This Master Plan for the Town of Charlemont, Massachusetts, was developed over a three year period as the joint effort of the residents of Charlemont, the members of various Town boards, and the graduate planning students and faculty from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Massachusetts. Given the process, the wide range of public input, and the many discussions of the goals and elements of this plan, it is accurate to say that it is a good representation of the town's goals. The purpose of this plan is to serve as a set of guiding principals for the future of the town. It is a collective expression of how the community views itself and what it would like to become. It is reasonable to say that the vast majority of residents like their town and they would like it to stay much as it is while continuing to emphasize its good characteristics and address its weaknesses. The people of Charlemont would like to see growth at a moderate pace and in ways that preserve its fundamentally rural character, the wonderful natural amenities, and style of life that make it what it is.
A Master Plan is a long range plan that guides development in a town through a vision of what residents would like their town to be in the future. It is a comprehensive document that looks at all aspects of a community including natural resources, agricultural resources, recreation, historic resources, transportation, public infrastructure and municipal services, economic development, housing, and land use. Additional sections may be added if a community would like to address other issues more specifically. The Master Plan includes mapping, inventory, analysis, and recommended strategies for accomplishing the goals and objectives of the town. It may also include a capital improvement program to coordinate large-scale expenditures with the goals of the Master Plan. This is a plan created by and for the citizens of Charlemont.
The Town of Charlemont began their Master Planning process in 1998 when a Graduate Regional Planning Studio from the University of Massachusetts was asked to write a Master Plan Background Document (available in Town Hall). This document includes the results of a community survey, interviews with town residents, inventories of town resources, and analysis of various needs and opportunities. This research was used as the basis upon which to formulate goals and objectives and to suggest possible strategies to help the town achieve its goals.
In Fall 2001, a second Graduate Regional Planning Studio was enlisted to write a final Master Plan that the Town of Charlemont could debate and adopt through its Planning Board as the Plan that would guide decisions in the town over the next ten years. This recent stage in the Master Planning process used the Background Document as a foundation. The Studio group used results from a Charlemont Public Vision Forum (see Appendix), and feedback from the Master Plan Committee through meetings held twice a month (See Appendix) as guidance for generating the recommended actions listed in the Master Plan. Over sixty of the town's residents attended the Vision Forum held on Monday, October 15, 2001, thus providing a good expression of their vision for the future of the community. The basic elements of the Master Plan took shape at that time and those elements that the town viewed as its primary assets were clearly identified, as were its liabilities. Certain issues in the plan were thus given greater emphasis and one issue, the town center, was given its own section in addition to the nine required sections of the Master Plan.
The reason the Town of Charlemont undertook this major effort was to provide guidance in making future planning decisions. Many residents are concerned about issues such as the impact that Route 2 has on their community, the impact of recreational activities on the Deerfield River, and the economic and other effects that the thousands of annual recreational visitors could have on their future. Though Charlemont is located at the foot of the Berkshire Hills between two larger economic centers, Greenfield and North Adams, the town has not been subject to unusual economic or residential development pressures. Charlemont has maintained its rural character and is home to many residents who have settled in town for that reason. The Select Board and Planning Board, recognizing the potential for external pressures to influence future development, decided to take a proactive stance and take part in developing this Master Plan. The Master Plan Committee, established to manage this planning process, requested that implementation strategies, that would help municipal officials obtain future assistance and funding, be included in the Master Plan.
The Master Plan identifies many efforts in which town residents can become involved. To facilitate participation, an overview of the Master Plan (available in Town Hall) was also created and made available for all town residents. This shorter summary of the Master Plan provides town residents with a quick guide to the key steps the town will need to take in the near future. The next challenge will be sustaining the enthusiasm necessary to implement the recommendations in this plan.