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Marlborough: Forum Thursday to discuss downtown zoning

METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – The Marlborough Economic Development Corporation and city officials will hold a forum this week to unveil and seek feedback on a proposal that would rezone downtown in a bid to boost economic development.

Officials are inviting residents to the Masonic Hall at 8 Newton St. Thursday evening for the open house forum, which is scheduled to run from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

A Downtown Study Committee has held a series of meetings over several months to discuss the zoning change. The process kicked off with an earlier public forum to gather ideas in April, as well as an online survey that gathered responses from hundreds of residents.

The group has been working with consultants from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council on a draft zoning ordinance, which would establish a “Downtown Village” zoning district in the downtown area. The new zoning district would encourage mixed use development, which allows for commercial uses on the first floor of a building and housing on upper floors, and allow other new uses, either by right or through a special permit.

Marlborough Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Tim Cummings said mixed-use development, which isn’t allowed under current zoning, would be a return to the way downtown Marlborough was originally built out.

“That is the way the city of Marlborough was originally created to be,” he said. “That is a traditional village type of urban planning model.”

Organizers hope to take the feedback they receive at the forum and use it to craft a final set of recommendations to be forwarded to the City Council for consideration. Cummings said that although the study group has been reviewing draft zoning ordinances, the provisions of the proposed ordinance are still very much in flux.

“This is a continuing ongoing conversation. Nothing has been set in stone,” he said. “We are happy with the work that we have done thus far and we want to continue working in the right trajectory.”

City Councilor Joseph Delano, a member of the study committee, said that he believes the process has been fruitful.

“I think that we have gone through a great and open process and had input from a number of people,” he said. “We have crafted a pretty good set of rules that will hopefully help the city flourish.”

Delano said he has been happy with the level of interest from the public, as the meetings of the study committee have been well attended by residents, developers and other public officials.

The proposed zoning, Delano said, could spur downtown development and widen the tax base. A vibrant downtown is important to companies who want to be able to attract and retain talented employees, Delano said.

Once the study committee makes its recommendations to the City Council, Delano said the proposal would likely be sent to the Urban Affairs Committee, where he serves as chairman, for further review.

This article originally appeared here.