Local Planning Committee To Guide Comprehensive Plan

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Municipal Planning and Zoning

Harwich News.

HARWICH — Selectmen have agreed to appoint a wide-ranging local planning committee to craft a new local comprehensive plan for the town. The committee is expected to work with consultants in shaping a plan for defining the future of the community.

Voters in the May 2019 annual town meeting approved $200,000 to update the 2011 local comprehensive plan, which is supposed to be revisited every five years. Town Planner Charleen Greenhalgh said the plan is consistent with the Cape Cod Commission’s regional policy plan.

“In reality this would be a complete rewrite, as the elements of the RPP and the guidelines of the LCP were updated earlier this year,” she informed selectmen.

The commission calls for a local planning committee to be designated by the board of selectmen with the primary responsibility for development of, and any amendments to, the local comprehensive plan.

Greenhalgh said she is eager to prepare a request for proposals for services related to the plan, but the appointment of a committee is the first order of business.

The committee can be either the planning board or a specially designated committee, Greenhalgh said, although other local boards may and should participate in the planning process. The committee may also be designated with the primary responsibility for administering and overseeing implementation of the plan, she said.

“It has been my experience in other Cape communities that a LPC consisting of representatives from several boards/committees is the most advantageous form of committee. This allows for much more inclusive participation and fosters better communication with the town as a whole,” Greenhalgh said.

Greenhalgh recommended that the committee membership include representatives from the planning board, real estate and open space committee, conservation commission, board of health, water commission, housing committee or trust, historic district and historical commission, recreation and youth commission, waterways committee, youth services committee, traffic safety committee and chamber of commerce.

“The first iteration passed town meeting unanimously,” Selectman Donald Howell said. “It basically followed this footprint. I agree with Charleen.”

Howell said the last rewrite of the plan in 2011 was done just by the planning board, which changed the entire plan. Board of Selectmen Chairman Larry Ballantine added for this plan to be successful it needs wide participation due to issues facing the town such as wastewater and parking, among others.

Along with representation from 11 town boards and committees and a representative from the chamber of commerce, it was suggested there be representation from the community at large. Selectmen agreed to include three members from the general public, establishing a committee of 15 members.

Under state statute a local comprehensive plan also serves as the town’s master plan. According to the statute, “Such plan shall be a statement, through text, maps, illustrations or other forms of communication, that is designated to provide a basis for decision making regarding the long-term physical development of the municipality. The comprehensive plan shall be internally consistent in its policies, forecasts and standards.”

The plan should include growth and development goals and policy statements relating to land use, housing, economic development, natural and cultural resources, open space and recreation, services and facilities and transportation, as well as an implementation program. The plan also assists the town with potential grant opportunities.

Greenhalgh said several key elements of the plan are completed, including the comprehensive wastewater management plan; housing production plan (needs assessment); open space and recreation plan; and multi-hazard mitigation plan.