In Massachusetts, cities and towns must create and update “master plans,” which are just what they sound like: plans for the future of the municipality that touch on everything from economic development to housing to transportation (and more). These plans help inform decision-making for local boards, committees, and Town Meetings to guide everything from zoning changes to where to invest in improvements. Creating these documents—which should be updated every 10 years—requires a significant amount of community engagement, time, and expertise, and MAPC often provides technical assistance to municipalities updating their plans. This work is a substantial part of what MAPC planning staff spend their time on.
MAPC recently prepared a master plan for the town of North Reading—its first since 2004—to help shape the Town’s growth from 2018 to 2028. As part of the work, MAPC held four public workshops, two advisory group meetings, advertised a survey with 554 respondents, and sent tax bill notices to 5,000 households.
The plan builds on this community input, past studies and plans, and analysis of existing trends to create a roadmap for the next 10 years.
Through this robust community engagement process, residents reached nine overarching goals and helped create a vision statement for what the town will look like in 2028.
The vision statement endorses working toward steady progress on five main fronts:
- protecting and celebrating natural areas
- improving and expanding the walking and biking trail system
- improving the aesthetics of the built environment, transforming Route 28 into a traditional Main Street
- strengthening the town’s community and economic development, making investments to allow greater residential choices throughout town and mixed-use development along Route 28
- Leaving a legacy for future generations
North Reading is an inviting outlying suburban town off of the Ipswich River with a strong sense of community and a solid school system that seeks to shape its future looking ahead to 2028. North Reading residents and business owners would like to take the necessary decisions and actions to enhance our community for residents of all ages. As part of our vision for the future, North Reading endeavors to protect its natural landscape, enhance and grow its existing developed or developing areas, and provide its residents with as many options as possible for healthy quality of life.
North Reading's vision for 2028 encompasses working toward steady progress on five main fronts (not in any prioritizing order). The first involves PROTECTING AND CELEBRATING ITS NATURAL AREAS and parks including the Ipswich River Park and its historic Town Common. The second relates to IMPROVING AND EXPANDING ITS WALKING AND BIKING TRAIL SYSTEM as well as sidewalks for leisure, health, and more community connections.
The third front of the Town's vision is for IMPROVING THE AESTHETICS OF THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT through straightforward urban design guidelines and gradually transforming its Route 28 into a traditional and pleasant Main Street.
The fourth involves STRENGTHENING THE TOWN'S COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. As part of this, investments and/or bylaw amendments could allow greater residential choices for all ages including senior/affordable options along Route 28 and smaller-lot single-family options in certain parts of Town; as well as mixed-use development all along Route 28 that creates more job and housing options. The Town will also strive toward creative public/private solutions for local mass transit options including trolleys and shuttles connecting to neighboring commuter rail stations.
The fifth and potentially most transformative involves LEAVING A LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS that could include a recognizable and walkable Town Center shopping village and enhanced Town facilities such as a centrally located Town Hall with a potentially integrated senior/community center or new town square.
It is hoped that the ideas in the Master Plan document will serve as our community roadmap to guide our decisions at Town Meetings and other decision-making boards and committee meetings throughout the next 10 years or so. The North Reading community hopes that through consistent decisions and actions, we can create the right conditions that will allow us to realize our goals toward creating the future we envision.
Besides seeking input from community members, MAPC planners did extensive research existing conditions in town and did a deep dive into previous plans and studies, such as the recently-completed Housing Production Plan and studies on potential Main Street redevelopment.
The resulting Master Plan includes information on existing conditions and detailed strategies and recommendations for six topics: land use and zoning, housing, transportation, open space, public facilities and services, and economic development. Recommendations get down to granular detail: what steps to take to make Main Street more walkable, where to change zoning to reach goals, and where to make sidewalk improvements, for example.
Finally, the plan ends with an implementation action table detailing the steps needed to reach the vision and the timeframe in which they should be completed.
Master plans like this one provide communities with a unified vision for the town and guidelines for how to get there, providing predictability and action guidelines for residents, businesses, developers, and elected officials. The hope is that the ideas in the Master Plan document will serve as a roadmap to guide North Reading’s decisions at Town Meetings, and other decision-making boards and committee meetings for the next 10 years.
MAPC is grateful for the opportunity to work with the Town of North Reading on assisting it to develop goals and ideas for how to shape its future.
