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Committee continues to develop new Master Plan


May 12, 2010
LANCASTER — The Master Plan Committee met last Tuesday to finish going through the data collected in a Master Plan survey given to the residents of Lancaster earlier this year. The survey is part of a process that started in December to create a new Master Plan "to guide the orderly development of the community," in the words of the town's previous 2001 plan.

"There's such a big outcry for economic development and starting jobs," said Mr. Gaetjens-Oleson, referencing the feedback the committee received from the surveys. "Some of those bullets in the preamble don't necessarily specifically state economic development. A lot of it is, 'ensure the small town feel, the old time charm of Main Street.' It doesn't lead you into a way to have the economic development while still keeping that kind of old time feel." This is one of the changes the committee is looking to make for the new Master Plan, said said Zoning/Planning Coordinator and Grant Administrator Ben Gaetjens-Oleson.

"A Master Plan is a dynamic document that seeks to understand where we as a community are today…and where we hope to be tomorrow," the previous plan continues in its preamble, which the committee reviewed at the meeting. Written almost a decade ago, the current Master Plan Committee is using this document as a jumping off point for a new Master Plan. Much has changed in the time since the document's inception, but maintaining small town values seems to remain at the foundation of the plan — a principle that must be reconciled with the community's demand for economic development, said Mr. Gaetjens-Oleson.

Another major change to the Master Plan will be the inclusion of a chapter on energy use, a topic that did not feature largely in the previous plan, but has been moving to the forefront of municipal policy as the region struggles with transmission limitations, and sees the conception of renewable energies. The town plans to utilize the North Country Council's proffered assistance in this complicated issue to help develop their strategy for energy use.

"We are going to hopefully have North Country Council (NCC), which is the area planning agency, try to develop an energy chapter for our Master Plan, which is a recommendation for all Master Plans now," confirmed Mr. Gaetjens-Oleson. The NCC would do this free of charge, he said, as they have a grant that allows them to help out with town's master plans. "North Country Council, they have more expertise developing master plans as a whole, but particularly energy ones. They can do that really well," said Mr. Gaetjens-Oleson who is still waiting to hear back from the NCC on the details of the arrangement.

The energy chapter will most likely draw on the Land Use and Energy Policy Audit recently conducted by Clean Air Cool Planet of Portsmouth as part of the New Hampshire Municipal Energy Assistance Program. The audit includes a section devoted to key issues that need to be addressed in the new Master Plan. Suggestions include emphasizing the importance of local food and forestry products, ensuring that climate change and energy security are viewed as constraints to development, and considering strategies for improving the energy efficiency of current and future buildings.

Another issue identified as one that should be part of the new Master Plan was water resources.

"We're so fortunate that we have a wonderful source," said Mr. Gaetjens -Oleson, "but there are other parts of the country that are in massive need of water, and maybe there's this big fear that somehow somebody's going to come and buy it, steal it, take it, and we'll be left having to ration our own water when we shouldn't have to. They want to make sure there are some provisions in there that safeguard that."

The committee's next meeting is June 3, where the former Master Plan will continue to be dissected in the hopes of creating an improved strategy to meet the town's ever-changing needs.

"We're going to start hitting the Master Plan and going over the sections and trying to see what we can add, what we can take out, what we need to keep," said Mr. Gaetjens-Oleson. "If there are any changes to be made, they will be finalized and then put into the Master Plan for approval by the townspeople."

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