Friday, January 11, 2013

Annual Report 2012: Planning & Community Development

The Department of Planning & Community Development (DPCD) maintains a professional staff that provides the Town of Franklin with a wide array of planning services. DPCD’s mission is to plan and implement comprehensive policies and initiatives that work to fulfill the land use-related goals of the people of Franklin. We make every effort to maintain the character of the community while enhancing its economic

DPCD’s activities and services include, but are not limited to, economic development, subdivision plan, site plan and conservation plan review, historic preservation, downtown revitalization, zoning by-law and  subdivision regulation development, brownfields redevelopment, affordable housing, open space and wetlands preservation, public transportation, transit oriented development, and sustainable development including use of smart growth and low impact development concepts. The Department regularly identifies and sources funding for various community development projects and activities. DPCD balances its approach to these initiatives through long-term planning and public participation.

Department Personnel
The DPCD’s staffing reflects the diverse skills needed to complete the many activities and roles the Department participates in within the community. DPCD’s staff consists of the following:
Bryan Taberner, Director
Beth Dahlstrom, Town Planner
Nick Alfieri, Conservation Agent, and part time Planner
Kathy Celorier, Conservation Secretary, and Administrative Assistant.

DPCD saw the resignation of Planning Board  Secretaries Joyce Hottenrott and Ellen Callender; both of whom not only provided administrative support to the Planning Board but also to other DPCD personnel with the many demands of a very active office throughout FY2012.

The DPCD manages an Intern Program to assist DPCD staff and other Town departments with administrative and technical assistance. The work performed by DPCD interns is extremely important to the Department’s productivity. Since mid FY09 when the intern program began, the DPCD Intern Program’s
interns have worked hundreds of hours each year; the majority of these hours are devoted to economic development, comprehensive planning, and conservation issues.

Support of Town Boards, Commissions and Committees
DPCD personnel provide staff support to several boards, commissions and committees, including the Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Public Land Use Committee, Design Review Commission, Technical Review Committee, and the Town Council’s Economic Development Sub-committee. Well over fifty percent of the Department’s total staff hours are utilized on Planning Board and Conservation Commission related issues. In addition, Department staff frequently provides professional technical
assistance to other public entities including Town Council, Zoning Board of Appeals, Franklin Housing Trust and various ad hoc committees including the Town’s Master Plan Committee.

Site Permitting and Guidance
DPCD is not a permit granting authority; its function during the permitting process is to integrate laws, regulations and plans with the Town’s goals to ensure that the best interests of the Town and its residents are served. DPCD personnel organize and attend meetings, provide technical assistance, offer professional
opinions, and guide developers, businesses and residents through the Town’s various permitting processes.

DPCD provides support to the Conservation Commission, as provided by MGL Chapter 131, Section 40. Conservation Staff, specifically the Town’s Conservation Agent, is responsible for speaking for the Conservation Commission when they are not present (see separate Conservation Commission Report). Although not a permit authority, the Conservation Agent does have limited police powers to regulate
already approved Conservation Commission activities, stop unauthorized activities and to promote and develop the natural resources of Franklin and its wetlands, streams, brooks, ponds, lakes and watersheds. In addition, Conservation staff provides administrative support and reviews applications being presented to the Conservation Commission, as well as provides professional support to other Town Boards, Commissions and Departments.

Comprehensive Planning and Zoning 
DPCD is responsible for traditional land-use related activities including updating the Town’s plans, and amending and creating zoning bylaws. A description of zoning and land use issues worked on by DPCD during the 2012 fiscal year is summarized below.

During 2012 fiscal year DPCD worked on the rewrite of several sections of Franklin’s Zoning Bylaw; these included adding 36 parcels to the Biotechnology Uses Overlay Zoning District, rewrite of Section 185-20 Signs, and rewrite of portions of Chapter 185-45 D and E Special Permit Criteria. The three Zoning Bylaw
amendments were approved by the Town Council. All three amendments were the result of substantial effort, but the rewrite of the Town’s Sign Bylaw was an especially important accomplishment that resulted from on-going efforts over several years.

Part of this effort was the development of the following four sign districts:

  • Downtown Commercial District
  • Commercial and Business Corridor District
  • Industrial and Office Park District
  • Residential District.
The new sign bylaw created stricter requirements for signage in the downtown, and more clearly explains requirements for the Town’s Zoning Districts.

Also during FY2012, DPCD worked on drafting additional Zoning Bylaw amendments including rewrite of Chapter 185-31 Site Plan Review and Design Review, and development of a zoning bylaw related to Accessory Dwelling Units.