Check out the Goals and Strategies matrix below to get an idea of the work that goes into creating these plans! Congratulations to Principal Planner Carlos Javier Montañez, who managed this project, and all staff who contributed.
What are North Reading's goals and how will they get there?
Land Use and Zoning:
Allow Main Street to become an active mixed-use traditional main street by allowing needed and supporting uses in the "Highway Business" District Expand
STRATEGY 1A: Coordinate the multi-pronged transformation of Route 28 into a traditional main street through deliberate sequencing of this first out of three primary decisions and actions related to main street transformation.
- Recommendation 1.1: Allow upper-story multifamily residential uses by-right with Site Plan Review throughout the entirety of the HB district so that it is consistent with the zoning district’s stated “intensive” and “mixed-use” objectives as well as those of the community’s master plan goals and Vision Statement. Additionally, allow residential-only multifamily developments by Special Permit with Site Plan Review. Ideally, the entirety of Main Street should not have developments that all have groundfloor residential dwelling units since they do not activate the streetscape with shopping opportunities for the community.
- Recommendation 1.2: Consider allowing hotels and motels as by-right with Site Plan Review. Consider allowing drinking places (i.e., bars) by-right to further bolster vibrancy and activity in the desired mixed-use retail district.
- Recommendation 1.3: All related “Main Street transformation” Town discussions and decisions should always provide residents and officials with the context of the three related decisions regarding rezoning, sewer and streetscape enhancements.
Create urban design guidelines to shape redevelopment along Main Street and mimic features of traditional New England shopping villages Expand
STRATEGY 2A: Coordinate the multi-pronged transformation of Route 28 into a traditional main street through deliberate sequencing of this corresponding first out of three primary decisions and actions related to main street transformation.
- RECOMMENDATION 2.1: Revisit and revise the design guidelines in the Site Plan Review regulations, and also consider moving them to the zoning by law. These give non-exhaustive examples of “desirable amenities” for the district that is indicated in the zoning’s stated purpose. Rather than keeping the focus almost exclusively on maintaining green space and certain architectural elements, as the design guidelines do now, these could also emphasize: (a) site layout guidelines for introducing multimodal vehicular/pedestrian circulation resembling streets to break up large parcels and parking areas; (b) outdoor street furniture such as benches; (c) covered outdoor seating areas with tables; and (d) small-to medium-sized hardscaped plazas or courtyards adjacent to (indented into proposed building front or side facades, or corner) to accommodate outdoor seating for customers, tenants, workers, and visitors.
- RECOMMENDATION 2.2: Provide flexibility with the minimum lot frontage requirement of 125 feet by providing smaller parcels with a “lot consolidation provision and/or incentive” to allow smaller adjacent parcels that do not meet this minimum to propose joint redevelopment proposals.
- RECOMMENDATION 2.3: Consider adding a zoning amendment with a requirement or option for “shared parking ratios” for potential joint development proposals and/or proposals submitted as part of the consolidation of smaller lots along Main Street. The “shared parking” best practice is premised on the more efficient use of parking spaces for complementary adjacent uses or those within the same mixed-use development. It should be employed only and when there are complementary uses that have different “peak-hour” usage: daytime versus evening/nighttime, and weekday versus weekend. The overall purpose is to reduce the total number of parking spaces to the extent that is possible. This shared parking recommendation is intended to work in tandem with the recommended lot consolidation option and/or mutual shared access points between the sides and rear lots of adjoining parking lots.
Allow residential RB districts (adjacent to Main and Park Streets) to potentially become villages with more housing options that are waklable to a revitalized Main Street retail Expand
STRATEGY 3A: A strategy toward achieving zoning amendments to realize housing and walkability goals, could involve separate warrant articles to allow the consideration of certain zoning adjustments to different areas of Town. This approach could isolate concerns or issues with certain changes in a given part of Town from support for changes in another part of Town.
- RECOMMENDATION 3.1: Allow more housing options and market-regulated (i.e., non-income-restricted) affordable options by allowing accessory dwelling units by-right to increase the housing options available to residents of all ages, and to provide options to all for unforeseeable life circumstances.
