Town officials want to know what kind of town Watertown residents want to see in the help come up with a Comprehensive Plan for future development in town.
Residents will have a chance to share their thoughts and participate in other ways over the next 15 months when two consulting firms – Vannasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. (VHB) and Sasaki Associates – hold meetings to create the Comprehensive plan.
The two firms are no strangers to town, as both have offices in Watertown. VHB has done comprehensive plans in a number of communities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, including Southborough, Charlton and Bedford, N.H., said Ken Schwartz, VHB's director of planning.
The plan will combine a wide range of areas – including business development, open space, housing and transportation – to make one master plan, which the town has not had, said Steve Magoon, director of Economic Development and Planning.
"Despite the wonderful people who live and work here, Watertown has suffered for a lock of long range planning," Magoon said.
Among the keys to a successful comprehensive plan, said Project Manager Ralph Willmer of VHB, are engaging the public and focusing on implementation.
The consultants will meet with officials in Town Hall, as well as members of the Town Council and other boards and committees. Public meetings will be held, Willmer said, and the consultants will create a website, make fliers and questionnaires, as well as get word out on social media, Willmer said.
Recently, the town's planning has been piecemeal, said Town Council President Steve Corbett.
Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis noted that in recent plans, such as the economic development plans, consultants came back with recommendations that were never discussed in public meetings. She said she hopes that does not happen with the comprehensive plan.
She added that getting Watertown residents to participate is not always easy.
"We have had the experience that people did not come out to meetings until a project planned in their backyard comes forward, when it is too late," Kounelis said.
The Town Council approved transferring $99,750 from the Town Council Reserve account to pay for the consultants work.