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Group ponders Marlborough downtown's future

METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – A committee working on ways to revitalize downtown met Thursday night, laying the groundwork for a public forum on the subject next month and starting preliminary talks on rezoning ideas.

The study committee, made up of city officials, residents and representatives from local and regional planning groups, spent about an hour Thursday evening reviewing the presentation that will be shown to residents at the public forum on April 3.

Cynthia Wall, senior regional planner at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, said that the evening will start off with background information on the project to improve downtown, as well as historical and environmental context.

Wall said that the presentation will feature a series of photos of different types of developments across the state. Members of the audience, all of whom will have keypad voting devices, can cast an approving or disapproving vote for each picture, giving organizers an idea of the types of development most palatable to the people in the audience.

Wall said that she wanted residents at the forum next month to think about one key question – “If you come back in 20 years, what do you want downtown Marlborough to look like?”

The group eliminated a few of the pictures that they said weren’t good fits for the downtown area, and asked Wall to also include a few pictures taken in Marlborough that demonstrate building types and architectural styles that would be good to replicate.

City Councilor Joseph Delano wondered how Marlborough can make sure that the developments that are built are top-of-the-line. He said that he has gone into some towns, such as Sudbury, and has seen an attractive building built by the same developer who built a lackluster project in Marlborough.

Wall said that the key is not only having regulations in place to guide development, but also having a city planner, which Marlborough has been without for years. Tim Cummings, chairman of the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation, said the MEDC can fill that role when needed.

Delano also said he was concerned about including information in the presentation about some of the more ambitious environmental work done in some other communities. Delano said that he is concerned about “a vocal minority” pushing for green initiatives that go past environmental responsibility and into the realm of hampering growth.

“We have to be careful about having this project hijacked to be ultra-green,” he said.

The group also started an initial conversation about zoning – primarily about whether there should be a zoning overlay district downtown or whether the district should be rezoned entirely. The group said discussions on the issue would continue as the process moves along.