- RECOMMENDATION 3.2: Recalibrate RB district use and dimensional regulations for the residential districts that are in close proximity to Main Street business/retail districts in order for the Town to achieve the desired “compact, walkable mixed-use residential shopping village” stated in the Master Plan Vision Statement. This includes: (a) reducing the distances of buildings from the road and sidewalk, and (b) minimizing the distances between buildings to encourage walkability; in order to mimic the character of historic and traditional residential villages found throughout the region and state.Also explore opportunities for rezoning part of the RA district into a third zone (proximate to a rezoned and rebranded Main Street mixed-use corridor) that could allow for smaller minimum lot sizes to facilitate market-rate units that are affordable due to their limited lot sizes and dwelling unit square footages, as well as encourage walkability by reducing distances between homes and possibly walkability toward Main Street.
Allow multifamily uses by-right in the town's only multifamily RM zoning subdistrict, as well as in an expanded RM district Expand
RECOMMENDATION 4.1: The multifamily RM zoning district does not allow for multifamily uses by-right, and only allows them by Special Permit. It is recommended that the Town amend the regulation to allow multifamily uses within its RM multifamily zoning district as a by-right use with Site Plan Review. Doing so would allow the Town to start to address the housing demand and needs of residents of all age groups. It is also worth noting that this is the only area of Town zoned as RM, and that this RM district represents less than 1% of the Town’s total land area. Therefore, the opportunity to address housing needs and demand for residential options for residents of varying incomes and ages is extremely limited.The same principle applies to the existing RM district to facilitate needed residential options other than large-lot single-family homes through different parts of Town. Consideration should be given to also expanding the coverage of the RM district through a map amendment in order to provide such residential options (two-families, three-families, townhouses, ADUs, etc.) within greater proximity of the Town’s Main Street as well as Park Street.
Further protect and "market" public open spaces by creating dedicated zoning districts for them on the zoning map Expand
RECOMMENDATION 5.1: It is recommended that the Town of North Reading consider creating an Public Protected Open Space zoning district, and carve out such districts on its zoning map to reflect all publicly owned and permanently protected open spaces.
STRATEGY 7A: Form a housing implementation sub-committee for the North Reading Housing Production Plan and Master Plan.
- Work with public officials, local stakeholders, affordable housing developers, and private lenders to pursue implementation of the HPP’s goals, monitor progress, and steward the plan
STRATEGY 7B: Raise awareness of findings from the HPP and the Town's housing needs.
- Use the Housing Toolbox to find the best strategies for online and in-person engagement of the North Reading community to increase awareness among residents about housing issues and opportunities such as first time homebuyer education programs
- Hold office hours at Town Hall when stakeholders and interested parties can learn about the HPP and ask questions about implementation
- Distribute materials to the public and create training opportunities for town board members to inform them of housing needs and regulations
STRATEGY 7C: Build capacity for affordable housing development with funding and programming
- Pursue funding opportunities identified in the HPP and expand on HPP recommendations by focusing on programs for seniors
Make zoning amendments to allow housing options and affordability for all ages and ever-changing life circumstances Expand
STRATEGY 8A: Make zoning changes specified in this plan that allow the Town to meet the state 10% subsidized housing inventory requirement
- Establish a town-wide inclusionary zoning by-law. Base the Affordable Housing requirement percent on a town specific housing market analysis. Provide development incentives such as a density bonus to off-set the costs of Affordable Housing development and encourage more Affordable units to be built. 65+
- Consider 40R Zoning in areas where higher density residential development is supported by the public. Utilize state funding from 40R zoning to help finance the infrastructure needed to support mixed-use development and residential development.
STRATEGY 8B: Change the highway business zone along Main Street to a renamed Main Street mixed-use zone
- Create housing opportunities in this area to increase spending power that supports existing and new businesses
- Allow vertical mixed-use housing, townhouses, condominiums, duplexes, multifamily housing, accessory dwelling units, and other community-supported housing types in this zone
- Expedite the permitting process and allow desired housing types supported by the public by right
STRATEGY 8C: Make zoning changes specified in this plan that encourage a variety of housing types along Main Street
- Relax building height limits, parking requirements, and open space regulations to encourage development of mixed-use and multi-family development and townhouses
STRATEGY 8D: Consider changes to single-family zones that allow for more naturally occurring affordable housing that is consistent with the scale and character of existing housing
- Consider reducing the minimum lot size in the RB and RA residential zones, or rezoning a portion of RA into a new residential zone with smaller minimum lot sizes.
