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Groups yield focus for Marlborough development plans

May 11, 2011 – A report card on Marlborough gives high marks for location and facilities but found that the city needs to work on its business atmosphere to get to the next level.

The Cecil Group, working with the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation, ran 13 focus groups last month to gather opinions and ideas about doing business and living in the city.

It’s all part of the city’s effort to collect research as it makes a new master plan, which will help set the tone for new bylaws and other business and development changes in the coming years.

“The participation has been great so far,” said Ken Buckland, principal at the Boston-based Cecil Group.

Among the focus group findings:

  • The city is positioned well geographically since it is close to major highways
  • Although buildings have many vacancies, the quality of the space is strong for attracting new businesses
  • More mixed-use developments could help – for example, an office building next to a restaurant
  • The city’s dual tax rates can be a problem – although the goal is to keep taxes low for residents, the higher commercial rate means Marlborough sometimes has trouble competing for businesses with surrounding communities.
  • Outsiders have a perception that the school system is not good, which can hurt when residents and businesses are deciding whether to move
  • The tourism industry is strong, and sports facilities are looking to expand
  • The housing focus group wants more promotion of the city as a good place to live
  • The special permit process and sign code enforcement can be tough on businesses

The Cecil Group, which is just one part of a team of consultants working on the master plan, will need to blend all of the research together to make its recommendations, Buckland said.

The next step is a public forum on the master plan, scheduled for June.

The process appears to be moving along well, said George Ciccone, executive director of the Marlborough Economic Development Corp.

“If the public forum is half as successful as the focus groups, I’d be very happy,” Ciccone said.

The consultant team is supposed to deliver a draft of its work by July. The final master plan is due Sept. 15.

This story originally appeared