Leverett Comprehensive Plan project timeline

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Leverett Comprehensive Plan project timeline

April 2019 to May 2021

In April 2019, Town Meeting approved Warrant Article 25, establishing a Revenue Committee “to explore, examine, and present for consideration potential ongoing revenue opportunities for the Town of Leverett.” The Committee was called on to “focus on creating and/or exploiting ongoing municipal revenue sources (other than tax surcharges, licensing, permits, etc.). Town infrastructure, zoning and other restrictions, and aesthetics will be considered by the Committee.” The Committee’s mandate was renewed for another year at the June 20, 2020 Town Meeting. By Town Meeting 2021, the Committee delivered a survey and a report summarizing their findings.

The Summer 2020 Townwide Survey results suggested that a path exists for some limited business development in town, along with amenities to make Leverett a more attractive option for small businesses, home builders, and home buyers – and increasing the town’s property tax base as a consequence.

The Revenue Committee FY21 Year End Report explained the committee research findings, with estimates of the near future property tax rate growth and recommendations for the town. Recommendations were as follows:

  1. Plan to achieve a sustainable economy (in reference to a Master Plan)
  2. Restore, maintain and celebrate historical assets
  3. Inventory land parcels appropriate for development
  4. Advocate for State education funding equity

May 2021 to June 2021

Community One Stop for Growth grant application written by the Planning Board and Margie McGinnis, submitted June 4, 2021.

See the State grant portal: https://www.mass.gov/guides/community-one-stop-for-growth

See the file: MA One Stop Grant Application for Leverett Master Plan AWARDED.pdf

October 2021 to January 2022

Leverett was awarded a $39,000 Community One Stop for Growth grant for the proposed Master Plan project.

The Planning Board posted an RFP in December 2021 and January 2022, and received two proposals.

See files:

The Planning Board met with both applicants and awarded the contract to Emily Innes.

March 2022 to June 2022

The Planning Board and Emily Innes worked together to prepare and promote the survey and applications to the Phase 1 Comprehensive Plan Working Group. The digital survey and Working Group application were promoted on Leverett Connects, at the library, transfer station, and Coop, and postcards were mailed to all town residents, inviting anyone to participate. A total of 39 residents completed the survey, and 18 survey respondents expressed interest in joining the Working Group.

With members recruited from Leverett residents and selected by the Planning Board, the Working Group worked directly with Ms. Innes, independently of Planning Board authority. Planning Board members attended Working Group meetings to observe and to provide support and information as needed, but not to oversee or otherwise control the proceedings. This independence helps to support a fair, transparent, and community-driven process.

The following residents contributed to the Working Group:

  • Arlyn Diamond
  • Charles Bagley
  • David W Henion
  • Denzel 'Jamie' Hankinson
  • Kathryn Stoddard
  • Kimberly VanWagner
  • Lizzie Alwan
  • Melissa Colbert
  • Mike Fiscella
  • Miles Palmer
  • Molly Daniell
  • Silas Ball
  • Stephen Ball

See files:

The Planning Board switched terminology from ‘Master Plan’ to ‘Comprehensive Plan’ during this phase of the project, recognizing that Comprehensive Planning is more aligned with today’s best practices in the field of municipal and rural planning.

The Phase 1 Comprehensive Plan Working Group thus recruited, led by Emily Innes and chaired by Mike Fiscella, met four times to accomplish two objectives:

  1. Review documentation of Existing Conditions, to identify at a high level of examination what information we have, where there are gaps, and what gaps they would advise that we prioritize in Phase 2.
  2. Planning the outreach, communications and objectives of the Community Visioning group activities of Phase 2.

See files:

These four meetings informed a Working Group report written chiefly by Emily Innes. Ms. Innes submitted the report for comment from the Working Group and Planning Board in early June, 2022. She submitted the final revision to the Planning Board on June 27, 2022:

See files:

This report constitutes the final Phase 1 deliverable expected of the Community One Stop for Growth grant, and it will help the Planning Board conduct a transparent and inclusive Comprehensive Planning process in FY23.

The Planning Board worked with Ms. Innes and Margie McGinnis on the Community One Stop for Growth grant application that will support continuation of Phase 2 of this project in FY23. The grant opportunity opened May 2, and Margie submitted the completed proposal before the June 3 due date. The maximum grant amount is $75,000 and the Planning Board requested the maximum.

See file: Comprehensive Plan Phase 2 - One Stop grant application submitted by Margie June 2022.pdf

October 2022 to January 2023

The Town received the award letter dated October 17, 2022 from the Department of Housing & Community Development informing that we'd been awarded the full $75,000 Community One Stop for Growth grant in support of Phase 2. The Planning Board worked with the Town Administrator to write and publish a Phase 2 RFP. The Town received a single proposal, prepared Emily Innes Associates with RKG Associates and Tighe & Bond. The Planning Board reviewed the proposal and voted to recommend that the Select Board award the contract to Innes Associates with RKG Associates and Tighe & Bond. This process was completed in January, 2023.

