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Marlborough group nears decision for downtown zoning

METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – A committee charged with crafting new zoning regulations to spur economic development downtown is nearing its goal and expects to have a draft ready for review at its next meeting in early June.

The Downtown Study Committee met Thursday evening and reviewed draft design standards language to be included in the proposed ordinance. The language aims to set requirements and provide guidance for developers on a number of design standards, including building scale, roof form, building entranceways and exteriors and landscaping.

Kicking off Thursday’s meeting, Cynthia Wall, a planner from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, said that carefully considered design standards allow city officials to ensure that new development will complement what is already downtown.

“One of the chief concerns was that new buildings and major alterations blend in and fit in,” she said.

The committee touched on several subjects, including what materials are preferable for a building’s exterior or whether or not downtown street furniture should be encouraged through zoning.

Frequently throughout the meeting, committee members wrestled with striking a balance in the zoning that would describe desirable projects in specific enough terms but at the same time would not be overly prohibitive or narrow.

“You want to give enough guidance without being totally prescriptive,” said Wall.

Mark Racicot, a fellow planner at MAPC, said the city should also allow some flexibility so as to not make designing a project within the guidelines too cumbersome for a developer to attempt.

You want a quality design, but you want to make sure that you are not putting too many hurdles in the developers’ way,” he said.

Wall said that the city could put together a guidebook for developers that details the zoning and could include picture demonstrations of the types of developments and design standards Marlborough is looking to encourage downtown.

The study committee has been meeting this spring to discuss zoning regulations and held a public forum at the beginning of April to try to solicit ideas from residents on downtown revitalization.

Racicot and Wall said they will be taking the input they received during Thursday’s discussion and throughout the spring to craft a proposed ordinance the committee can review at its June 5 meeting.

The ordinance would likely establish a new downtown zoning district instead of a zoning overlay district, which the committee had considered.

This article originally appeared here.