- Allow pocket neighborhoods, small-lot single-family homes, clustered open space subdivisions, accessory dwelling units, and housing types that allow seniors to age in place in the RB and RA zones by right
- Consolidate residential zones that have minor or insignificant differences in dimensional regulations
Address housing need and demand by identifying suitable parts of town for compact residential development proposals that also can afford future residents with walkability to nearby retail and future transit options Expand
STRATEGY 9A: Meet the HPP target of 190 affordable housing units by developing on strategic town-owned parcels when appropriate
- Prioritize development of rental units. 80% of new housing should be rental housing to meet the needs of single-person households, seniors, and the work force as identified in the HPP
- Prioritize the development of starter homes and housing types that have lower down payments such as small lot single-family homes, duplexes, townhouses condominiums, and cottage houses
- Prioritize the development of more housing for seniors and single-person households that meet universal design standards and ADA requirements
STRATEGY 9B: Use the Local Initiative Program (LIP) for friendly 40B comprehensive permitting in areas supported by North Reading residents
- Identify a list of sites well suited for the LIP program where the 40B process could remove barriers to Affordable Housing development
STRATEGY 9C: Build housing near existing and planned transit so seniors, youth, and commuters have opportunities to get around town and beyond
- Facilitate housing development along Main Street and near a potential“park-and-ride” lot and shuttle bus headed toward Concord-Street/I-93 & Anderson, Wilmington and Reading stations
Transportation and Circulation
Transform Route 28 from a highway to a safe and walkable Main Street with streetscape improvements to attract redevelopment with leisure retail shops Expand
STRATEGY 10A: Coordinate the multi-pronged transformation of Route 28 into a traditional main street through deliberate sequencing of this last out of three primary decisions and actions(zoning, sewer and streetscape improvements) related to main street transformation.
- In concert with broader sewer investment and rezoning decisions related to the overall goal of a Main Street transformation, the Town should definitively initiate the Project Development Process with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) in order to explore ideas for traffic calming, pedestrian improvements, “road diets”, and Complete Streets principles. Ideas could include those explored as part of the 2015 Main Street Redesign Concepts (on page 45) as well as others involving the reduction of the four-lane roadway into three lanes with a center turning lane. Initiating the MassDOT process can help the Town on how to proceed with funding, final designs, and roadway construction. The goal is to advance decision-making on the redesign approach, funding sources, and to have final construction plans ready once the Town has already rezoned Main Street, and had sewer installed along it. The goal is to not have to significant gaps between these large actions, and to avoid the unfortunate scenario of sewer installation ripping up recently installed streetscape improvements.
- All related “Main Street transformation” Town discussions and decisions should always provide residents and officials with the context of the three related decisions regarding rezoning, sewer and streetscape enhancements.
Expand senior and veteran paratransit services and partner with major employers to extend service to commuters and children for better mobility for all Expand
STRATEGY 11A: Determine if the Ring & Ride pilot program’s trip patterns might lend themselves to being developed into a more efficient shuttle or flexible fixed-route service.
- Work with adjacent towns such as Wilmington and Reading to see if they are interested in a pilot program for subsidized Uber, Lyft and taxi rides.
- Monitor other similar sized towns to see what transportation pilot programs might develop that could be applied to North Reading. This includes monitoring the outcomes of ride hailing partnerships in Massachusetts in similar communities –such as Needham, MetroWest and Attleboro --to determine if a subsidized ride program might help fill the gaps in transportation not provided by the Ring & Ride service
- Eventually extend the service to/from the Reading, Wilmington or Anderson/Woburn commuter rail stations (similar to the Ring & Ride service to the Rowley station). This will help North Reading residents connect with MBTA bus and commuter rail
STRATEGY 11B: Work with the MVRTA and major employers along Concord Street’s Riverpark business park to explore the feasibility of public-private partnership that could serve the transit needs of residents and office workers through services such as shuttle buses, and joint procurement and/or partial subsidization of ride-sharing minivan pools.
- Explore shuttle bus service between Riverpark’s major businesses, designated stops elsewhere in North Reading, and/or potential Park & Ride lot. Also, consider a second “transit anchor/destination” near Andover’s Ballardvalle MBTA commuter station that may have also enough density of employers to support shuttles. While this may not directly serve North Reading residents as well as the Concord Street / Riverpark location, the relative proximity of these two potential shuttle-bus transit nodes could mutually reinforce each other to secure enough ridership and transit service.
