Planners envision 15-member Master Plan panel

From left: Planning Board member Marcus Phelps, Planning Board Chair Michael Doherty, and Town Planner Jon Goddard during the Aug. 10 Planning Board meeting. (PETER CURRIER/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

SOUTHWICK — The Planning Board began to lay the groundwork for the highly anticipated Master Plan Committee Aug. 10 as the town prepares to create a new Master Plan for the first time since 1967.

The Planning Board started the process of forming the Master Plan Committee by coming up with a membership list. Planning Board Chair Michael Doherty told the rest of the board that he would like to see the committee made up of representatives of Southwick’s most important municipal boards, as well as local business owners and Southwick residents. 

The Master Plan Committee will have a maximum of 15 people. Doherty suggested that the Planning Board have two representatives on the committee, as the creation of a Master Plan is one of the Planning Board’s main functions. 

After back-and-forth between Planning Board members and members of the audience, the board came up with a tentative list of other municipal boards that should be represented. Those included one member each from the Select Board, the Department of Public Works, the Parks and Recreation Committee, the Conservation or Agricultural commissions, the Economic Development Commission, a school official or School Committee member, the Lake Management Committee, and the Finance Committee. 

Doherty said that the town would put out an advertisement requesting Southwick resident and business owner volunteers for the committee. There will be room for about five at-large residents on the board. Doherty noted that the creation of a new Master Plan is a process that will take a couple of years to complete, and is no small commitment for those who volunteer. 

The Master Plan is a guiding series of documents that provides Southwick’s objectives for the town’s physical, social, and economic growth and change over the next 10 to 20 years. There was an attempt to update the 1967 Master Plan in the late 1990s, but it was ultimately never adopted. 

The Master Plan will seek to guide, among other things, land use, housing, economic development, and open space. It is not a binding document, but is expected to heavily influence future discussions on changes to the town’s bylaws and zoning map. 

Planning Board member Marcus Phelps said that the Master Plan Committee will only have a budget of $25,000 during its first year. Preliminary work will include a comprehensive analysis of Southwick’s existing infrastructure. 

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