Town Hall Notebook: Proposed Church on School Street Seeks Funding, Open Space Committee Aims to Reestablish Water Resource Protection Committee


Affordable Housing Trust (MBTS)

The Manchester Affordable Housing Trust will hold a public workshop in conjunction with the Manchester Housing Authority (MHA) on Tuesday, June 29 to present and discuss the study's findings and recommendations for expanded housing on the existing MHA housing sites and DPW site on Pleasant Street. Specifically targeted are residents of the neighborhoods that would be impacted by the development.  Discussions will center on community affordable housing in Manchester.  The presentation, a hybrid of in-person and Zoom participants in the Manchester Essex Regional High School cafeteria, provided community members with an explanation of the MAHT and MHA’s work for the past year.  The committees shared the results of the feasibility study, discussed concerns, answered questions, and provided participants with handouts and visuals.

The committees have worked with a consultant to develop a plan to improve existing affordable housing in Manchester and increase the number of units available.  The plan will be the main focus for the two committees for the next couple of years.  

Manchester Open Space and Recreation Committee

The Open Space and Recreation Committee (OSRC) is collaborating with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee to place bike racks at various locations around Manchester. Up to nine bike racks will be placed at proposed locations, which include access points to Powder House Hill Reservation on Pine Street and Pleasant Street, the Coolidge Point Reservation parking area on Route 127, White and Black Beaches, Agassiz Rock, and Town Hall.

In the coming months, the committee is rolling out a brochure for open spaces in Manchester. The trifold brochure will detail various open spaces in town, their access points, and parking for visitors.

Also on the docket is whether the OSRC can, in partnership with Conservation Commission, revive the Water Resource Protection Committee (WRPC) formed in the 1990s and disbanded after just one year.  Interest in water supply quality has been revived with this year's proposed 136-unit residential development on upper School Street under the 40B Massachusetts law that allows affordable housing developers to bypass local ordinances and rely instead on Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection regulations.  So, the OSRC and Conservation Commission are advocating to reestablish a temporary committee under the Conservation Commission with the goal of reviewing 1990 recommendations and revising them as deemed appropriate for the town’s current concerns.  No details on what the make up of this committee would be, and whether it would lean on state environmental watershed regulations to guide it locally in Manchester.  The Board of Selectmen will ultimately decide whether a WRPC committee is to be reestablished at this time.

The final draft of the 2021 Open Space and Recreation Plan will be complete at the end of July.  An OSRC plan, which includes goals and recommended actions, must be published once every seven years in order to allow the town to apply for grants.  The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) is currently assembling the final draft for the plan. 

Essex Board Of Selectmen

It’s a quiet time for town Boards of Selectmen now that Annual Town Meeting business is behind residents.  That said, on July 19th the Essex BOS will take up two enriching topics.  First, Bicentennial Committee Chairman Dawn Burnham will be presenting the town with a commemorative clock as a permanent reminder of the yearlong 200th town celebration in 2019.  COVID stopped the committee from presenting the gift last year.  The clock will hang in the third-floor auditorium. 

Separately, with the passing of Boston Post Cane holder Randall Lane last month, the BOS will host the presentation of the cane to its next recipient, Bonnie Jean Malcom-Brown, who at 98 years old, is the eldest living resident in Essex.  The Cricket will be there to cover the presentation of the cane.

Manchester Planning Board

Cornerstone Church, currently located at 20 School Street, proposed plans for a new building on the site on upper School Street. The Planning Board’s preliminary site review uncovered no major concerns. Questions arose about the adequacy of the building’s driveway to accommodate the necessary volume of vehicles in a small time frame. The proposed loop driveway prompted suggestions to develop a plan that involves less pavement in front of the building.

Cornerstone Church is currently raising funds to allow them to build on the site. Until funding is in place, the church is unable to begin work on the project, with the exception of planning.

Looking further ahead, the Planning Board’s primary concentration lies on a feasibility study of Manchester’s limited commercial district. The board is examining bylaws in the limited commercial district, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) is conducting market analysis. The board is examining three development scenarios: one for a commercial-only district, one for a mixed-use commercial and housing development, and one that falls between the two. Next month, the MAPC will provide the Planning Board with a report on the information gathered from the study. 

To continue their work of the past couple of years, the Planning Board is renumbering town bylaws as recommended by an attorney and making more substantive changes as needed. The board is also making progress on zoning recodification and updates in addition to solidifying initiatives for the fall. 

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