Town enters planning phase to chart course for future

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The town of Canton is in the midst of planning for the future needs of the town through the creation of three plans: the Master Plan, the Open Space and Recreation Plan/Comprehensive Trails Master Plan, and the Earl Newhouse Waterfront Master Plan. The three plans are in different stages of development, with completion of the Master Plan expected in 2020, while information for the other two should be collected and compiled in 2018.

“They do slightly overlap with each other,” said Town Planner Laura Smead of the three plans. “The Master Plan is the biggest and broadest one. It looks at everything.”

She went on to say that a Master Plan should capture the longest-range vision of a community, allowing for planning for the next 20 years in terms of academic planning, municipal services, economic development, use of open spaces, and land use, among other needs.

Canton’s most recent Master Plan was created in 2004 and has not been updated. “We’re due for that,” Smead said.

Last week, four citizens were selected from about a dozen who applied to fill the final open seats of the Master Plan steering committee. The town will then seek a consultant to work with the group during the one to two years that the process of putting together the Master Plan is expected to take. “It’s a really big undertaking,” Smead said.

She expects that the plan will be ready for town meeting in 2020. She plans to encourage the committee to be creative in establishing a community process to reach out to the public to seek their input, such as using the Internet and scheduling meetings during the day as well as during evening hours.

Smead called the Open Space and Recreation Plan/Comprehensive Trails Master Plan almost a section of the broader Master Plan, adding that one goal is to have a working map of where all the trails in Canton are located. The Canton Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee and the Canton Walk, Bike and Hike Committee are asking that Canton residents provide information on their use of trails and outdoor areas in an online survey.

“What do we have? What do we need? What do people want?” Smead said.

The information in the plan will also make the town eligible for state funding for park construction and land acquisition. The survey can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/CantonOSRPandTrails. The survey, which is for Canton residents only, will be live until December 8. Weston & Sampson Design Studio is working with the town on the project.

“Earl Newhouse is even more detail specific,” Smead said. The Earl Newhouse Waterfront is an area along Reservoir Pond dedicated to the memory of longtime Canton police officer Earl Newhouse. The town is working with Kyle Zick Landscape Architecture, Inc., and has also worked with officials of the Massachusetts Office of Fishing and Boating Access. A ground survey has been completed of the area as well as a bathymetry, a process which maps underwater terrain.

Smead said that the goal for Earl Newhouse is to create different options for the site that include cost estimates and funding ideas, a well-thought-out process, and community support so that the town can go to town meeting with specific numbers for planning. A survey for residents, which deals with only the Earl Newhouse property, can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/cantonENW1. It will be live for the next few weeks.

Once work has been completed on the plans, Smead wants residents to have access to the information in forms other than only a written compilation, suggesting the possibilities of using websites and social media. “It’s not worth anything if it sits on a shelf and gathers dust,” she said.

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