The Planning Board voted unanimously to decrease the number of core members on the Master Plan Implementation Committee and to refine the group’s charter.
Moving forward, the Committee is to be comprised of three at-large members, two alternate members and members representing the Planning Board, Town Council, Budget Committee, Heritage Commission, Londonderry Trailways and Conservation Commission.
Chairman Art Rugg said anyone interested in one of the five positions should submit an application to the Planning Board.
Deb Paul, current chairman of the Committee, told the Planning Board at its March 9 meeting that there has been significant interest from the public in serving on the advisory committee.
“We have had four new people who stepped up and filled out forms,” she said. “We had a few other people inquire and say they will fill out forms to step up for a position as well.”
“I think that it’s kind of a relighting of some spirits that were laying low for a while. There are a lot of interested people,” said Councilor Joe Green, who serves as liaison to the Committee. “The intention of the Committee is to make sure the Master Plan doesn’t sit on a bookcase somewhere, that it lives. But it has become such an enormous thought process, we got lost in the weeds sometimes. The Committee lacked a pointed direction.”
“The big elephant still in the room is, who is responsible for implementing the master plan? I would argue it’s not the Committee – that the Committee’s job is to serve as a working tool to gather information, come up with ideas and make suggestions and recommendations,” said Mike Speltz, who has represented the Conservation Commission on the Committee. “There could be a good argument to make that the Planning Board is responsible for implementing the Master Plan, or the Town Council.”
Speltz recommended there be an executive committee comprised of the Town Manager, the chairman of the Planning Board and a representative from the Planning Department to “do the heavy lifting.
“My concern is we need to co-locate authority, responsibility and accountability,” he said.
“I think we need a simple, straightforward charge,” said Dottie Grover, who has attended meetings of the Committee and expressed interest in serving on the body.
“I would rather this Committee focus on a few areas of interest,” Planning Board member Leitha Reilly said. “The guidance from this Board has to be what we’d like them to focus on. That should be some sort of directed charge. I think it’s incumbent on this Board to provide some priority in terms of what we’d like to see; because I think if we don’t, we are risking asking staff and other folks to devote a lot of time to something that may or may not be a priority of this Board.”
Committee member Mary Tetreau told the Board they desire to “be a task focused group.
“I want to emphasize we want to work with the Planning Board and the Town Manager and the great staff we have in the town in a spirit of cooperation,” she said.
Recommendations the Committee has presented to the Planning Board thus far include reinstating the Environmental Baseline Study Committee and developing a plan to update the assessments of the Town’s air quality; conducting a thorough study of the Town’s existing water resources and future demand for water; investigating ways to promote agritourism; looking closely at the Master Plan recommendations for the North Village focus area and gathering public input, especially from immediate stakeholders; and continuing to gather background information and ideas on alternative approaches to the improvement of the Town Center focus area, while incorporating the results of the Town vote on management of the Town Forest.
Town Councilor John Farrell noted the Town Council considered the recommendation to develop a plan to update the assessment of the Town’s air quality and plans to take it up again during their next budget season.
Farrell added he would like to see the group study extending sidewalks from the center of town to residential neighborhoods.
The Planning Board agreed to lower the Committee’s quorum requirement to five voting members and plans to begin developing a charge for the Committee at its next meeting on April 6.
“I absolutely recommend refining the charter for this Committee and bringing it back to a reporting nature. That’s a real strength of this group,” said Geographic Information Systems Manager John Vogl, who has attended the Committee’s meetings. “I think it’s clear the members of this Committee are not implementers. My recommendation would be to limit the role of the Master Plan Implementation Committee to reporting out to the Board.
“At the end of the day, the Committee serves at the pleasure of the Planning Board, and takes direction from the Planning Board,” Vogl said. “They need to have specific priorities to be tasked with.”