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Marlborough agency urges zoning changes to fuel local economy

MetroWest Daily News – The chairman of the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation told a City Council subcommittee Monday night that the city needs to change its outdated zoning ordinances in order to encourage economic growth.

The Operations and Oversight Committee met on Monday for the second round of its discussions on the MEDC’s master plan for economic development in the city. Though the quasi-public agency crafted and released the plan in 2011, the City Council has never taken the step of officially endorsing the plan, so the Operations and Oversight Committee is performing an initial review before passing it along to the full City Council.

On Monday, MEDC Board Chairman Arthur Bergeron outlined a number of suggested actions the city could take in concert with the master plan to bolster economic development.

Bergeron said that chief among those actions is a review of the city’s zoning, which he said is outdated and does not encourage the kind of development that will encourage businesses to move in. Bergeron said the city needs to take a more nuanced approach to zoning instead of its current practice, which he said lumps too many areas of the city into a select few categories.

Bergeron said all of Rte. 20 – including where it runs through downtown, is in the “business zone,” which means that the more compact part of the thoroughfare downtown has the same zoning as the box stores on Boston Post Road East.

“That makes no sense,” Bergeron said.

Bergeron said the master plan calls for more mixed use developments, akin to the Forest Park development at the former Hewlett-Packard campus, approved by the City Council last year. The development marries office space, apartments, hotels, retail, restaurants and other uses on one site. Bergeron said mixed use developments, whether large like Forest Park or on a smaller level like apartments over downtown restaurants, create the kind of environment that young professionals in more urban settings are used to.

Bergeron said he believes that if the city thoughtfully overhauls its zoning, it would naturally attract companies and build the commercial tax base, easing the burden on residents.

“If we get this right, I think the market is going to take care of itself,” Bergeron said.

In addition to reworking zoning, Bergeron said the city should make the permitting process faster and easier for businesses and set criteria for a 90-day approval process. He said the city should also reexamine parking downtown, pursue Brownfield redevelopment and take other steps like bringing back a city planner and executing a strategic marketing campaign.

Operations and Oversight Chairman Joseph Delano submitted a draft preamble from the City Council that would accompany the master plan, which he put out for comment to other city councilors. The committee is expected to meet again to discuss the preamble and action items.

The chairman of the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation told a City Council subcommittee Monday night that the city needs to change its outdated zoning ordinances in order to encourage economic growth.

The Operations and Oversight Committee met on Monday for the second round of its discussions on the MEDC’s master plan for economic development in the city. Though the quasi-public agency crafted and released the plan in 2011, the City Council has never taken the step of officially endorsing the plan, so the Operations and Oversight Committee is performing an initial review before passing it along to the full City Council.

On Monday, MEDC Board Chairman Arthur Bergeron outlined a number of suggested actions the city could take in concert with the master plan to bolster economic development.

Bergeron said that chief among those actions is a review of the city’s zoning, which he said is outdated and does not encourage the kind of development that will encourage businesses to move in. Bergeron said the city needs to take a more nuanced approach to zoning instead of its current practice, which he said lumps too many areas of the city into a select few categories.

Bergeron said all of Rte. 20 – including where it runs through downtown, is in the “business zone,” which means that the more compact part of the thoroughfare downtown has the same zoning as the box stores on Boston Post Road East.

“That makes no sense,” Bergeron said.

Bergeron said the master plan calls for more mixed use developments, akin to the Forest Park development at the former Hewlett-Packard campus, approved by the City Council last year. The development marries office space, apartments, hotels, retail, restaurants and other uses on one site. Bergeron said mixed use developments, whether large like Forest Park or on a smaller level like apartments over downtown restaurants, create the kind of environment that young professionals in more urban settings are used to.

Bergeron said he believes that if the city thoughtfully overhauls its zoning, it would naturally attract companies and build the commercial tax base, easing the burden on residents.

“If we get this right, I think the market is going to take care of itself,” Bergeron said.

In addition to reworking zoning, Bergeron said the city should make the permitting process faster and easier for businesses and set criteria for a 90-day approval process. He said the city should also reexamine parking downtown, pursue Brownfield redevelopment and take other steps like bringing back a city planner and executing a strategic marketing campaign.

Operations and Oversight Chairman Joseph Delano submitted a draft preamble from the City Council that would accompany the master plan, which he put out for comment to other city councilors. The committee is expected to meet again to discuss the preamble and action items.

This story originally appeared here.