Why a Master Plan?

Commentary by John Cronin

Why is the Town working on a new Master Plan?

There are four big reasons:

  1. Hall of Famer Yogi Berra advised: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up somewhere else.”
  2. Milton wishes to identify new net property tax revenue sources, to sustain its quality life style.
  3. The Master Plan is required by law. “Planning Boards shall make a plan” per MGL Ch. 41, Sec. 81D. The law specifies nine chapters required including Goals, Housing, Economic Development, Open Space and Recreation, Traffic and Circulation and Implementation.
  4. A 1969 state law obligates all municipalities to have 10% of their housing stock “affordable”. Milton is at 4.2%. Failure to meet the 10% goal allows developers to bypass local zoning and build often high density 40B projects. Tools have been provided by the legislature to help manage the 40B challenge. These include the Housing Production Plan (HPP) which the Selectmen are studying, the Community Preservation Act (CPA), a Housing Trust recently established, and an Inclusionary Affordable Housing Bylaw with on and off site provisions.

To date the Planning Board has received appropriations of $125,000 for the Master Planning process. The first $25,000 was used to retain the consulting firm of Brown Walker for a “Visioning process”. That report may be read on the Town Website under “Master Plan”.

$20,000 has been spent by the Town since 2006 to develop Milton’s Housing Production plan. The leading expert in the state, Karen Sunnaborg, has recently updated the Plan for the current Board of Selectmen: Katie Conlon, Tom Hurley, and Denis Keohane, chair. They await maps with site options which are being prepared by the Public Works Department.

The members of the Planning Board are Edward L. Duffy, Emily Keyes Innes, Michael E. Kelly, Bernard J. Lynch III, and Alexander Whiteside, Chair. The Planning Board has used their $100,000 2013 Annual Town Meeting appropriation to contract with Www.Community-Circle.com , a sole proprietorship owned by Daphne Politis AICP of Lexington, Ma. She has extensive municipal Master Planning experience and has three collaborators on this contract.

The Planning Board has also named a Master Plan Committee to work with the residents and the selected consultant. The Committee members are Glenn Pavlicek, John Kiernan, Tom Hurley, Ellen DeNooyer, Steve Affanato, Cheryl Tougias, David Defilippo, Richard Burke, and Enrique Silva. John Cronin, Paul Traverse, Wally Sisson, Taber Keally, and Emily Keys Innes, Chair.

Milton is six miles horizontally by three and a half in breadth. Milton Village is six miles from the State House. It rises from sea level to 635 ft. at the summit of Great Blue Hill.

With an area of 13.2 square miles or 8,448 acres, it may seem that the Master Planners have a lot of land to look at. Recent MAPC studies suggest Milton is approaching a “built out” status. Those study maps were based on aerial or spatial technology which could not identify specific land parcels. The consultants are expected to produce more details existing condition maps using the Town’s superior G.I.S. tools. These maps will show developed land, DCR and restricted land, and land improbable for development such as Cunningham Park. Forum participants will all have access to these new detailed maps.

Those who seek a 48 acre site for a future Hingham style Derby Street Shops, a site to develop a Milton version of the 128 acre Westwood Station, a second 88 Wharf or Quisset Brook condominium locations, will have tools to use.

A schedule of public forums will be announced within the coming weeks.

John Cronin is a former Milton Town Administrator and current member of the Master Plan Committee. Note: this is the 2nd of two articles on Milton’s Master Plan. You can find the first article here.

  6 comments for “Why a Master Plan?

  1. Pete Jackson
    January 9, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    I know there are public officials who don’t believe in preparing a master plan because it might limit flexibility in reacting to future proposals. Some prefer that the town respond to proposals on a case by case basis. I think the main reason for undertaking a master planning process is to have a community conversation about the future of the town and to provide officials and potential developers a framework for considering project proposals.

    Do we want more commercial development? What should its nature be and where should it be located? How can we steer development to these areas?

    Where should future housing be developed and how do we control its impacts on the community?

    How do we characterize the community values we want to protect and how do we achieve that?

    Without a framework proposals come out of nowhere, to inevitable neighborhood opposition and public officials have no basis for reacting to them. It can only benefit the town to take steps to control its future. Change happens and if we don’t direct the change we will suffer unintended consequences.

    I feel the need to comment on Mr. Cronin’s cynical observation that a master plan will provide developers the tools to propose large developments in Milton as stated in his second to last paragraph. The potential for replica Derby Street Shops and Westwood Stations does not exist in Milton.

  2. Paul Yovino
    January 9, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Thank you to John Cronin for both educating us and informing us about this important issue

  3. Cheryl Tougias
    January 9, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Mr. Cronin may wish to clarify that his comments represent his opinions and that he is not speaking for the Master Plan Committee. The committee and the consultants have just begun this phase of the planning process, which will build on the visioning phase that was completed last year. There is consensus that it is critically important to engage the public as broadly as possible, and the selected consultant is considered to be very strong in outreach and public engagement. Please stay tuned for communications from the MPC.
    – Cheryl Tougias, member of the Master Plan Committee

  4. Frank Schroth
    January 9, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    In a follow up email Mr. Cronin noted that the piece was commentary by him and it has been denoted as such.

    As an editorial aside, this Master Planning exercise is arguably the most important initiative the community will engage in this year. While the Master Plan committee together with their consulting firm will guide the process it is critical that residents pay attention to the issue, watch for the forum dates, which will be advertised here and elsewhere, and participate as fully as their time will allow. You can orient yourself to the work done during phase 1 (the visioning process) here.

  5. John Cronin
    January 9, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Locating a Derby Street Shop style development in Milton was a proposal recently made by a Town Meeting member in good faith, as he sought property tax relief. Maybe it was rhetorical. That large type of development was mentioned in my commentary under the subject of mapping. Detailed mapping is required as a planning tool. With the mapping of developable land, citizens and laymen will be able to have the community conversation which my friend Peter Jackson and I seek

  6. Paul Sullivan
    January 10, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    The Master Plan Committee and their planning consultant, Community-Circle, have a significant challenge ahead in attempting to create new development opportunities in a community which is nearly built out. We appreciate the commitment of time by Mrs. Tougias, Mr. Cronin and other members of the MPC, which they have volunteered to address the Town’s planning needs. One powerful planning tool which has served the Town well over the years is Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning articles. Two different but similar PUD zoning articles led to creation of mixed-use developments at 88 Wharf Street and 36 Central Avenue. Other PUD zoning articles for a “brownfield” site on the Neponset River and an assisted living development near Granite Links have been approved by Town Meeting and will likely bear fruit for the community in 2014. With the limited land still available for development it is important that our “planners” provide flexible zoning which permits those parcels to be developed to their “highest and best use” subject to proper review and approval by the Milton Planning Board.

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