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Residents' comments are vital in upcoming city zoning review.

Byline: Frederick C. Rushton

COLUMN: AS I SEE IT

Worcester is on the rise, and we need your help. We are in the process of starting a fresh review of our zoning laws.

For the City Council to do the best job possible we need input from residents citywide. The review of our zoning laws should not be left to just the "experts" since much "good" zoning is common sense.

During the past year we reviewed and passed a zoning omnibus amendment which had been languishing for almost 4 years. During this review I learned a great deal about how our zoning laws are behind the curve.

The new review will start on Jan. 25 when the council's Land Use committee meets. The goal of the review is to spur growth which is compatible with our neighborhoods. I feel it is important that the new review of our zoning laws be done in a compact period of time. Therefore, I have set a goal to complete the review by June.

There are two reasons I feel the review must be timely.

First, the longer you have for review, the less the public becomes interested. Setting a deadline will keep us focused and energized on making this new zoning amendment a dynamic document.

Second, stringing out the review leaves developers in limbo as to how they may develop the property.

The review will be a comprehensive review of our laws, but to give an idea of the type of areas of review I will discuss four areas today. The four areas are "design review": life sciences, manufacturing, illuminated signs and wind power.

Worcester is the home to the three-decker and other marvelous examples of architecture. One downside of our recent growth is some of the new properties built are just plain ugly and do not fit the character of the neighborhood. The character and beauty our three-deckers and other buildings provided us for centuries is being eaten away by the new development.

Anyone who has driven by the house put in sideways on Pleasant Street, or has seen the new bunker-style pawn shop being built near downtown understands the need for our new zoning law to have a "design review" component.

Life sciences are taking off in Worcester. Times are exciting here, as we have transformed ourselves into the epicenter for start-up biotechnology companies. In 25 years we have gone from zero jobs to almost 2,000 life science jobs. We can show the life science industry we value it by recognizing it is a new form of manufacturing.

We need to develop a separate "life science manufacturing" definition. Presently, life science manufacturing is lumped in with the Wyman Gordon/Saint Gobain style of manufacturing which limits the parts of the city the start-ups can be placed. Life science traditionally is a quiet form of manufacturing done in enclosed, fully ventilated buildings. As a result, we need to be more flexible about where these companies can be located.

Illuminated signs are popping up all over the city. Besides being tacky, the light projecting from the signs can be intrusive on neighbors. Worcester needs to a develop a formula as to where, how big and how intense these signs can be when displayed.

Wind power is here - only it is nowhere in our zoning laws. As a country we are finally waking up to the need for alternative, sustainable forms of energy. Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray, myself and District 2 Councilor Philip P. Palmieri have looked into parts of the airport property and other city-owned land as potential sites for wind farms. Holy Name is holding a discussion on Jan. 17 to see if the high school on Granite Street is a good site for wind power. Before we proceed, we need to develop some parameters about where, how tall and how dense the wind turbines can be.

When we start our review on Jan. 25, I hope residents join to help shape our future.

Frederick C. Rushton is the Worcester city councilor representing District 5.

NAME: WORCESTER CITY COUNCIL
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Title Annotation:COMMENTARY
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 15, 2007
Words:679
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