Hingham officials have high hopes of obtaining a $25,000 Sustainable Communities Program grant that would provide technical assistance to update the town's 2001 Master Plan.
According to Katy Lacy, the director of community planning for Hingham, the town’s 10-year old Master Plan has become an impediment to applying for grants, in which an “updated Master Plan” has become a standard question.
“The 10-year-old Hingham Master Plan is getting a little old, especially in state funding applications. Yet [the Metropolitan Area Planning Council] recently completed a regional plan, plus the state legislature is mandating new rules. [Things are changing], so it’s a difficult time to rewrite the Master Plan,” she said.
Redoing the whole document would be a massive undertaking. For this reason, the grant would be used to alter on the part of the document that's most important for grant applications – namely, the goals and policy section.
But even that process would take some time.
According to Lacy, it isn’t just a matter of asking selectmen what they would like to accomplish for the town; the goal is to garner the opinion of the community as a whole.
“The primary goal for this project is to create a model for meaningful public engagement in the municipal master planning process using innovative techniques that could be adapted by other municipalities and towns,” the abstract for the initiative read.
In the end, the document would enable the town to better understand the “full range of interests [of the town] including residents, business and property owners, neighborhood and community groups, and charitable and non-profit organizations,” the abstract says.
The town would then assess how the local plan fits in with regional plan objectives to better identify challenges and opportunities at the municipal level.
Anything is possible, Lacy said, from new land-use laws to regional plans to Hingham-specific aspirations.
It was an initiative town officials agreed with, especially as it would not require any monetary match from the town and would help to get the town more money in the future.
Selectmen approved the letter to the MAPC at their meeting on Aug. 30, and the Planning Department will submit a grant application by this Wednesday.
“We wouldn’t want to get us in a position where we’re not eligible for a grant because this isn’t updated,” Town Administrator Ted Alexiades said at the meeting.
If the town is awarded the funds, the project would be initiated by May 2012 and completed by the following October.