Thursday, December 31, 2015

Annual Report - 2015: Department of Planning & Community Development

The Department of Planning and 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 userelated goals of the people of Franklin. We make every effort to maintain the character of the community while enhancing its economic vitality.

DPCD’s activities and services include, but are not limited to, comprehensive planning economic development, subdivision plan, site plan and conservation plan review, historic preservation, downtown revitalization, zoning bylaw 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. DPCD’s staff consists of the following:

  • Bryan Taberner, Director
  • Beth Wierling, Town Planner
  • George Russell, Conservation Agent
  • John Allen, Program Coordinator
  • Kathy Celorier, Conservation Secretary and Administrative Assistant

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. Interns work on a wide range of community development and economic development 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, Design Review Commission, Technical Review Committee, and the Town Council’s Economic Development Sub-committee. Approximately 60 to 65 percent of the Department’s total staff hours are utilized on Planning Board and Conservation Commission related issues. In addition, DPCD staff occasionally provide professional technical assistance to other public entities including Town Council, Zoning Board of Appeals, 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 2015 fiscal year is summarized below. During the 2015 fiscal year DPCD worked on amendment of several sections of Franklin’s Zoning Bylaw. This included Zoning Amendments 14-42, 14-743 and 14-744, which were needed to correct references and inconsistencies in the Town’s Zoning Bylaw. As a result of public meetings and a response to a Request for Proposals for sale and development of the Pond Street property, DPCD developed and submitted to Town Council Zoning Amendment 14-745, which added multi-family housing by special permit to the Office Zoning District. Since Town Council adopted the Town’s updated Master Plan in 2013, DPCD staff has worked towards implementation. During FY15 DPCD provided Town Council with an update summarizing the status of the Master Plan’s implementation.

The Town held a Zoning Workshop in March 2015 to review potential zoning changes, including Actions proposed within the 2013 Master Plan; issues discussed included the Neighborhood Commercial Zoning District; Senior Village Overlay District; Commercial I Zoning District; Multi-family Zoning; and Accessory Dwelling Units. DPCD was tasked with developing a zoning map amendment, which would allow multi-family housing in an
industrially zoned area along Dean Ave. A map amendment has been drafted and will be before Town Council for consideration during July 2015.

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, I-495/ MetroWest Corridor Partnership, and the I-95/495 South Regional Technology Economic Target Area’s Coordinating Council. In addition, the DPCD occasionally supports the initiatives of other regional organizations including the Franklin Bellingham Rail Trail Committee, Friends of the SNETT, the MetroWest Tourism and Visitors Bureau, and a workforce development advisory committee established by Employment and Training Resources in Framingham.

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. The revitalization of Downtown Franklin must be carefully planned to ensure that improvements positively impact the entire community. During the 2015 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.

One component of the Franklin Center Plan is Cultural Uses. The issue of cultural economic development has been a focus for DPCD in recent years. During FY14 DPCD worked with the MetroWest Tourism and Visitors Bureau and Franklin Downtown Partnership to develop a brochure map of Downtown Franklin; the map was printed and distributed in the first quarter of FY15. 

During FY15 DPCD continued to work with the MetroWest Tourism and Visitors Bureau on a variety of cultural economic development marketing activities. In addition, DPCD provided limited assistance to the Franklin Cultural District Committee, which is a group of individuals and organizations that are attempting to create a State designated Downtown Franklin Cultural District. 

A cultural district is a specific geographical area that has a concentration of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. It needs to be walkable, easily accessible, easily identifiable to visitors and residents, and serve as a center for cultural, artistic and economic activity. The goals of a Cultural District are to encourage business and job development, attract artists and cultural enterprises, establish the district as a tourist destination, preserve and reuse historic buildings, enhance property values, and foster local cultural development.

