Rochester Looking at Big Picture

            The Town of Rochester held an Interdepartmental public meeting on November 2, allowing the department heads to put their heads together in a rare setting to discuss several key topics and issues facing the town.

            As the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) looks to expand into Rochester with the South Coast Rail, the state is looking to leverage towns into providing multifamily, affordable-housing communities near rail stations.

            With assistance from Representative William Straus and Senator Michael Rodrigues, Rochester’s pushback against the drafted guidelines reduced amount of required housing, according to Town Administrator Glenn Cannon.

            “We believe that the zoning for that 40R (residential/commercial development at the corner of Routes 28 and 58) will meet the MBTA requirement,” he said.

            The Feasibility Study for a new public-safety building(s) awarded by the Select Board to Cambridge-based Ted Gallant Architectural Studio (TGAS) is still in contract negotiation. The Select Board considered all three finalists to be qualified firms but went with TGAS because of its exclusive commitment to public-safety structures.

            The town’s Hazard Mitigation Plan is also part of the feasibility discussion, and a presentation is expected to go before Spring Town Meeting.

            The agenda started off with the Prioritization Preservation process to be informed by resident rankings for Rochester open space according to agriculture, forestry and water-supply protection as yielded by an online survey.

            Cannon says, as Rochester purchases preservation land, the Planning Board wants to have some type of idea in what types of land the taxpayer is most interested.

            Visit and navigate to Government, then Planning Board, then on the left margin “Ranking Land for Preservation Value in Rochester.”

            Also discussed was Rochester’s interest in improving its voice in the Assawompset Pond Complex Climate Action Plan (Rochester not a full voting member.) Since the complex has opened up to recreational uses, the potential for unlawful and/or hazardous activities is also higher. Hiring environmental police would come at a high cost.

            As of now, Cannon said, town residents are only allowed to vote on Rochester-specific matters. Town officials disagree with the notion that they should be left out of votes on regional issues.

            “It’s hard to sit back and say these issues don’t affect Rochester. You’re drawing down the water table,” said Cannon.

            Finally, the subject of an updated Master Plan is on the table. Cannon believes the town last produced a Master Plan in 2009, and it was crafted in house.

            The town recently received a $100,000 Rural and Small Town Development Fund Grant and is working with SRPEDD to get the Master Plan updated on a two-year window.

            The next meeting of the Rochester department heads has not been scheduled. The gathering was posted as a public meeting, as the Select Board was in attendance.

By Mick Colageo

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