- Additional shuttle options could be explored in areas that have lower density and but still have concentrations of employment. While these geographic areas did not score high in the suitability analysis, they were identified as concentrated areas of development through the stakeholder engagement process and in the more refined geographic analysis. Among these areas identified by the mobility study, was a potential peak-period shuttle that could operate between the Anderson/Woburn station and the employment cluster around Concord Street near the I-93 interchange. See the following map excerpt from that plan.
STRATEGY 11C: Continue and coordinate on-going Park & Ride lot with the preceding two strategies
- Ensure that whatever chosen park and ride lot, does not conflict with other Master Plan goals such as ideal site for private redevelopment potential, or transformative capacity as a site for consolidated Town facility or signature outdoor social gathering town square.
Encourage walkability by constructing needed sidewalk improvements and other multimodal Complete Streets improvements Expand
STRATEGY12A: Continue the implementation of the Town’s approved 2017 Complete Streets Plan in order to deliver walkability, biking and trail options to its residents.
- Prioritize the following Complete Streets projects since they also complement other Master Plan goals: (a) Sidewalk installation Projects S1, S2, 7, and 2 for Main Street, Lowell Road, Driveway Park Street and Central Street; (b) Ramp and crosswalks Projects S3 and 15 for Winter Street and Park/Peabody/Haverhill/Elm/Tower/Hill streets; (c) Six Proposed Rail Trail Entry Points for Project 14 along Route 28 to Lynnfield Town Line;and (d) Line Striping for Separate Bike Lane and Route Signs for Project 11 for Concord Street, and from Park Street to Wilmington Town Line.
- Continued advocacy on the part of Town of North Reading officials and residents to get the Town’s proposed “Conceptual Park Street improvements” project approved and funded by the State in its Boston MPO 2040 Long-Range Transportation Plan.
- Continue to provide a diversified selection of year‐round recreational programs for residents of all ages, incomes, and abilities.
- Implement management strategies for the upkeep, maintenance and enhanced access of/to all recreational resources. Continue the recently initiated process of compiling and publishing an inventory list for each park and all of its amenities.The Town will begin a new Open Space and Recreation Plan in summer 2019.
- Regularly assess recreation needs of residents and continue to plan for necessary improvements to existing facilities and programs to meet these needs, including assessing accessibility of Town recreational facilities.
STRATEGY14A: Provide opportunities for safe walking and biking in NorthReading
- Utilize sidewalks, walking paths, and bike lanes to connect open spaces and cultural/historic assets and connect residential neighborhoods to major destinations.
- Designate locations for sidewalks and bike lanes and develop design guidelines sympathetic to the character of North Reading’s landscape and open space.
- Further North Reading’s Complete Streets work to provide safe walking and biking in North Reading and surrounding communities.
STRATEGY14B: Create ways to provide adequate access to open spaces and natural resources for all ages and mobility levels.
- Identify land available for development of neighborhood parks to provide all residents with recreation areas that are easily accessible, walkable, safe, and appropriately equipped for the population they serve.
- Build more quality trails at existing open space areas specifically for seniors, baby strollers, and wheelchairs.
- A number of facilities in North Reading do not contain accessibility measures, and efforts to improve/update open spaces should include ways to make all sites fully ADA-compliant.
STRATEGY14C: Expand and improve access to public open space and recreation areas.
- Produce comprehensive maps of Town open spaces and recreation resources identifying parking, access points, trails, and permitted uses.
- Improve signage at conservation areas in town.
- Develop and connect a town‐wide system of multi‐use trails through existing Town open space lands, access easements, and public right‐of‐ways.
- Expand indoor recreation facilities.
STRATEGY 15A: Protect surface and groundwater resources to ensure a sustainable supply of drinking water and to preserve and restore the ecological integrity of the Ipswich River Watershed.
- Protect drinking water quality by preventing contamination, runoff, and diversion of water that directly contributes to aquifer recharge.
STRATEGY 15B: Protect North Reading’s unique natural features to maintain biological diversity and preserve the Town’s scenic qualities.
- Integrate historic and scenic resource protection into open space planning strategies.