The Town of Franklin’s 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. Construction of this important multi-year project began in 2014.

early on a December morning along West Central St
early on a December morning along West Central St

During the first half of FY15, DPCD provided substantial technical assistance towards implementation the Town’s Franklin Solar Challenge. The initiative is similar to the state’s Solarize Mass program, which provides discounts to encourage residents and small business owners to install solar panels. Public meetings were held in the first quarter of FY15 to inform and educate the public. 

During the second quarter of FY15 DPCD worked with a group of residents to obtain the services of a solar panel installation contractor, SolarFlair, who began installing solar panels late in the 2014 calendar year; the more people ordering a solar panel installation the better the unit pricing. As of June 2015 SolarFlair had already signed solar panel installation contracts for well over 100 kW of capacity.

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.

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.

As part of DPCD’s efforts to market the Town of Franklin, DPCD staff develops press releases, economic development marketing brochures, and various economic development advertisements for industry periodicals. During FY15 DPCD focused much of its efforts on the life sciences/biotechnology industry. Towards the end of the fiscal year DPCD staff began working with professors and students from Dean College and the Franklin Downtown Partnership’s Executive Director on development of a marketing program for Downtown Franklin. The project includes developing a distinct Downtown Franklin "brand", marketing and graphic materials, and a related implementation strategy, in attempts to attract customers and visitors to ensure the Downtown's economic viability during the construction of the Downtown Improvement Project.

In partnership with MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD), DPCD developed and manages the MassDevelopment - MOBD - Town of Franklin Business Visitation Program, which is intended to make local research and development and manufacturing 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 local businesses. In addition, DPCD works regularly with MOBD, MassDevelopment, and other agencies in efforts to attract the right mix of companies to Franklin’s industrial and commercial areas.

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.

Working towards redevelopment of town-owned properties is a regular DPCD activity, and continues to be a high priority. During FY2014 DPCD developed a Request for Expressions of Interest (REI) for future redevelopment of 150 Emmons Street, site of the former Municipal Building. The Town’s goals for this important parcel are “Redevelopment of the site into a key gateway into Downtown Franklin, which will maximize short-term and long-term benefits to the Town and its residents. 

Expressions of Interest were due during the first quarter of FY15, which influenced the development and distribution of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for sale and reuse of the property, which included demolition of the former municipal building. Proposals in response to the RFP were due during December 2014. One Proposal was received, and the Proposer/Developer began performing due diligence activities; a final Purchase and Sale agreement will likely be executed in FY16.

Also during 2015 DPCD continued to work with other Town staff, consultants, and the EPA 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. The property is contaminated with a variety of hazardous materials. Demolition of the main NuStyle building was completed within FY13; demolition was required in order to access and analyze soil and water under the building to assure that the full extent of soil and water contamination is known. 

Preparing the site for redevelopment is expensive, and DPCD has sought funding and technical assistance from a variety of sources in recent years. DPCD secured EPA technical assistance to assess the quality of ground water at the Nu-Style site; several monitoring wells were drilled and two rounds of water samples were analyzed. In addition, the EPA performed indoor air quality assessment activities in an adjacent privately held building to assure contaminated soil and ground water on the Nu-Style property is not negatively impacting adjacent properties. Building II, a smaller dilapidated mill building on the back of the Nu-Style property became the focus of DPCD efforts during the second half of FY15.

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.


"Prior to November 1 of each year, the Town Clerk shall cause to be prepared and made available to the inhabitants of the Town an annual report for the preceding fiscal year which shall include: the annual Town budget, the reports of all Town officers, the records of all Town Council bylaw amendments and resolutions, an abstract of births, marriages and deaths, and the wages, salaries, or other compensation of all Town employees." [Added 5-2-2012 by Bylaw Amendment 12-681]

Shared from the full and complete PDF version of the Town of Franklin Annual Report for 2015


Additional info on the Dept of Planning and Community Development can be found on their webpages

  • Open Space and Recreation plan is being updated

  • Pond St will likely see another RFP (and oddly not mentioned in the summary above)

  • The Downtown Improvement Project is scheduled to completed in 2016

  • What do you find the Master Plan? the current and prior one can be found here

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