Woronoco vision discussed

RUSSELL – Discussion of the revitalization of Woronoco Village continued this week when Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) Senior Planner Jayne Bernhard-Armington met with residents Tuesday night.
Bernhard-Armington was supposed to make a presentation during a meeting of the Russell Planning Board.  However, a glitch with posting the meeting meant the board could not officially meet. Instead, members of the board and about 20 residents listened to Bernhard-Armington’s follow-up to a September public forum where residents and town officials talked about their vision for Woronoco and the former mills.
Bernhard-Armington began with a brief history of her involvement and said she was charged with helping the town create possible zoning bylaw revisions in order to use the mills. A vision forum was held last month where residents expressed their ideas about possible uses for the mills.
With that information and her own research, Bernhard-Armington created a list of possible uses and presented them this week.
Bernhard-Armington said the space could be used for housing, such as condominiums or apartments, artist studios, membership clubs, gyms, self storage, indoor recreation, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
The biggest problem with developing the property right now is the water and sewer system, or lack thereof.
“It really kind of smacked us in the face that for the people currently living in Woronoco there is insufficient water if there was a fire,” said Planning Board member Alice Taverna.
A member of the audience said the sewers are not much better.
“The sewers are maxed – there is no expansion left,” he said.
Taverna said solving those issues could be costly, but without addressing them, they cannot develop the space and the bylaw would not be of use.
“It’s a cycle,” she said. “If we don’t broaden the bylaw, we will never be able to support someone going in there.”
Taverna said Bernhard-Armington’s work has led her to even more questions.
“Jayne has done a wonderful job of putting this together, but it evokes more questions,” she said.
Bernhard-Armington said the process would get Russell closer to a new zoning bylaw.
A meeting of the Board of Selectmen, as well as other departments, is being planned for later this month. Bernhard-Armington, who is expecting a baby, said she hopes to attend so she can gather more information and direction as she proceeds.

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