Welcome to the Stow Planning Department blog!
Follow us for up to date information and announcements on developments, planning initiatives and various opportunities to shape the future of Stow.
As we mentioned earlier this summer, the Stow Planning Department has submitted an application for the 2016 MassWorks Infrastructure Grant Program, continuing to advance the community’s efforts to improve our main business district. The MassWorks Program funds municipal projects that support economic development, transportation improvements, and mixed-use development. Our application this year is stronger than ever, highlighting our Community Compact with Governor Baker Administration, our finalized traffic improvement design plans, and our recent acceptance of a Complete Streets Policy. The grant will allow Stow to move forward with our shovel-ready Complete Streets designed traffic improvements.
The Complete Streets design for Lower Village is derived from years of public input. The illustrations below, designed by Howard Stein Hudson (HSH), show how sidewalks, bike lanes, pedestrian islands, and turn lanes work together to create a more defined traffic pattern. Not only do the plans increase safety by providing a balance between road users, but the improvements utilize well placed turning lanes and raised medians to create gaps in peak hour traffic that will make it easier to make turns into and out of local businesses. To learn more about Howard Stein-Hudson, and their design process for the Lower Village final design, check out this past post.
The image below helps further visualize what these plans illustrate from a street- level perspective.
Stow finds company in Complete Streets goals. Our neighbors in Maynard adopted a Complete Streets policy, and installed temporary features as part of a pilot project last month. The pilot helped residents and visitors visualize the scope of improvements with the addition of traffic interventions, altered curb cuts, bike lanes, and even a parklet. If you visited downtown Maynard during this time, fill out a survey to let them know your thoughts!
Through the years of planning for improvements to the Lower Village corridor, we’ve heard an evolving vision of what is most important to Stow residents: pedestrian safety, reduced congestion, bicycle lanes, accessibility to businesses – balancing improvements with the Town’s rural character. Updates to Rt. 117 are part of the larger picture of improving the safety, convenience and curb appeal for Lower Village. The Planning Department will continue to focus energy on a developing partnership for water infrastructure upgrades, and we’ll be building on zoning and design guideline efforts to complete the community’s visioning.
Check back here in the weeks to come or stop by the Planning Department to look at the plans and get updates on our progress!
What are you most excited to see?
Survey On The Way
The Planning Department is in the process of contracting with Howard/Stein-Hudson Inc. to begin a survey of the public right of way in Gleasondale. All aspects of the roadway, including utilities and property bounds will be located on the survey plans to allow the community to better plan options for future improvements. The Planning Department also just received word that the approaches to the Route 62 bridge will also be surveyed by the DOT’s contractor in the coming weeks. Between the two , the Town will have a full updated survey for the bulk of the Gleasondale corridor!
Kane Land Survey
Boundaries of the Town owned parcel known as the “Kane Land” have been surveyed and the Planning Department is awaiting submission of the final plans. This survey should provide much needed clarification regarding the feasibility of future activities on the land.
Community Transportation Technical Assistance Grant
The Planning Department recently was awarded a grant to study the Hudson Road/Route 117 intersection, in light of the Gleasondale Bridge partial closure. Traffic counts were taken along Hudson Road, Route 117, as well as Gleasondale Road in Gleasondale Village. Prior to the bridge closure, Gleasondale Road saw 6062 vehicles per day. Today that number is down to 5000 per day. The big question is where 1000 vehicles every day have rerouted to? Traffic consultants with the Boston Metro Planning Organization, which funded the study, believe many are now using Hudson Road. Results of the study are currently being updated and will be available here later this summer.
Tonight’s Town Meeting presentation on the updates to the Planned Conservation Development can be found at the link below!
In a recent post we outlined the process for permitting Planned Conservation Developments – detailing what the development plans look like according to the typical Massachusetts Subdivision standards, and what they can look like when applied for as a PCD. Since that time, we’ve held a Public Forum and Public Hearing to gain further feedback, incorporated comments from Town Boards and Committees and are now in the process of preparing to present the updates on the bylaw at the upcoming Stow Town Meeting on May 2nd.