- Continue efforts to monitor and implement clean up strategies for Town waterways.
- Continue to encourage and promote town‐wide water saving techniques.
- Identify and eliminate sources of point and non‐point pollution in all Town water bodies.
- Continue to educate residents about the influence of surface water on the town’s groundwater.
- Protect corridors and minimize habitat fragmentation in natural areas that have high value for preservation of wildlife habitat, rare plants and animals, woodlands, wetlands, and waterways.
- Encourage private and public development that protects open space systems and enhances natural resources. Improve Town zoning and development standards and regulations to support protection of natural resources.
- Identify natural resources in North Reading that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and develop long-term strategies to protect those resources.
STRATEGY16A: Coordinate protection and management of natural resource areas, recreational resources, and open spaces with multiple jurisdictions.
- Cooperate with neighboring towns and regional entities to plan and develop regional recreational areas and trail networks.
STRATEGY 16B: Plan and coordinate protection of lands of conservation and recreation interest.
- Strategically acquire and protect land based upon past planning efforts and smart growth principles.
- Encourage private land conservation measures.
STRATEGY 16C: Manage town open space properties to protect natural resources while encouraging appropriate public use.
- Establish a public land use and access policy for all Town lands to guide public access and land management planning.RECOMMENDATION 16.5-Evaluate town‐owned undesignated open space to dedicate portions to conservation or recreation use.RECOMMENDATION 16.6-Provide a cost‐effective means of monitoring and maintaining town‐owned open space to prevent overuse, illegal dumping, unauthorized trail creation, and resource degradation.RECOMMENDATION 16.7-Cooperate with neighboring towns and regional entities to design compatible and integrated management strategies for natural resource areas
Public Facilities and Services
STRATEGY 17A: Develop new department facilities and infrastructure capable of meeting current service needs and projected future demand, in accordance with the anticipated Facilities Master Plan
- Continue planning for an intergenerational community center, to include selected Town offices as well as a senior and youth center. Conside a location that is central, accessible, and compatible with the uses proposed to be contained within it, and has good synergy with its surroundings.
- Consider a more centrally located Town Hall, potentially exploring a Main Street location to improve resident access and convenience.
- Relocate overhead utilities -Pursue funding that will allow utilities to be placed underground along Main Street, substantially improving the visual character of the area.
- Determine adequacy of telecommunications infrastructure, service and coverage in the Concord Street Study Area, identify upgrades/improvements needed.
STRATEGY 17B: Complete routine maintenance and renovations which allow host Departments to fulfill their missions.
- Complete ongoing repairs and restoration of facilities identified in the yearly Capital Improvement Plan (ongoing).
Provide adequete funding for infrastructure and public facility improvements on an annual basis Expand
STRATEGY 18A: Continue to fund and support the Capital Improvement Planning process to ensure department equipment is adequate enough to fulfill duties and resources are efficiently distributed.
STRATEGY 18B: Fund water and capital sewer projects
- Continue progress toward installing sewer service to properties along Concord Street and Main Street/Route 28 through GLSD.
- Explore the feasibility and desirability of package sewer treatment plants to support growth in concentrated commercial areas specifically, Main Street,should municipal sewerage be determined to not be feasible in the near future. If installed in the interim, plan package treatment plans to be compatible with sewer line connections in the future.
STRATEGY 18C: Provide sufficient funding for road and sidewalk repairs
- Continue to diversify the sources of funding for roadwork to decrease reliance on uncertain state and federal funds
- Allocate funds for sidewalk repair annually.
- Continue to consider leveraging Complete Streets funds with “seed money” from the CPC’s Community Development Fund and Capital requests
STRATEGY 18D: Fund stormwater improvements.
- Continue to fund stormwater improvements through the Town’s general fund.RECOMMENDATION 18.8-Allocate annual funding for compliance with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater permit
- Explore the feasibility and desirability of a stormwater utility to fund stormwater improvement projects.
Create an organized and holistic approach to community-wide infrastructure improvements Expand
STRATEGY 19A: Create safe and convenient connections for all users between neighborhoods and destinations, including commercial uses, parks, and public buildings.
- Enhance the Town’s streetscape standards in commercial and residential districts, to address not only sidewalk design, but also streetscape furniture (benches, trash receptacles, lighting), street trees and landscape requirements.
