LONGMEADOW — The town of Longmeadow hosted an online forum on May 21 to discuss its proposed long-range plan. The plan will serve as a roadmap for creating a climate-resilient and equitable community over the next 10 to 20 years.

It focuses on various quality-of-life issues, such as climate resilience, social equity, development, land use, municipal services, public health, education, and housing.

Judi Barrett from Barrett Planning Group LLC, based in Hingham, was the main presenter, and Assistant Town Manager Corrine Meise-Munns moderated the forum. Barrett walked through the draft plan, open for public comment until June 6.

Barrett explained that the plan follows traditional organization. It starts with a vision for the community and outlines goals for each major component, with sustainability and equity as overarching themes.
She highlighted that the plan looks to make Longmeadow a climate-resilient community through formal and informal measures. It includes actions by the municipality, larger organizations, residents, and businesses.
Equity in the plan focuses on ensuring everyone has access to communication and can make informed decisions, particularly in response to natural hazards. Barrett noted that a community can only be sustainable by considering equity.

The plan addresses these themes by integrating them into each component of the master plan, such as land use, infrastructure, natural resources, cultural heritage, economic development, housing and municipal services.
Barrett set the goals for each area, such as promoting sustainable design in new developments, improving infrastructure for various modes of transportation, conserving natural resources, enhancing cultural resources and expanding affordable housing options.

She discussed the importance of staying updated with evolving industry standards to maintain climate resilience.

The plan includes a comprehensive implementation program structured around guiding principles for sustainability and equity. Barrett described the plan’s organization, including its table of contents and the significance of the appendix sections.

A key aspect focuses on climate resilience. Barrett defined a climate-resilient community with a healthy natural environment, adaptable infrastructure, and services that withstand future conditions.

An overarching goal is to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to existing threats.

The plan’s development involved significant community engagement, including a long-range plan steering committee, a capital improvement planning process working group and an age-friendly task force.

The groups met regularly and contributed to the planning process by focusing on climate science, public facility decisions, and equity for all age groups.

Additionally, the consulting team conducted focus groups, interviews and a community survey to gather input and understand the town’s needs. This feedback was crucial in shaping the baseline document and overall plan.
Barrett emphasized the importance of land use and transportation planning in achieving equity and resilience in Longmeadow, especially given the town’s low-density settlement patterns.

She noted the need to diversify the transportation system and prioritize equitable economic development initiatives, addressing the needs of vulnerable populations, such as access to capital, job creation and educational opportunities.

Critical elements of a master plan in Massachusetts include land use, transportation, natural and cultural resources, open space, housing, economic development and community facilities. Each element’s relationship to sustainability and equity is assessed.

Barrett noted that land use shapes the community’s physical, social, economic and environmental aspects and is crucial for long-range planning. Past and present land use policies are evaluated to align future development with appropriate locations and needs, considering climate resilience and equity.

Transportation affects equity, energy consumption, and access to resources. A well-functioning transportation system provides safety and mobility, contributing to climate resilience and equity.

Barrett stressed diversifying the transportation system to reduce car reliance and address the needs of lower-income residents.

Natural and cultural resources are inventoried for their current state and accessibility, ensuring they are available to everyone. Open space and recreation areas are vital for quality of life, public health and climate resilience, especially for those without easy access.

Barrett highlighted the town’s single-family residential development pattern, impacting housing affordability and climate resilience. Addressing housing needs is crucial for equity, particularly for senior and low-income residents.

Economic development involves job creation, quality of life and equity. Barrett stressed the importance of recognizing community needs and creating supportive policies, including access to capital, job programs, and educational opportunities for disadvantaged populations.

Community facilities and services are essential for climate resilience and equity. Vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly and those with health conditions, are more affected by climate change. Ensuring accessibility to public facilities and services is crucial.

The implementation program of the plan is organized around its goals, with specific actions for each element. Barrett outlined key actions for natural resources, transportation, cultural resources, open space, housing, economic development, and community facilities,

Barrett recommended prioritizing tasks in a master plan, distinguishing urgent tasks needing immediate attention from those that can wait.

Urgency and impact are different. Urgency is about timing, while impact measures how many people benefit. High-impact actions significantly affect many people, while low-impact actions have a smaller scope.

Each task in the plan includes responsibilities and urgency-impact assessments to ensure clear delegation and focus. The plan’s appendices cover regulatory barriers, hidden communities, and capital improvements.

The plan will be available for public comment until June 6 and will be reviewed on June 5 in a joint meeting. Once adopted, implementation can start immediately, with Barrett urging prompt action on critical tasks.

Dennis Hohenberger
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