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Hingham to look to public for ideas on town's future

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  October 2, 2013 04:34 PM

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Change is inevitable, but when it comes to Hingham’s make-up and landscape, locals may have a voice in what the future could hold.

Hingham will host a public meeting on a re-visioning of the town’s Master Plan at Town Hall on Oct. 22 with the hopes of soliciting public feedback on how the community can grow.

“This is a dialogue, to do some visioning with the community,” said Town Planner Mary Savage-Dunham. “…It’s to pull people in another way, how do you want the town to be in the future?”

Hingham already has a Master Plan, but will use the opportunity to reengage in the goals section of the document.

The town received a $60,000 grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council for the re-visioning, with a $15,000 in-kind match from the town in the form of town staff time.

MAPC has been conducting similar work since receiving approximately $4 million in grant money in 2010 to conduct regional planning activities throughout the commonwealth. The funding was made available to all 170 members of the Boston Consortium for Sustainable Communities, a Department of Housing and Urban Development program of which Hingham is a member.

Hingham expressed an interest in being part of the conversation and has been working with MAPC for months to develop a direction.

In addition to discussions between Hingham’s Planning Board and other community groups, over 300 residents also participated in an on-line community survey.

Hopes are high that even more people will participate in the October public meeting.

“[The meeting] will facilitate an understanding of potential impacts and benefits of certain master plan goals,” said Jennifer Raitt, the assistant director of land use planning at MAPC. “[This purpose is] to compare those new master plan goals to metro future goals, [and] to help identify challenges and opportunities to relate to how regional goals are implemented at a municipal level.”

Not only will it solidify the community’s vision of growth, but Raitt also said it opens doors for those who are interested in implementing the plan

“It’s definitely important because of where the town might be headed,” Raitt said. “That’s why we want to engage as many people as possible. We want to have a set of indicators people can agree upon that will measure the impacts of development against those future goals.”

Topics will include changing housing densities, looking at preserving open space, addressing environmental issues, increasing transportation, expanding economic development, growing historic preservation, and strengthening recreation opportunities.

Additionally, issues around marijuana zoning, and in-law apartments might also be part of the discussion, Savage-Dunham said.

The re-visioning should be completed within months, Savage-Dunham predicted. Any changes could come in the form of warrant articles for Town Meeting.

“Some of those [changes] may not happen right away. But for the majority of the conversation of goals and objectives, the board should reach consensus by the holidays or early spring,” she said.

For more information on the upcoming meeting, click here.

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