One of DPCD’s current major priorities is the Town of Franklin’s Master Plan Update. The Master Plan has nine elements, which are as follows: Land Use; Housing; Economic Development; Natural, Cultural and Historic Resources; Open Space and Recreation; Community Services and Facilities; Circulation; Goals and Policies; and Implementation. During the 2012 fiscal year DPCD worked with the newly formed Master Plan Committee

Planning and Implementation of Community Development and Economic Development Projects
Each year the DPCD works on many community and economic development initiatives. The department develops strategies, proposes policies, bylaw changes and Town Council resolutions, manages projects, and seeks grants in efforts to balance Franklin’s community livability and its economic viability. DPCD encourages responsible community development that meets the goals and objectives of the Town’s various planning documents, and the State’s Sustainable Development and Smart Growth Principles. Some of DPCD’s more important recently completed or ongoing projects and initiatives are summarized below.

Regional Planning
DPCD attends meetings and works on various regional planning issues with a variety of regional  organizations, including Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Southwest Area Planning Committee, 495/MetroWest Corridor Partnership, and the I95/495 South Regional Technology Economic Target Area’s Economic Assistance Coordinating Council. In addition, the DPCD occasionally supports the initiatives of
other regional organizations including the Franklin Citizens Rail Trail Committee.

Downtown Revitalization
For several years the Town of Franklin has made revitalization of Downtown Franklin a major focus and has worked to improve the Downtown in a variety of ways. During the 2012 fiscal year DPCD worked on several projects related to implementation of the Franklin Center Plan, which was developed in 2002 and 2003 to provide Town officials with a vision and basic strategy for revitalization of Downtown Franklin.
The revitalization of Downtown Franklin must be carefully planned to ensure that improvements positively impact the entire community. During FY2012 the Town completed improvements associated with a $1 million Massachusetts Public Works Economic Development (PWED) Grant to construct roadway and sidewalk improvements in the Emmons Street, Dean Avenue, Depot Street, and Ray Street area, as well as reconstruction of the Town’s Depot Street parking lot. These improvements are a component of the
Downtown Roadway and Streetscape Improvement Project. The Town has also been awarded a $5 million Federal Highway High Priority Project (HPP) Grant for this important project.

The Downtown Roadway and Streetscape Improvement Project is an integral part of the Town’s strategy for Downtown revitalization. The improvement project includes improvements to the traffic pattern of Route 140 in the Downtown Franklin area, installation of interconnected traffic signals with emergency
preemption system, period lighting, traffic calming devices, resetting curbs where needed, ADA compliant sidewalks, resurfacing of streets, and landscape improvements and street furniture.

The Project represents a substantial public investment in the downtown’s future and economic viability, and is expected to spur on private investment. The Downtown Roadway and Streetscape Improvement Project is a main DPCD priority requiring a substantial amount of Department resources for consultant oversight,
managing public outreach, contract management, and grant management activities.

Tax Title Properties
As in past years, DPCD again worked with other Departments assessing the Town’s Tax Title Properties. Each year recommendations are developed for a number of these properties, and DPCD submits the work to the Town Administrator and Town Council for consideration.

Economic Development
DPCD works regularly on a wide range of economic development projects and programs, and is one of DPCD’s top priorities, second only to providing excellent administrative and technical assistance to the Town’s boards, commissions and committees. Potential benefits to the Town from successful implementation of DPCD’s Business Retainage and Attraction Initiatives are significant. These efforts focus on increasing the value of Franklin’s commercial and industrial tax base, filling the Town’s empty and underutilized industrially zoned buildings, and attracting the right mix of companies to the community. Below is a brief summary of the Town’s recently completed and ongoing business retention and attraction initiatives.

In partnership with MassDevelopment and theMassachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD), DPCD developed and manages the MassDevelopment – MOBD - Town ofFranklin Business Visitation Program to make local research and development andmanufacturing companies in Franklin aware of
State technical assistance programs and financial resources that can be made available to further their development, and to raise awareness of DPCD as a resource for Franklinbased businesses. In addition, DPCD works regularly with MOBD, MassDevelopment, and other agencies as required in efforts to attract
the right mix of companies to Franklin’s industrial and commercial areas.

As part of DPCD’s efforts to market the Town of Franklin, DPCD staff develop press releases and various economic development advertisements for industry periodicals, and continuously update the Town’s  economic development marketing brochures.

