Norton Town Hall

Norton Town Hall

NORTON — The town has a new blueprint to guide its next decade.

Residents at Monday’s fall town meeting almost unanimously adopted a master plan for town development.

While the acceptance of the plan doesn’t bring changes, planning board Chairman Tim Griffin told voters it’s full of recommendations that are expected to lead to new zoning and general bylaws and programs that would need approval.

Short-term goals include creating a user-friendly development and permitting guide to facilitate housing and business development, but some will take years as would realigning the busy intersection of routes 123 and 140 in town center at the common.

Other objectives are ongoing such as building a new town hall and senior/community center.

The plan involves the areas of land use, housing, economic development, open space/recreation, natural/cultural resources, services/facilities, and transportation.

The town’s vision for the future calls for encouraging development to help Norton grow as a “vibrant, walkable and recognizable place” while “protecting Norton’s natural and cultural resources and neighborhoods.”

For housing, the plan recommends increasing and diversifying housing supply, particularly for seniors, young families, and first-time homebuyers.

Economic development should support local businesses and encourage appropriate development that expands the tax base.

For open space and recreation, access should be improved to parks, water bodies and other natural areas.

Another highlight is preserving historic and cultural assets and continuing environmental conservation.

Services, infrastructure and facilities should meet the demands of growth and change, the plan says.

As for transportation, the town is advised to improve circulation, safety and appearance for all users of roads, and promote alternatives to driving.

Kelly Gallagher, who has helped spearhead opposition to a large solar farm planned off Bay Road, advocated holding off on a vote.

“I think we need more time to read it,” Gallagher said of the lengthy plan. “I think it’s premature to vote on it.”

It was pointed out residents and town officials under the planning board’s guidance and with consultant Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) worked for over two years developing the master plan.

There were five public sessions involving over 150 participants, with latter workshops held virtually due to the pandemic. Feedback was also obtained online.

“We had three meetings to review all the pages,” Griffin said, with little opposition.

The plan cost $100,000, with $30,000 from the town and $70,000 from grant funding.

The state recommends communities update master plans every 10 years but Norton’s was last updated in 1998.

More information about the plan is available at www.nortonma.org.

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