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Yes. Any significant amendments need approval of Town Meeting and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). For example, if a property that was not identified in the plan were to be added for possible acquisition, the plan would need to be amended and approved by Town Meeting and the DHCD.
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In 2007-2009, the South Hadley master-planning process identified five core initiatives during its robust public engagement process. The number one core initiative was the revitalization of South Hadley Falls. Town Meeting Members subsequently adopted and endorsed the Master Plan in 2010, including the commitment to revitalize South Hadley Falls. In 2012, at the Town’s request, the American Institute of Architect’s Sustainable Design Assistance Team (SDAT) visited South Hadley Falls and met with South Hadley residents. The SDAT then provided a compelling vision for the area.
While there are other parts of town in need redevelopment, only the South Hadley Falls area meets the Commonwealth’s narrow criteria for the establishment of a targeted redevelopment area under the direction of a redevelopment authority. Those criteria include the proportion of vacant lots, empty stores, and properties with deferred maintenance issues. But that does not mean that Town officials are uninterested in redevelopment in other parts of the community. The Selectboard, Town Administrator, Planning Director and Planning Board, as well as the Redevelopment Authority Chair, are all actively engaged in redeveloping other parts of South Hadley.
See question 1 for background. The SDAT vision motivated South Hadley Town Meeting to create the South Hadley Rede¬velopment Authority (SHRA), in 2014. The SDAT vision has provided the framework for the South Had¬ley Falls Urban Redevelopment and Renewal Plan. The plan provides an implementation strategy for the Town to realize that vision, by targeting specific buildings, lots and areas in which to concentrate public and private investment.
A portion of this plan is devoted to the improvement of housing opportunities in South Hadley Falls. Residents of rental units have limited options within the area as they look to purchase a home or upgrade to other units. The plan recommends filling some of the vacant lots in neighborhoods with housing options for a mix of incomes in both ownership and rental units.
Although the target of this plan is South Hadley Falls, its benefits will be felt throughout the community. As redevelopment proceeds, the property tax base will increase, new businesses will be able to start and expand, more services can be offered, and the South Hadley Falls area will become a more attractive place in which to live, work and visit.
South Hadley’s urban renewal plan is simply a road map for the revitalization of South Hadley Falls. The plan aims to satisfy the requirements of a Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development approved Urban Renewal Plan (See Question 6: What does an Urban Renewal Plan look like?). It targets a specific area of South Hadley and its goal is to promote a vibrant, diverse and economically sustainable South Hadley Falls.
See question 1 for background. The plan was developed based on findings from the South Hadley Master Plan and the SDAT vision for South Hadley Falls. The SDAT visit included a “visioning process” whereby concurrent workshops were held in Town Hall. At that event, members of the public were asked to provide their desires for the South Hadley Falls neighborhood. The vision was then developed, with recommendations and goals to strive for in any urban renewal plan for South Hadley Falls. Soon after it was formed, the South Hadley Redevelopment Authority (SHRA) engaged the services of an expert and experienced consultant group, McCabe Enterprises, to aid it in the production of a redevelopment plan. The SHRA then formed a citizen’s advisory board, in order to obtain direction from the public as it moved forward on forming the redevelopment plan. It has met with that group four times. The SHRA has held scheduled public meetings from 2014 to the present to discuss actions related to the plan. We have met and discussed the plan several times, as it has been developed, with our Planning Board and our Selectboard. Members of the RA have attended monthly meetings of the South Hadley Falls Neighborhood Association to provide information and updates, and conducted surveys of residents and businesses in South Hadley Falls as part of the development of the plan.
As a result the advice given to us by our consultant, our advisory group, and boards and committees, we are focusing on Main Street, beginning at our new library and going southward down Main to the intersection of Main and Bridge. The Main/Bridge intersection is the gateway across the Memorial Bridge from Holyoke into South Hadley Falls and South Hadley proper. The proposed redevelopment area in this direction extends a bit further down Main to just beyond the Town Hall. In the east-west direction, we are concentrating on an area that is bounded by Main Street on the east, and bounded on the north and south by Gaylord and Bridge Streets respectively. These streets run eastward from Main and roughly parallel to each other before they both reach the eastern boundary of the redevelopment area on Lamb Street, which is running roughly north/south.
Most of the Redevelopment Authorities operating in Massachusetts were originally created to take advantage of the federal Urban Renewal Program, serving as vehicles for carrying out the federal mandate to eliminate blight from inner cities. Although the federal program no longer exists, Redevelopment Authorities continue to play a role in the Commonwealth’s revitalization under C.121B.