Redevelopment of town-owned properties is a regular activity of DPCD, and continues to be a high priority. During 2012 DPCD continued to work with other Town staff and a consultant to move forward  redevelopment of the Town’s “Nu-Style” Property. The Nu-Style Property at 87 Grove Street consists of two parcels totaling 1.2 acres with two vacant former manufacturing buildings. The property is contaminated with a variety of hazardous materials. Demolition of the main Nu-Style building and remediation of the property is required in order for a developer or other entity to be interested in obtaining the property.

Preparing the site for redevelopment is expensive, and DPCD has sought funding from a variety of sources.
Late in 2010 the Town received notice it had been awarded a $200,000 EPA Brownfields Cleanup Grant. The Federal grant is being used for demolition of the main building, and partial remediation of soils. Since then DPCD staff has worked with the EPA and Franklin’s Purchasing Agent on contract and procurement related activities. The project required substantial DPCD resources during the 2012 fiscal year.

Project management activities related to the $200,000 EPA Brownfields remediation grant include consultant oversight, project management, and grant management including substantial grant reporting requirements. Much progress was made during FY012; two contracts were awarded, one to an engineering firm for remediation design and construction management services, and another to a general contractor. During the fourth quarter of FY2012 the former Nu-Style facility was demolished; the project is expected to be completed during the first half of FY2013.

Franklin is part of the I-495/95 South Regional Technology Economic Target Area, and as such can offer businesses looking to start up or expand in Franklin one of the most attractive incentives a Massachusetts community can offer a business, a Tax Increment Finance Agreement. The Town of Franklin supports the
use of this local tax credit for a wide range of development projects, including projects that create a significant number of livable wage jobs for Franklin residents, support innovative technology, and result in redevelopment of empty or underutilized industrially zoned properties, or development of new facilities.

Once a business negotiates a tax increment finance agreement with the Town of Franklin it may qualify for a state investment tax credit for qualifying tangible/depreciable assets, as well as other significant tax incentives. In order for a business or property owner to qualify for a tax increment finance agreement the specific parcels must be within an established Economic Opportunity Area. In recent years the DPCD worked towards creation of six multiparcel economic opportunity areas, which consist of 100 parcels on over 945 acres.

During FY 2011 and 2012 DPCD worked with National Development and Hamilton Storage Technologies of Hopkinton in order to site a new facility at 3 Forge Park within the Forge Park Economic Opportunity Area. Hamilton Storage Technologies plans to site at 3 Forge Parkway a new 51,000 square foot high tech devices manufacturing facility, which includes its U.S. headquarters.

During June 2011 the Town received a letter from Hamilton Storage Technologies informing the Town of their intent to enter into negotiations for a tax increment finance agreement. During FY2012 DPCD guided the company through the complicated “Certification” process required by the State, including providing assistance in completing the Certified Project application. The Town Council approved a ten-year tax increment finance agreement, which was approved by the state. Construction of Hamilton Storage Technologies’ new facility at 3 Forge Park is well underway and will be completed in FY2013.

Workforce Development was a priority for DPCD during FY2012. DPCD planned and implemented the Town’s 2012 Economic Development Summit, which was held on April 5, 2012 at Tegra Medical at 9 Forge Parkway. The main purpose of the event was to inform Franklin’s businesses that there are workforce
training resources available to assist them, and to build partnerships with state Agencies and educational resources. The event was well attended, and included involvement of property owners, business owners and managers, State and local officials, commercial property realtors and a substantial number of Workforce
Development professionals.

Outlined above are several types of community and economic development strategies, initiatives and implementation efforts. However, all of these DPCD projects relate to two fairly simple but extremely important community and economic development principles: 1.) Economic viability and community livability are equally important parallel goals; and 2.) Strive to create a community where entrepreneurs will want to
settle and raise their families. Franklin is already that community, and DPCD will continue to plan and implement initiatives to make it better. DPCD will continue to undertake a wide range of community and economic development projects, programs, and planning initiatives that will keep the Town’s goals and objectives current and representative of Franklin’s needs and desires.

DPCD is proud of its accomplishments and welcomes public input on all of its efforts to improve the quality of life for the residents of Franklin.

Respectfully submitted,

Department of Planning and Community Development Staff.

Note: As mentioned earlier in this series, the report is prepared by each department as FY 2012 closes and is published by the Town Clerk in November 2012. Nick Alferi, listed as the Conservation Agent passed away in July of 2012.

Additional information on the Planning and Community Development activities can be found on their webpage

Published by the Town Clerk, this comes from the 2012 Annual Report

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