‘Discovery’ First among Workshops

            Its resident survey already launched, the Town of Rochester announced on Tuesday morning the public process toward developing a Master Plan with the guidance of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD.)

            Town Planner Nancy Durfee serves on the Master Plan Committee and will focus on land use with Planning Board Chairman Arnie Johnson, while Rochester Facilities Manager Andrew Daniel, Select Board member Brad Morse (economic development), Matthew Monteiro (historic and land trust), Jeff Eldridge (transportation), David Hughes (open space and recreation) and Jordan Latham (natural and cultural resources) will play to their strengths.

            With experience having worked for SRPEDD, helping write Dartmouth’s Master Plan, working with Somerset and on Massachusetts’ first of its kind coastal plan for Scituate, Durfee is keenly aware of the need for community participation. Knowing what a town wants is a prerequisite to making it happen.

            “It’s a great process, it’s very difficult to do, they’re not the easiest plans to write. Public outreach is most important,” Durfee said, stressing the town’s need to understand its own residents’ concerns. “What is your unique perspective?”

            In learning what it can via a survey that remains open through October 11, Rochester can begin to identify big-picture needs and develop strategies to meet them.

            Amidst an all-hands-on-deck feasibility study for a proposed upgrade to its Fire and Police facilities and in a town seeing massive commercial and/or residential projects under construction, along with many solar farms, a struggling cranberry industry and the MBTA’s South Coast Rail project carrying potential ramifications for affordable-housing requirements, Rochester’s interest in launching a Master Plan is more than timely.

            On Tuesday, Rochester announced the first of its Master Plan-related gatherings, a two-hour (from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm) Discovery Workshop. Residents can choose to attend in person on Monday, October 2, at the Senior Center on Dexter Lane or on Tuesday, October 3, via Zoom.

            In the kickoff sessions, residents will learn how and what a municipal Master Plan is, how it works, how it’s developed, its purpose and its abiding function to inform elected officials and administrative staff when confronting large and small-scale needs is in Rochester.

            “It takes at least 15 months to create a Master Plan; it’s a plan that covers anywhere from 10 to 15 years. You really have to revisit it at that time,” said Durfee, noting the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on municipal projects public and private, first where it concerned supply-chain delays but more recently skyrocketing construction costs. “Obviously, you don’t want to see (your Master Plan) sit on the shelf.”

            Under Massachusetts law, a recognized Master Plan will include nine essential components: goals and policies; land use; housing; economic development; natural and cultural resources; open space and recreation; public services and facilities; circulation and transportation; and implementation.

            “All of those things, we’ll dive down deeper into those categories,” said Durfee, noting that the October 2-3 Discovery Workshop sessions constitute the first step, after which the committee will hold subsequent workshops in October and February that break off into various areas before an Open House is held in June to approve a final draft of the plan.

            The two primary ways that the Master Plan, once developed, will influence Rochester are the obvious follow-up strategies of implementation but also the abiding manner that any short or long-term project needs to be informed by and measured for fit with the Master Plan.

            The Master Plan, says Durfee, will help mobilize the town by knowing it has established consensus and should therefore, for instance, seek a grant to fund a project it can develop and then put before voters at a Town Meeting.

            SRPEDD, Durfee’s former employer, serves as a liaison and helps shepherd conversations between the state and 27 Massachusetts municipalities as far west as the Rhode Island border and as far north as Plainville, running along the Route 495 corridor as far southeast as Wareham.

            Since roadway infrastructure got started, regional planning agencies have emerged. SRPEDD assists municipalities with comprehensive and environmental information and think tanks.

            Community involvement will not be limited to the current voting generation.

            “Planning is at the forefront of a community moving forward – not just the residents, but we want the children to participate,” said Durfee, noting that the online survey has been shared with the public schools.

            Residents have been asked to participate in the survey with their children. A 10-year-old today, she explained, will be 20 years old at the age that they inherit what gets decided in this Master Plan.

            “We want to make sure they’re involved,” said Durfee. “Outreach is the one thing you can do. … We want to get it right.”

            The Master Plan survey and related information can be found at: srpedd.org/comprehensive-planning/community-master-plans/rochester-master-plan/.

            For those who consider themselves technology challenged, Durfee said the Plumb Library and the Council on Aging (Senior Center) are solid resources to help guide people through the survey. It takes from 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

            Those with further questions are welcome to call Town Planner Nancy Durfee at the town’s annex building at 508-763-5421 (extension 208.)

Rochester Master Plan

By Mick Colageo

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