Princetown’s long-awaited comprehensive plan update was ratified this week, more than four years after the original draft of the document was produced.
Members of the Town Board approved the update by a 4-1 vote Tuesday, with Todd Edwards being the lone vote against the measure. Adopting the 74-page plan means the town will at last have a modern document guiding development to replace the one put in place more than 25 year ago.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Princetown Supervisor Mike Joyce said.
Changing the original comprehensive plan proved to be a contentious endeavor that ultimately outlasted the administrations of three different supervisors. An effort initially launched in 2006 languished for roughly 15 months until a professional consultant was brought aboard in 2008.
With the help of the consultant, the town’s nine-member Comprehensive Plan Committee produced its first draft of the document in 2009. But some board members at the time believed parts of the update placed undue hardship on landowners and added unnecessary layers of government that could prove costly to implement.
In 2010, the plan was moved to the town’s Zoning Review Committee for comment and then later to another committee that was directed to merge it with the town’s outdated plan from 1988. The result was a 55-page document that annoyed those who helped produce the original and ultimately fell by the wayside after Joyce took office in 2011.
Then last year, the revised plan was scrapped and a new 11-member update committee was formed to refresh the original 2009 draft. The committee entertained many of the same arguments of its predecessors, but ultimately produced a plan that satisfied the majority of the Town Board.
“Obviously, it’s a controversial document,” Joyce said. “But the passage of this comprehensive plan empowers the town with the ability to control its destiny now.”
Pat Bishop, who heads the town’s Planning Board and was chairwoman of the update committee until last winter, said the adopted plan “tones down” some of the more regulatory approaches taken in the 2009 draft. She said the plan aims to maintain the density of development in Princetown without infringing on the rights of property owners.
The plan includes a recommendation to create zoning that will ultimately allow for the development of a hamlet in the area of Town Hall and Route 20. Under existing zoning regulations, residential development can’t be interspersed through a commercial area.
Bishop said the passage of the plan won’t have any immediate impact, since it’s only a guide for future growth. She said the Town Board will need to appoint a zoning review committee, which will ensure the town’s land-use regulations are in compliance with the goals outlined in the plan.
“As it stands right now, people don’t have any fewer rights than before we passed it,” she said.
Bishop said having the plan is essential to protecting the rural character of Princetown — something that a majority of residents agreed was important to them during a survey conducted during the update. Without the plan, she said, large-scale development could arise in a manner that could threaten this character.
“You just never know when [development] will take off,” she said. “If you don’t have those protections in place, you could be left hanging out there.”
The adopted plan still has its share of critics, including Planning Board member and former Supervisor Nicholas Maura Jr. He said the new plan will ultimately place too many restrictions on what property owners can do with their land.
“It’s going to destroy property owners’ rights,” he said.