FAIRHAVEN — Fairhaven 2040 is nearing the startline.
Residents are still welcome to add input online, but those days are coming to an end. “The opportunities are becoming more and more limited,” said Planning and Economic Development Director Bill Roth. “It’s more of a final draft right now.”
It took time for the town to get to a final draft, with talks of a new master plan starting in 2014, said Planning Board Chair Wayne Hayward.
Hayward said that after those initial discussions, the master plan started to become “more of a reality” in 2015, which is when the formalization of the process began.
Of those initial discussions, topics that came up frequently were less ideological, and more about creating a realistic environment moving forward.
“The big thing was that the plan hadn’t been updated in years,” said Hayward. “I don’t know if our goals were specific at that point. It was just this general sense of ‘seems like we need a new comprehensive plan.’”
Hayward said the outdated plan, which was last updated in 1996, began to hinder his decision-making in his town roles, as he would often consider whether those decisions would conform to future plans.
Roth echoed this idea, saying that he, too, found himself frustrated at times with elements set up under the old plan.
“Some of the goals that are in this plan come from the day-to-day frustrations of how we are administering our development code,” said Roth.
Regarding what Fairhaven 2040 would mean for the look of the town moving forward, Roth, Hayward, and Town Administrator Mark Rees echoed the notion that sustaining the town’s history and character, while advancing certain aspects such as zoning toward more modern uses was the goal.
“The concept of sustainability is very important to these type of plans across the whole gamut,” said Rees. “I want to be able to say that what we have now, we’ve been able to improve upon and sustain it.”
Hayward said: “Our history is our future. If you don’t work to keep some of these things, they fall by the wayside.”
One of the most important parts of ensuring that the historic elements can work with modern city planning is the redevelopment of the town’s development code, according to Roth. “That’s going to be a very, very labor-intensive, tough process.”
Reshaping the Route 6 corridor is an initiative that Roth spoke to as one of the driving forces in the plan. Specifically, he mentions the closure of the Benny’s location as an example of the struggles of big-box stores — something that falls in line with industry trends, and is not specific to Fairhaven — and also a space that he thinks could represent the type of mixed-use zoning that could prove successful.
In fact, a lot of the conversation focused on this redevelopment of the zoning code. However, according to Roth, that will most likely not be the first thing to get done when the implementation happens.
“I think you have to take some of the low-hanging fruit,” said Roth. He said that to implement a zoning change, a number of barriers must be cleared, and starting out, that may not be the best way to start and sustain progress. “Let’s build on some of those things to then get to that,” he said.
Read the master plan draft at fairhaven-ma.gov/pages/FairhavenMA_MasterPlan/index.