The Woodbridge Plan and Zoning Commission, with input from other commissions, departments and residents, is working to update the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). What do residents want to keep and carry into the future, what needs improvements — it’s a taking stock of sorts and setting guidelines for the future.
The goal is “to create a plan that provides policy guidance,” said Michael T. Looney, a professional planner with Milone and MacBroom, who has been facilitating the process. The POCD should serve as a roadmap for the town, he said. As such it sets goals, but the real work — taking steps to achieve those goals — will not happen until after the town and its residents adopt a Plan in a formal vote.
Looney has been taking in comments at several “charrettes” – public comment sessions — as well as through an online survey and in countless hours visiting with land use and other commissions. A website dedicated to the POCD is available at http://woodbridgeplan.com/. Published, readers will find fact sheets pertaining to current conditions, and the suggested action items that residents had a chance to respond to at a public workshop September 30. Some 80+ residents and town officials attended the workshop at the Center gym, where residents were invited to familiarize themselves with, and respond to, concrete action points.
The packet neatly presented eight topics — housing, economic development, transportation, natural resources and open space, historic and community resources and sustainability — with suggested actions for each topic stacked by continuing/near-term, mid-term and long-term action items. As opposed to the current Plan – adopted in 2005 – the focus for the next ten years shifts from the center of town to the “Village District,” the town’s only mixed use district, where people live and work and shop — but many just drive through on their way to work or shop in other areas.
At the workshop on September 30, the table devoted to economic development and The Village (commercial district) got by far most attention. Comments for the Village included increased connectivity, sidewalks, lighting, parking, more high-end businesses; no three-family housing, no 3-story houses, and again and again, traffic improvements. “Traffic is a huge impediment to development,” said Muffy German, who presented comments made at that table. The suggestion to create an architectural review process for the Village District met with some resistance. “Don’t treat the Village any different than the rest of town,” was one comment.
For open space, the general feeling was that the town must protect open space, preserve its vistas; as for a “wish list,” it included a dog park, mountain biking trails, safe roads, and using the Country Club as a meeting place for Woodbridge residents. As for community resources, the use of the old firehouse, which the fire department still uses for storage, came up repeatedly. Another issue that came up was the programming at the senior center, with the wish for programming to appeal to “younger seniors”.
The Plan as presented suggests hiring a part-time planner and a part-time economic development director. The planner in particular would help the town actually move forward with the proposals put forth in this document, said Plan and Zoning Commission Chairman Jeff Kaufman. He said his hope is that Woodbridge doesn’t look a whole lot different (in ten years) than it does now, with winding roads, trees and stone walls.
But the only area that has a lot of improvement potential is the Gateway (or Village) District, “there we have the potential to do something awesome,” he said. “A farmers market, restaurants, shops, sidewalks – that’s community stuff,” he said. He is hoping to increase the housing options in the Village for single professionals, as there is no place for them in Woodbridge at this point. Kaufman said there is a large number of home offices in Woodbridge, and one of the ideas is to encourage shared or live/work spaces for these small business owners.
Next steps: Looney said his office will be compiling comments and start working on a land-use plan on a parcel-by-parcel basis. This work will be done in cooperation with the Plan and Zoning Commission. There will be no more public workshops, but the land-use plan will be subject to a formal public hearing before a final POCD will be presented to public vote.