West Concord?
- How will West Concord deal with changes in properties, including issues of zoning and controls?
- What Town-wide impact will the decisions made in West Concord have on such areas such as schools, taxes, and wastewater planning?
As noted above, many issues present themselves as the subjects of basic planning tasks including the development of a plan. Alternative plans, or, at the very least, alternates for significant elements of the plan such as roadways, land use mix, wastewater treatment facilities, and density should be evaluated by measures such as costs and impacts. The plan should be presented in the form of a three dimensional graphic or virtual model, as well as aerial views, sections, elevations, and supporting data. The plan is a component of a complete feasibility study which should precede the drafting of zoning regulations and should include wide public comment.
State level planning must be integrated with West Concord reality and preferences. The Town’s plans for West Concord must recognize realities. The intent is also to express the local goals and needs of our community.
Identification of proposed funding sources is also an element of the plan. Such funding should be a mixture of public and private sources. Carrying out the above must be done in an open, transparent manner with West Concord residents and business owners actively involved every step of the way. It should be noted that none of the West Concord Overlay recommendations have yet been approved or adopted by the Planning Board or Board of Selectmen and they, along with the other previous studies, will be considered as background data and as the starting point in order to proceed to a more specific level of planning and analysis.
Identifying areas of study and proposing solutions are only the beginning of the process which must include implementation. Such implementation will require funding, likely Town Meeting votes, the support of the citizens and of Town government, and regulatory changes. Identification of proposed funding sources is also an element of the plan. Such funding may be a mixture of public and private sources. This needs to be recognized during the initial phase.
Task Force Membership and Management
A Fast Track Task Force (not to be confused with the Overlay-recommended Stewardship Committee for which this group is the antecedent), will be appointed by the Board of Selectmen. This 10 voting member Task Force will be comprised of Concord residents supported by professional planning consultants. The outside professional(s) will work closely with the Task Force and under the supervision of the Town Manager and the Board of Selectmen. Project management is needed at the Town Staff level and must be carried out by staff with good management experience and with the ability to draw from various departments to provide expertise in specialized areas.
West Concord resident participation will be actively solicited for membership on the Task force. Throughout the process there will be numerous opportunities for Concord residents to provide input and to critique proposals. The Task force membership will have three categories: voting, advisory, and representative (members of the latter two groups will be called upon as needed
Town Manager, Chair (Non-voting)
Architect/Planner with background in urban design or planning
Planning Board representative qualified in planning and zoning issues
Economic Council representative
West Concord business owner
Diverse placeWest Concord residents (2)
West Concord Overlay Committee representative
Comprehensive Long Range Plan 2005 representative
Open Space and Recreation 2004 Plan representative
TASK FORCE ADVISORS
Historical Commission representative
Natural Resources Commission representative
Public Works Wastewater Planner
Concord Police Safety Officer
TASK FORCE REPRESENTATIVES
Rep. Cory Atkins
Mass Department of Corrections
Mass Highway Department
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail
Bruce Freeman Alternative Trail Proponent
Funding will come from the Town budget to hire professional staff/consultants to get project off the ground.
Additional funding to implement plan will come from 2009 Town Meeting.
Greg Howes, Member, Concord Board of Selectmen
Joanne Loynd, Article 37, Concord 2008 Town Meeting, Petitioner
Joanne Gibson, Clerk, Comprehensive Long Range Plan Committee
Dorrie Kehoe, Member, West Concord Village Study Committee
Toby Kramer, Chair, Village Centers Study Committee
Dorcas Miller, Chair, West Concord Village Study Committee
Karle Packard, Vice-Chair, Comprehensive Long Range Plan Committee
Recommendations for the Village Centers Study 2007
Appendix 1 Excerpted
Recommendations for West Concord
A. General Planning Themes (in no particular order):
- Preserve character and feel of West Concord Center.
- Manage future development to keep village scale along Main Street/Commonwealth Avenue.
- Plan for possible expansion and redevelopment of mixed-use sites (sites where a variety of uses are located that may include appropriate industrial, office, retail and/or residential uses) in the older industrial areas that will continue the scale of the village connecting to Main Street/Commonwealth Avenue.
- Alleviate traffic congestion by reconfiguring circulation through the town (for example traffic loops or circles, extending streets or using one-way directions).
- Address location of parking and delivery spaces to discourage "strip mall look".
- Improve aesthetics by providing design guidelines and implementing design review/control.
- Increase and facilitate (well lit) pedestrian movement throughout West Concord Center.
- Promote open space enhancements and networks, particularly along the river, brooks and ponds.