WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Planning Board on Tuesday appointed nine residents to serve on the steering committee to draft the town's updated master plan.
By a unanimous vote, the board approved a slate of nine candidates selected by members Peter Beck and Stephanie Boyd, who will represent the elected board on the steering committee. That panel is expected to work over the next 18 months to update the planning document last drafted in 2002.
Approved for inclusion on the Master Plan Steering Committee on Tuesday were: Justin Adkins, Susan Briggs, Melissa Cragg, Don Dubendorf, Sarah Gardner, Daniel Gura, Susan Puddester, Tanja Srebotnjak and Huff Templeton.
"With Peter and I, that makes 11 members," Boyd said. In a meeting telecast on the town's community access television station, Willinet. "A couple of months ago, we said we'd aim for eight to 12. This is on the higher end of that.
"We had a lot of good people put their names in. Unfortunately, we couldn't pick everyone for the committee. But we will reach out to them and ask them to participate in various capacities."
In the past, the current Planning Board has discussed a master plan process that includes the use of working groups focused on specific sections of the wide-ranging document. The last Master Plan Steering Committee, appointed in 2000, started with 20 members and ended the process two years later with 19.
Roger Lawrence asked his colleagues whether the nine people chosen for the steering committee are inclusive of the entire community.
"I am seeing a lot of familiar names here that I recognize from other appointed town committees and Williams College," Lawrence said. "Are we sure we have a well-rounded representation across the full breadth of town demographics?
"Do we have a representative from the blue collar community of Williamstown?"
Town Planner Andrew Groff, who worked with Beck and Boyd in reviewing applicants for the steering committee, said there were members of that constituency who expressed interest in working on the Master Plan but said they could not make the time commitment required for the steering committee.
"All of the people who contacted us will, hopefully, be involved with the project," Boyd said.
Groff said that in addition to the residents who answered the call for applications, the working group sought out other voices.
"We did reach out to folks who did not [apply] who would broaden the slate, and some of those folks are represented here," Groff said. "There was a lot of effort to get out there and make sure people knew about it, people were interested and a broad cross-section of voices will be heard."
Planning Board Chair Chris Winters emphasized that the voices on the steering committee are just the tip of the iceberg in the master plan process.
"One of the chief directives of this committee will be to reach out broadly and deeply within the community," Winters said. "The [steering committee] members themselves, while they are important, are secondary to the efforts they will give. And chief among those efforts will be public outreach."
The steering committee will have advice throughout the process from a professional planner the town is in the process of hiring to support the master plan process. Boyd told her colleagues that the request for proposals was released the Friday before, and responses are due back to Town Hall on Oct. 15.
Boyd and Groff told the board that within a couple of days of posting, the town already had received follow-up questions from potential bidders.
"[The RFP] has been downloaded a number of times," Groff said. "Just the fact that people are asking questions means folks are looking at it, which is wonderful."
The Planning Board wanted to have a Master Plan Steering Committee in place and ready to start reviewing bids after that Oct. 15 deadline passes.
"I think it will be a really good experience for our community," Boyd said of the master plan process ahead. "I can't wait to move forward on it."
In other business on Tuesday, the Planning Board approved a development plan for a property at 108 Sweet Farm Road and found that its approval was not required for a subdivision on Torrey Woods Road.
The board did not take up the topic of revising the town's residential zoning bylaw. Winters explained that when he promised in August to present his colleagues with a redlined version of the bylaw with suggested amendments at its next meeting, he did not realize that meeting was just two weeks away. The board agreed to wait until he can present a proposal at its next meeting.
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