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Windham plans workshops, survey for master plan input

WINDHAM — Members of the Windham Planning Board got down to business this week during a brainstorming session for the town’s upcoming 2015 master plan.

Over an hour of Wednesday night’s Planning Board meeting was devoted to the topic, with board members sharing their initial visions for Windham’s future. Vice Chairman Alan Carpenter emailed fellow board members and town staff earlier last week in efforts to get folks talking prior to the meeting. Carpenter suggested hosting a series of public workshops in the coming months to tackle separate subjects such as sidewalks, water resources, recreation, economic development and conservation.

“The workshops would be very subject specific and we could invite some subject-matter experts,” he added.

Chairman Kristi St. Laurent agreed citizens should have multiple opportunities to offer up their thoughts.

“We do need to inform the public and other boards and committees about the process as we move forward,” she said.

Longtime board member Margaret Crisler said she’s participated in efforts leading up to at least three of the town’s previous master plans and some things never seem to change.

“They all sound pretty much alike,” Crisler said of past master plans. “Do we really need to use the word ‘vibrant’ another time?”Most of the board seemed to agree, however, that a revision of the 2005 plan seems to make the most sense than a complete plan rewrite.“The section on economic development will probably require the most editing,” Carpenter noted. “For the first time ever we’re talking about a master plan where the changes to Interstate 93 and Route 111 are finally upon us.”

Community Development Director Laura Scott said a community survey is one way to ensure the master plan was “truly representative of what the citizens want.”

“That would be one way to gather feedback,” she said. “Not everyone can be at a meeting until 9 p.m. in the middle of the week.”

Scott said Northeastern University students would soon be conducting an economic development online survey and the end results would assist town officials with the process. “I think its critical to determine what the people in town want,” board member Paul Gosselin said. “If we have a town survey of a thousand residents and 85 percent of them show support of something, that provides real credence to how we make our final decisions.”Further discussion on the new master plan process will take place during the April 30 Planning Board meeting.

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