See the files:

February to March 2023

The Planning Board met with Emily Innes at a public meeting in February and coordinated outreach and to Leverett residents Steering Group recruitment. Planning Board members reached out to people to invite their consideration. This individual method of outreach was chosen instead of broad outreach by mail or social media, as was done for Phase 1 Working Group recruitment. Most volunteers to the Phase 1 Working Group were not available for the time commitment required (for example, half of all who volunteered did not show to any of the four meetings). The Phase 2 Steering Group will be a longer and more demanding engagement. Successful Steering will require commitment and availability to attend seven 90-minute Steering meetings and to coordinate and attend community visioning meetings sufficient to cover the nine required Comprehensive Plan elements and four additional elements specific to Leverett. Given the workload, the Planning Board decided to conduct personal outreach and networking to recruit.

See the file: Leverett Comp Plan Steering Group Flyer

April to December 2023

These are the remaining tasks to complete Comprehensive Planning:

  1. The Steering Group will work with independence from Planning Board authority, as the Working Group did and for the same reason: to support a fair, transparent, and community-driven process
  2. Community Visioning sessions: opportunities for residents of the community-at-large to participate in the guiding vision for the future of our town. Please consider participating -- This is the good stuff!
  3. Planning an approval process for the finalized Comprehensive Plan.
  4. Planning a Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee.

April 11, 2023 Tim Shores presented a progress report to the Select Board:

See the file: Comprehensive Plan update to the Leverett Selectboard April 11 2023

From April to September, the following members of the Steering Group met to learn about Existing Conditions and to collaborate on Community Vision dialogue facilitation and data collection.

  • Silas Ball
  • Matt Boucher
  • Jenny Daniell
  • Arlyn Diamond
  • Jim Field
  • Gary Gruber
  • David Henion
  • Isaiah Robison
  • Kimberly Van Wagner
  • Andrew Vlock
  • Nicole Vajda
  • Bob Weitzman

(Note: An earlier version of this page listed Steve Weiss and Sarah Dolven as members. Steve and Sarah volunteered but had to resign due to lack of availability. Appreciation and respect are due to Steve and Sarah for making the effort!)

The Steering Group worked with planning consultants from Emily Innes Associates, RKG Associates, and Tighe & Bond on the organization and presentation of Leverett Existing Conditions data at multiple large and small format Community Vision meetings.

On October 17, 2023 the hard work came together at the first Community Vision meeting and "data walk" at Town Hall. This open house format meeting gave everyone in Leverett the opportunity to learn about and provide feedback on existing conditions presented on large-scale maps and data visualizations printed specially for this meeting. Participants of the data walk discussed data, values, and vision with Steering Group members and the staff of Innes Associates, and provided input on maps and boards with stick notes and dots.

This event coincided with the town-wide release of Comprehensive Plan Questionnaire #1 (see also the general announcement) and a series of small group Community Vision discussions and outreach efforts coordinated by the Steering Group.

On December 6, 2024, Steering and Innes Associates hosted the second Community Vision event at Town Hall. This event presented information of themes and values emerging in the data collection, framed in terms of future scenarios for everyone's discussion and comment.

Questionnaire #1 will be closed on December 15, 2023. The timing of Questionnaire #2 is yet to be determined by the Steering Group in coordination with Innes Associates, who will digitize all Community Vision data from multiple meetings and questionnaire results, and use it to prepare for the second round of community vision data collection beginning in February 2024.

Results of all data collection will be included in the Comprehensive Plan report, which will be released in draft form in early 2024 (schedule TBD). Refer to this file for raw data output of all Questionnaire #1 responses, without respondent names:

Please see the minutes from all Steering meetings:

What to expect in 2024

From January to June 2024, Innes Associates will synthesize Existing Conditions and Community Vision data in a series of Comprehensive Plan drafts released for comment from Steering, Planning, and the public. The Comprehensive Plan will undergo final review and approval process by the Planning Board in June 2023. This will complete the State grant term.

Two expected short-term recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan will be:

  • Creation of a Plan Implementation Committee
  • Planning Board begins the process of proposing Leverett zoning bylaw revisions to the Town, by way of public hearing and a Town Meeting vote, per the guidance of the Comprehensive Plan.

With regular oversight by the Planning Board and regular reports to the Select Board and the community at-large, the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee will provide continuous service helping Leverett make the most of its future, helping everyone to collaborate and direct their efforts toward shared civic and community goals.

January 31, 2024: Emily Innes presentation on community data collection and Leverett zoning bylaw

At the January monthly Planning Board meeting (originally scheduled for January 9 but rescheduled due to technical difficulties), Emily Innes gave a presentation on the results of the first round of community data collection conducted by the Steering Group, and her team's analysis so far of Leverett zoning bylaw. She will go into more detail about the zoning bylaw at a second presentation, to be scheduled.

Please see Emily Innes' presentation file: 2024 Leverett Planning Board - Innes Presentation 20240131.pdf

February 28, 2024: The Steering Group and Innes Associates will host the third community feedback event at Leverett Town Hall

The following graphics were presented during a hands-on workshop about recommended actions:

April 17, 2024: Emily Innes presentation, part 2, on Leverett zoning bylaw

Emily returned to Leverett Town Hall with her second presentation to the Planning Board.

May 2024: First draft of the Plan available for public comments

See this page for details, including instructions for how to submit feedback.

June 2024: Finish line

Innes Associates will submit the final draft to the Planning Board by June 30, 2024 (the end date of the state grant). The Planning Board will vote on whether to accept it as Leverett's plan.