While our past post on the topic explains the nuts and bolts of a PCD, take a look at the below map and photo to see how the bylaw translates to on the ground development. What you see here are two Stow neighborhoods: Pondview Estates, made up of Whelden and Hickory Lane on the left, and Trefry Lane to the right. In roughly the middle of the image is Boxboro Road, running north to South. The green areas surrounding the clusters of home sites represents land protected in perpetuity as open space. What makes this a particularly great example of the potential of Planned Conservation Development is the linking of open space lands on either side of Boxboro Road. At Pondview Estates, the open land provides a buffer to a pond and nearby airfield, while creating a natural area for residents to walk dogs and otherwise enjoy. On the other side of the road, open land associated with Trefry Lane protects an arching meadow, as well as an area of open space that reaches deep into the Flag Hill Conservation area.
The photo below is looking north past Whelden Lane toward Trefry Lane, roughly in the center of the above map. This view from the street tells the PCD story as we perceive it every day. Open meadows, intact stone walls – visions of Stow that residents have built lives around. We regularly hear about the significance of preserving Stow’s rural charm. The PCD bylaw continues to be one of the most important tools in that effort.
Join the Stow Planning Board for a presentation on the proposed updates to the Planned Conservation Development Bylaw. After over 20 years of permitting, the Planning Board has gained input from interests on all sides of the permitting process. Come hear how the lessons learned have shaped the current updates and improvements.
For over 10 years, Stow’s Planned Conservation Development process has improved wildlife habitat, protected scenic views and provided for recreational trail opportunities on over 300 acres of permanently preserved land. This spring the Planning Board is asking for community input as it updates and improves the Town’s Planned Conservation Development bylaw (PCD) to build on that progress. The update is based on the Planning Board’s lessons learned in permitting under the existing bylaw; research on best practices from across the state; and discussions with town departments; open space interests; and past applicants.
What is Planned Conservation Development?
PCD is a process of developing residential land that provides the opportunity to create flexible lot sizes in exchange for the permanent protection of no less than 60% of the land. Unlike conventional subdivisions, in which the land is carved into standard lot sizes – often with little attention to unique or sensitive environments – Planned Conservation Development is a process that puts Stow’s rural lands first.
Why the Update?
On Monday, March 28th the Planning Board will be holding a public forum at 7pm in Stow Town Hall to discuss improvements to the PCD bylaw and gain public feedback. The updates will streamline the design process to ensure that distinctive site features are clearly identified upfront. Since Stow’s geography contains so many unique landscapes, the improved bylaw proposes needed flexibility to preserve the best features of the land on a site-by-site basis.
Check out the below map sequence to see the design progression at the Hemenway Farm Planned Conservation Development and the lessons learned that have helped inform the new updates
Prior to development, the former Banks property offered some interesting site characteristics, including a small pond, a long, open meadow and a shared border with the nearby Hale/Corzine Woodlands preserve.
An important step in the PCD design process is “proving” the number of allowable lots that can be created under conventional zoning. The ensuing plan is called a Proof Plan (shown below), which provides a sometime’s jarring view of how a property can be developed if it were a conventional subdivision. The image below shows the original property divided into 26 lots, a winding loop road, and two cul-de-sacs. Clearing of trees under this conventional plan would likely have been extensive, with views from Walcott Street extending far into the property. In the far top left of the image, a small connection of land is provided for access to the nearby conservation land.
At Hemenway Farm, the developer chose the Planned Conservation Development process, over the conventional proof plan, allowing them to propose the same 26 lots, yet retain 60% of the land as proposed open space. The dark green in the below image represents the portion of the property proposed as permanently protected open space. Large portions of the open meadow were preserved, as well as stands of pine and several wetlands. Once built, residents of the new development and surrounding neighborhoods will have access to trails and connections to the nearby Hale/Corzine Woodlands, which will make up a large complex of protected wildlife habitat.
Having approved 10 PCD plans since 1995, the ways in which the Planning Board can improve the permitting process have become increasingly easy to spot. For instance, the updated bylaw will prioritize a collaborative design process for identifying unique site features at the beginning of the process – allowing the Planning Board and the public to be have a more proactive role. The current bylaw also contains rigid dimensional standards for lot shapes and sizes. These standards limited design creativity at Hemenway Farm, reducing the options for siting homes away from unique features. The updated bylaw allows the Board to be more flexible in the standards, particularly where such flexibility can further enhance the recreational and open space values of the property.
We hope to see you on March 28th at 7pm in Stow Town Hall to learn more about the proposed improvements to the PCD.