The DPCD’s staffing reflects the diverse skills needed to complete the many activities and roles the Department participates. DPCD’s activities and services include, but are not limited to comprehensive planning, economic development, subdivision plan, site plan and conservation plan review, open space and wetlands preservation, historic preservation, zoning by-law and subdivision regulation development, downtown revitalization, brownfields redevelopment, affordable housing, 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.
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 Cultural District Committee.
Approximately 65 percent of the Department’s total staff hours are utilized on Planning Board and Conservation Commission related issues. In addition, DPCD staff occasionally provides professional technical assistance to other public entities including Town Council, Zoning Board of Appeals, Town Council’s Economic Development Sub-committee, 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.
Conservation and Land Use
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 promote and protect 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 and Departments. During FY19 DPCD worked on various conservation and land use related projects.
Chapter 61 Properties.
During FY17 and FY18 DPCD staff, headed up by Conservation Agent George Russell, assessed privately-owned parcels within Franklin that are known as Chapter 61 parcels.
Chapters 61, 61A and 61B of Massachusetts General Law outline programs that require municipalities to reduce assessments of farm, forest and open space lands, provided the owners make a commitment to keep their lands in one or more of those uses. Should the owner of any of these parcels decide to remove them from their current tax status and offer them for sale, the town would have the right of first refusal. The parcels were evaluated in order to gain a greater understanding of which may be more prudent for the town to acquire, and to ensure that the Town gains the greatest benefit from its open space and recreation funds by objectively reviewing proposed land acquisition projects using established criteria.
Conservation Commission Managed Land.
During FY18, DPCD staff, again headed up by Conservation Agent George Russell, assessed the 125 Town-owned properties that are managed by the Conservation Commission. One result of the study was to identify parcels that could be utilized for passive recreation purposes, including the possibility of connecting Conservation properties with other public lands. DPCD continued to implement the Master Plan for the DelCarte Conservation area, including beginning the second year of pond treatments, and worked to procure the services of a contractor to construct ADA improvements to access the canoe launch. In addition, DPCD began the process of amending the Conservation Commission’s regulations and standard operating procedures to help streamline the approval process for "minor" projects.
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 2018 fiscal year is summarized below.
Zoning Bylaw Amendments.
During the 2018 fiscal year DPCD worked on amendment of several sections of Franklin’s Zoning Bylaw. Zoning Map Amendment 18-795 amended Franklin’s Zoning Map by changing the zoning district of two dozen parcels in area near Union, Cottage and Saxon Streets. The Zoning Map Amendment eliminated the Commercial II Zoning District from that section of Town. Zoning Bylaw Amendments 17-797 changed the setback requirements for accessory buildings and structures. DPCD is undergoing a project to better define the Town's zoning districts by following parcel lines. Where parcels are within two or more zoning districts the subject Zoning Map Amendment will move the
Zoning District line so each parcel is only in one zoning district, in most cases based on the current land use. DPCD will develop roughly a dozen Zoning Map Amendments to complete this project. The first three, Zoning Map Amendments 18-802, 18-803 and 18-804, were developed in the last quarter of FY18.
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.
DPCD attends meetings and works on various regional planning issues with a variety of regional organizations, including Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Southwest Advisory 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. DPCD also provides support for the Charles River Meadowlands, an effort among citizens and officials from the Towns of Bellingham, Medway and Franklin, to work together and to work with Federal and State officials, to improve management and access of the Federally-owned meadowlands, and adjacent public lands.
For more than fifteen years the Town 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 2018 fiscal year DPCD continued to work on 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, including working with the MetroWest Tourism and Visitors Bureau on a variety of cultural economic development marketing activities. As part of these efforts DPCD provided assistance to the Franklin Cultural District Steering Committee, a group of individuals and organizations working to increase the number of art and culture related events in the area, create a State designated Franklin Cultural District in Franklin center.
The Cultural District Steering Committee has accomplished much; this group of hard working arts and culture advocates has: assisted DPCD with the Cultural District application process including development of a strong cultural district Partnership; worked hard to support art and culture programing; and even organized the annual Franklin Cultural Festival. Lovers of the arts in Franklin owe them a great deal for their passion and hard work. During recent years DPCD prepared Cultural District marketing materials, coordinated efforts with local stakeholders, and performed outreach and educational activities, including setting up booths and displays at various events.
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, as defined by the legislative statute, 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 economic development.
In June 2017 Franklin Town Council passed two resolutions that accomplished the following: created the Cultural District Committee; formally expressed Franklin’s interest in establishing a state-designated cultural district; endorsed state-sponsored cultural district goals; and endorsed submission of a Cultural District application. During FY2018 the Cultural District Committee was formed. DPCD provides the Committee with administrative and Technical support; during June 2018 the Town submitted a Cultural District application to Massachusetts Cultural Council.
The Cultural District Committee’s responsibilities include applying for Cultural District designation, managing and marketing the District, assuring the Districts goals are obtained, and managing and strengthening the Town’s Cultural District Partnership.
Over the last few years a strong Partnership has formed in support of creating a state-designated cultural district in the Downtown area. The Cultural District Partnership includes many of Franklin’s well known organizations and businesses, including: Franklin’s School Department, Historic Commission, Public Library, Cultural Council, and Senior Center/COA; Franklin TV/Franklin Radio; Franklin Downtown Partnership; Dean College; Franklin Art Association; Franklin Performing Arts Company; the Circle of Friends Coffeehouse; and Franklin School for the Performing Arts.
DPCD regularly works with the Administration and other Town departments to assess and develop recommendations for Town-owned parcels of land, including Tax Title Properties and lands of low value. Each year recommendations are developed for a number of these properties, and the work is submitted 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. 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 efforts to market the Town of Franklin, DPCD staff maintains a site selection web page - franklinmasiteselector.com, and develops press releases, advertisements for industry periodicals, and economic development marketing brochures. DPCD regularly communicates with realtors, property owners and businesses to make them aware of State and Federal 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. DPCD works regularly Massachusetts Office of Business Development, MassDevelopment and other agencies in efforts to attract the right mix of companies to Franklin’s industrial and commercial areas.
Redevelopment of Town owned properties is a regular DPCD activity. In recent years much progress has been made with three important Town-owned properties. Redevelopment of the former Municipal Building property at 150 Emmons Street was completed in FY17. The Town’s so-called Pond Street Property, former sewer beds, was sold to a developer in FY16, and construction of a condominium housing development is well on its way.
The Town’s so-called “Nu-Style” Property on Grove Street, has been the subject of environmental assessment and remedial activities since 2006. The results of testing showed that to fully assess the property’s soil and groundwater contamination, a dilapidated former manufacturing building on site needs to be removed. During FY18 DPCD developed and the Town advertised a Request for Proposals, in attempt to find a company or individual to purchase, clean and redevelop the site. One proposal was received from an adjacent property owner, and the Town is working to execute a purchase and sale agreement.
DPCD will continue to undertake a wide range of community and economic development projects, programs, and planning initiatives that will keep the Town of Franklin’s goals and objectives current and representative of residents’ 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.
Department of Planning & Community Development Staff.
You can read the full Annual Report for 2018 online
The archive of prior year annual reports
|Franklin Annual Report - 2018: Department of Planning & Community Development|