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Marshfield to update 15-year-old master plan

Hotels for Brant Rock and new zoning for Enterprise Park are among the ideas under discussion for Marshfield’s new master plan, but the process of collecting ideas from the public has only just begun.

In November, the town worked with Suffolk University to survey a random sample of residents by mail, invited others to complete the survey online, and held the first in a series of public workshops.

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Additional workshops will be scheduled in the new year, according to Town Planner Paul Halkiotis, who hopes residents will attend as many as they can. “It’s a great opportunity for them to help guide the future of the town, and the growth of the town,” he said.

The plan, the town’s first complete rewrite since 1997, will address major questions about Marshfield’s future, such as how to improve business districts, housing options, public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian access, recreation, and open space. It may recommend policy changes that would have to be approved by Town Meeting.  

The town has hired a planning company, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, to consult on the project, and has asked the company to place special emphasis on strategies for three key spots: the Enterprise Park area, near Roche Bros. supermarket; the densely developed downtown, adjacent to Town Hall; and Brant Rock, a seaside village of year-round homes and summer cottages.

Planning Board chairwoman Karen Horne said Brant Rock will probably require a workshop all its own. People have conflicting ideas about its future, she said, namely, whether Brant Rock should recruit hotels to the waterfront to boost tourism, or retain its existing character, dominated by homes and restaurants.

“We’ll probably have to hold a session specific to that, with the residents down there,” she said.

‘We’re all sitting on 20 feet of mud.’

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Henry Dunbar, owner of the Brant Rock Fish Market since 1960, expressed some skepticism about hotels. Many of the existing buildings are subject to tidal flooding, parking is limited, and sea level appears to be rising, he said; plus, some buildings are sinking.

“We don’t need any high-rise here,” he said. “We’re all sitting on 20 feet of mud.”

Among the other ideas discussed at the initial public workshop was new zoning for the Enterprise Park area to allow more mixed-use development, so a single project could include, for example, stores, a medical building, and apartments above the stores. Right now, the only housing allowed is senior housing, according to Horne.  

Bill Last Sr., owner of Marshfield Tavern, is building four retail stores next to the tavern and would like to put 10 to 15 apartments on the second floor, but can’t do it because of zoning. The town needs more housing for people who are just starting out and don’t want a single-family home, he said, and residents would help support the businesses in the park.

When it comes to downtown, Horne said, improvements are harder to define because the area is already densely developed.

Downtown business owner Edward Bakleh of Marshfield Famous Pizza said he believes the town already does a good job supporting small businesses, and he likes to see commercial development balanced with preservation of the town’s natural beauty.

Ralph Willmer, the consulting company’s project manager for the Marshfield plan, said residents hope to see better sidewalks, bike paths, and mass transit.

They also have significant concerns about sea level. During the first workshop Nov. 13, Willmer said, he conducted an electronic poll of attendees, and 100 percent of those polled said the master plan should take sea level rise into consideration.

The initial meeting focused on economic development, climate change, housing, and transportation. Future meetings, expected to start in February, may include the same topics, plus recreation, natural resources, public facilities, and land use.

Halkiotis said graduate students in planning at University of Massachusetts Amherst are working on a chapter for the master plan about adapting to climate change. They are scheduled to give a presentation at the Planning Board meeting Monday,  he said.

Marshfield has current open space and housing plans, both of which were approved by the state. The town has asked the consultant to review the plans. Additional issues Halkiotis intends to raise during the planning process include small residential lot sizes in certain neighborhoods, as well as water quality protection for the South River.  

Work on the master plan should be done at the beginning of 2014, although such projects often run longer than anticipated, he said.

Jennette Barnes can be reached at jennettebarnes@yahoo.com.
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