- Collaborate with the State to install improved “T”-Shaped intersection and traffic calming features along Main Street, such as improved pedestrian crossings (crosswalks, center island crossings, signage).
- Require pedestrian-friendly site design, such as providing pedestrian access from the street to the building and orienting buildings toward the primary public street, rather than a parking area for any new and future development.
- Institute a build-to-line for the Local, General and Highway Business districts to ensure future development remains compatible with pedestrian and bicycle activity
- Conduct a mapped inventory of streets and bicycle facilities to identify locations for designated bicycle routes and locations for improved facilities (bike parking, bike lanes, shared streets,etc.). It is also recommended that the Town take the next steps in design and pursuing TIP funding based on the recommendations from the Rail Trail Feasibility Study.
- Advocate for the establishment of MBTA bus stops/service in North Reading, especially along the Main Street (Route 28) corridor to link residences with local businesses, adjacent communities and regional train nodes.
Achieve Route 28 transforming into a walkable, mixed-use Main Street with a new town center by removing barriers Expand
RECOMMENDATION 20.1: All related “Main Street transformation” Town discussions and decisions should always provide residents and officials with the context of the three related decisions regarding rezoning, sewer and streetscape enhancements.
- Rezone according to details in the Land Use & Zoning Element in order to allow the desired uses by-right.
- Pursue State permission and funding to redesign Route 28 from a highway into a reduced safer traffic-calmed pedestrian Main Street that is conducive to successful leisure retail uses.
- Invest in localized sewer infrastructure along Main Street in order to literally support the wastewater treatment needs of high-water usage retail and residential uses.
RECOMMENDATION 20.2: Coordinate the multi-pronged transformation of Route 28 intoa traditional Main Street through the deliberate sequencing of the three primary decisions.
- The Town could initiate and pursue discussions on all three fronts for rezoning, localized sewer along Main Street, and streetscape redesign permission and funding.
- The Town can complete zoning amendments with urban design guidelines and/or streetscape improvement final design plans.
- However, the actual construction of streetscape improvements should not occur until after localized sewer along Main Street has been installed so as to not unnecessarily rip up streetscape improvements.
- The Town should finalize, approve and install localized sewer along Main Street.
Decisively state upfront to prospective businesses how residents want to see Main Street transformed with urban design guidelines Expand
RECOMMENDATION 21.1: Create specific enough but not overly prescriptive urban design guidelines to save all parties review time, and minimize potential opposition. Leverage the guidelines with Site Plan Review. Consider the following guidelines for inclusion:
- Pedestrian Main Street oriented site plan layouts with the building placement as close as possible to a future Main Street with sidewalks, cafes, seating areas and slower traffic.
- Strategic/flexible open space requirements where some or most is required near the front building entrance to create usable space.
- Closer "build-to"lines to create a "streetwall".
- Reduced front yard parking with outdoor seating areas and amenities.
- Majority of the parking to the rear and sides, with potential incentives for encouraging shared "side yard" parking lot access points to minimize traffic congestion for those driving to next-door developments.
- Lot consolidation incentives to encourage the redevelopment of adjacent parcels that might be too small to be redeveloped individually.
Address community development needs for housing options not limited to only a transformed Main Street Expand
RECOMMENDATION 22.1: Housing options are needed for seniors, young adults, and those with limited mobility and/or unforeseen life circumstances. These housing options should not be limited to only within a rezoned mixed-use/residential Main Street but also to a different extent within certain nearby, smaller-lot residential neighborhoods. Details are specified in the Housing Element of the Master Plan.
RECOMMENDATION 23.1: Remain vigilant to maintain the Town’s percentage of free cash within the State’s recommended 5-15%target range to have a healthy municipal reserve for unforeseen circumstances.
RECOMMENDATION 23.2: Beyond desired access for retail shops, potential office related job creation, and more residential options, the Town should allow for more of these land uses by-right in order to recalibrate the Town’s property tax base to be less dependent on single-family residential property taxes.
RECOMMENDATION 24.1: State regional Metro North WDA industry and job projections foresee growth in the professional/technical/ scientific, and hospitality-related industry sectors. Allow these uses by-right in Town zoning, and make these zoning changes prominently known on theTown website, at business associations, and the Chamber of Commerce in order to attract exiting major regional employers who could be potentially looking to relocate or expand.