Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's Time For A Do-Over

This past September marked the beginning of the development of a new Master Plan for Sturbridge. The last Master Plan developed was in 1988, and although full of wonderful intent, there was little that ever came of the plan. It was if it had to be done since the Commonwealth mandates that one be done, and there it was left. The next step in the process, implementation, was left out, and only a few things were ever started from that plan.

This time around I hope there will a different energy. One thing that is encouraging is at the meeting in September it was stressed by Senior Planner Ralph Wilmer of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. is that once the plan is completed that it be utilized.

Well, one would think, "Well, duh.", but things have a way of not getting to that point here in town in the past. After spending countless hours on developing a plan specific to the growth of our town why would a plan sit stagnant on the shelf?

We can only speculate, but that is in the past, and we are about to embark on a new journey, and I have a good feeling about the leadership. I know a no-nonsense approach will be taken, and that the plan will be used as a guide for our growth for years to come.

How can I be so sure? Simple. Unlike 20 years ago when the last plan was drawn up, and there was no follow through, there is this whole new way of our watching from a distance, and to insure that it is not only designed correctly, with the entire town in mind, but used with each new endeavor -- we can watch it all online. We have almost instant access to not only what goes on in town government, but we can instantly voice our approval, or dismay. Those that are on boards, and committees receive feedback just as instantly, and therefore the accountability factor is not only stronger, but more widespread than in the past. People respond to input.

For the process to start off on the right foot a general survey of the overall needs of the town will be made, input from the residents of Sturbridge will be taken, both of which are already being planned, and a sharing of that information at a public forum in November. A web site devoted to the the process of developing of the Master Plan would be an excellent idea. Minutes of meetings, maybe video of special speakers, and a way of further offering input to the committee would be ideal.

By setting the expectation of accountability early on, it should be easier to maintain that accountability throughout the entire planning , and most importantly, the implementation process.

I wish the committee members the best of luck. This is no small chore. I will also be watching, reading, and commenting on things as the process evolves. I believe we are in a different place, here in Sturbridge, than we were just 18 months ago. I really do believe that with most everyone being on the same page for once (yes, I realize there are folks still reading the foreword, too) that we are more than able to do develop this plan right, and to implement it over the long term.

I don't see this plan sitting on the shelf underutilized for 20 years. There are too many folks out there that will be watching more closely than in the past.

We all perform better when we have an audience.

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