2020 Master Plan FAQ

This page answers typical questions asked about he 2020 Master Plan:

What is the Master Plan?

The Master Plan guides decisions on the long-term physical development of Winchester. It provides a detailed overview of current land use – for housing, economic development, natural and cultural resources, an open space – as well as a vision of how Winchester should evolve. It is a pragmatic embodiment of the community’s goals and values, providing qualitative, quantitative, and logistical guidance for implementing the communal vision.

As Winchester’s needs and goals evolve and as economic and development forces flux, the Master Plan must also change, so that it consistently reflects the Town’s vision.

Why is the Master Plan necessary?

The answer to this question comes in three parts:

The first is legal – Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 41 § 81D requires that the Town develop a
Master Plan.

The second is pragmatic – the course of development is directed by a number of quasi-independent actors, including the Planning Board, the Select Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Design Review Committee, the Building Commissioner, the Historical Commission, the Conservation Commission, and the Zoning Enforcement Officer. While each of these abides by Town and State rules and regulations, their actions must also be measured against the Master Plan’s concrete planning elements to ensure consistency with its vision.

The last, but arguably most important answer, is philosophical. The Master Plan brings together in cohesive form the voices and concerns of Winchester’s residents. It negotiates conflicting values and priorities, accommodating them were possible and practical, always striving for an understanding of what is best for the Town as a whole while still being sensitive to individual needs.

Why should I care about the Master Plan?

Are you concerned about traffic volume, pedestrian safety, tree cover and greenscape, public spaces for gathering or recreation? Are you interested in preserving the historic character of Winchester’s buildings, both public and private? Do you worry about affordability of housing for elders, young families, your children? Do you want to have a voice in how the Town evolves in the future? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you already care. 

The Master Plan sets the parameters for long-term management of land development and conservation. It sets targets for building preservation and new construction. It envisions the future and provides the foundation for the Zoning By-laws and Regulations, providing context and direction for them as well as their interpretation.

Why is the Master Plan being updated now?

Typically Master Plans are amended and adjusted every decade or so, but Winchester’s Master Plan hasn’t been completely updated in over 50 years. More than simple tweaking is required! In 2009 the Planning Board, after a series of Town wide and targeted meetings and conversations, produced a “Phase I Report” on the topics of

  • Housing
  • Neighborhoods
  • Town Center
  • Economic Development

This document guided the creation of the Central Business District in the Town’s Zoning Bylaw,which was adopted in 2016.

However, much has changed over the last nine years:

  • The growth of our school population has required multiple expansions of existing and construction of new facilities;
  • Consumers’ shift from brick-and-mortar to on-line stores has fundamentally changed the economics of small town commercial areas;
  • The remarkable rise in housing prices and lack of any real increase in housing stock has made purchasing a home in Winchester out of reach for most.
  • The inevitability of climate change requires new modes of thinking, as we juggle the need to preserve habitat and species, create denser, low-impact housing, improve transportation, and mitigating climate change’s impacts.

In addition to examining topics not covered in the earlier effort, we will need to revisit some of those that were.

Who is involved in updating the Master Plan?

Anyone willing to share their opinion! A healthy conversation within our community is vital to the success of the Master Plan, whether during its development and when it is put into practice. To that end, as described elsewhere, there will be a number of community meetings where residents can join the conversation and voice their opinions and concerns. Emailed comments are also welcome. All comments become part of the public record.

More formally, the Planning Board has formed a Master Plan Steering Committee, composed of Town Meeting Members from each of the Town’s eight precincts, as well as representatives from the Historical Commission, the Conservation Commission, and the Design Review Committee. The Steering Committee aids the Planning Board by providing feedback and analyses throughout the process of creating the Master Plan. The Planning Board has also contracted with a consultant (the Massachusetts Area Planning Commission) to aid it in completing the first stage in upgrading the Plan, and is submitting a Request for Proposals for a consultant for the remainder of the work. The Planning Board is ultimately responsible for the Master Plan.

How will You be involved?

In addition to an initial kick-off meeting and a survey, we are planning a number of community conversations, where residents can engage in discussion with each other and with the Planning Board. These are the most important events in the update process. Emailed comments are also welcome. All comments become part of the public record. In addition, the Master Plan Steering Committee meets regularly. The meetings are open to the public. Meeting times are posted on the Town’s Government Calendar. To be added to a mailing list to be notified of upcoming meetings, please send email.

How is the Master Plan being developed?

The Plan is being developed in several phases:

  1. An informal Town-wide survey
  2. A kick-off meeting to introduce the Master Plan and the update process
  3. Community conversations focusing on particular planning elements, such as Housing, Economic Development, Open Spaces.

Finally, the Planning Board and the Planning Board’s contracted consultant, with the help of the Master Plan Steering Committee. will incorporated all that it has learned into a draft Master Plan, which will be presented to the community at another community wide meeting.

What is the time line for completion?

We hope to complete the public input portion of the Master Plan by Fall of 2018. Our plan is for the final document to be available early 2019.

What does the Master Plan include?

The statutory requirements are set out fully in Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 41 § 81D. In summary, the Master Plan must include:

  1. plans for Winchester’s future growth and development;
  2. an inventory of present land use and the proposed distribution, location and inter-relationship of public and private land uses;
  3. the identification of existing and forecast housing needs and objectives including programs for the preservation, improvement and development of housing;
  4. policies and strategies for the expansion or stabilization of the local economic base and the promotion of employment opportunities;
  5. an inventory of significant natural, cultural and historic resource areas, as well as policies and strategies for the protection and management of such areas;
  6. an identification of recreational resources and open space areas, and policies and strategies for their management and protection;
  7. analyses of existing and forecast needs for facilities and services used by the public;
  8. an inventory of existing and proposed circulation and transportation systems;
  9. the definition and scheduling of specific actions necessary to achieve the objectives of each element of the Master Plan (for example, recommendations for changes to the Zoning By-laws).

Master Plan Steering Committee

Precinct Representatives

Precinct
Representative
1
Denis Collet
2
Kerri Layton
3
Jay Melkonian
4
Robin Wolf
5
Joyce Westner
6
James Johnson
7
Magda Ferrari
8
Sherry Winkelman

Board, Commission, and Town Representatives

Board / Commission
Representative
Conservation Commission
Zeke Sims/David Miller
Design Review Committee
Tracy Burnhams
Historical Commission
John Clemson
Planning Board
Diab Jerius
Planning Board
Elizabeth Cregger
Planning Board
Heather von Mering
Planning Board
Maureen Meister
Planning Board

Town Planner
Heather Hannon

Brian Szekely