M.G.L. Chapter 121B allows municipalities, through their Redevelopment Authorities acting as urban renewal agencies, to eliminate and redevelop substandard, decadent or blighted open areas for industrial, commercial, business, residential, recreational, educational, hospital or other purposes. With the goals of revitalizing such land uses and encouraging new growth, Redevelopment Authorities have the power to:
Redevelopment Authorities are particularly effective in large scale and complex redevelopment projects and in land assembly. Redevelopment Authorities are exempt from M.G.L. Chapter 30(b), the Uniform Procurement Act, when they are engaged in the development and disposition of real property in accordance with an urban renewal plan. This exemption, coupled with the ability to use eminent domain powers, makes Redevelopment Authorities powerful tools for commercial revitalization, industrial park development, infrastructure improvements, facilities renovation and brownfield site remediation. The development and approval of an urban renewal plan is necessary for a Redevelopment Authority to undertake specific projects. A Redevelopment Authority, as an independent body politic and corporate, is not an agency of a municipality and therefore, does not answer directly to the chief executive. This affords the Redevelopment Authority more autonomy in planning and implementing redevelopment and revitalization projects.
An Urban Renewal Plan is an application submitted by a municipality through its urban renewal agency (like the South Hadley Redevelopment Authority) to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) requesting its approval of a redevelopment project. The Urban Renewal Plan must include the following information as specified under Massachusetts Regulations 760 CMR 12.00:
Recommended actions include improving sidewalks, adding crosswalks, traffic calming enhancements, benches, and streetscapes. The area of concentration for these infrastructure improvements would be Main Street, running from the new library down past and including the Bridge and Main intersection, and extending past Town Hall to the Beach ground Park. Other recommended actions include improvements to the park at the Old Firehouse Museum, improving access to the riverfront, adding bike and walking paths in the area, consolidating properties at the northeast corner of Bridge and Main, and also day lighting that part of Buttery Brook running through the redevelopment plan target area. We also intend to make improvements to the public parking lot on Main Street.
This plan identifies parcels and properties that may be acquired in order to stimulate private investment. For example, the SHELD property will be acquired at no cost to the Town when SHELD moves to another location, elsewhere in South Hadley Falls. Some acquisitions may result in demolition or cleanup of the properties, in order to make the properties site-ready or shovel-ready for redevelopment and construction.
Parcel acquisition, including eminent domain, is a last resort option. The properties listed for acquisition in the plan have generally not seen a high level of interest from the private sector due to their size and/or the cost associated with redevelopment. Many of these properties are either in poor condition, contaminated, too small in size for new construction, have limited access or have other characteristics that are cost prohibitive for a private entity to see a return on investment. With these problems seen throughout the South Hadley Falls, the SHRA will step in and incur some of the cost of redevelopment, in turn creating a market for these properties once again. It is important to point out that none of the properties to be considered for acquisition in the plan is residential.
The active businesses recommended for possible acquisition were selected in order to change the type of land use of the parcel and/or as a critical step to do parcel aggregation for a public benefit project. The SHRA will attempt to acquire all privately owned properties by negotiated purchase. Eminent domain is a last-resort tool that urban renewal agencies, such as the SHRA, have to acquire private property to undertake a necessary project for public benefit. Private property owners must be compensated at fair market value for their property as well as for relocation expenses associated with any taking. The SHRA will make best efforts to reach an out-of-court settlement agreement with private property owners for their properties in return for a financial benefit package.
The URP’s purpose is to spur private investment by targeting the areas and properties that can be a catalyst through public assistance. Targeting the properties with the highest need and potential will therefore increase private development in and around those properties.
As a requirement of MGL 121B, the Urban Renewal Plan must identify funding sources for every action. Since the SHRA does not currently possess funds, seed funding will be sought through grants, Town allocation, parcel transfers from the town to the SHRA or a mix or all options. As the SHRA gains funds from completing projects, any revenue received will be used on future projects in the plan. It is important to note that the plan, while it includes a tentative budget, is not a Town budgetary document. Town Meeting approval of the plan does not commit the Town to funding any part of it. Any subsequent requests for Town funding will be subject to approval by the appropriate committees and by Town Meeting Members.
The plan does not affect any residential properties. If a commercial property is on the possible acquisition list, the plan has certain recommendations for the redevelopment of that property. If a private owner wishes to invest in that property in a manner that is consistent with those recommendations, the SHRA would not seek to acquire such property. If a property is in the redevelopment area but is not included in the possible acquisition list, the SHRA cannot acquire such property.
The plan actions will be taken throughout the next 20 years. Goals have been set for short, mid and long-term within that time. Prioritization of actions was based on thoughtful analysis performed by the SHRA and a paid consultant, in consultation with Town officials. Although the goals for the plan were set, the timing will depend on many factors including but not limited to, availability of funding, private investment, and changing circumstances. As the plan is implemented, goals will constantly be evaluated based on cost of the action and potential revenue leveraged by the action. For example:
The SHRA will continue to meet on a regular basis. Meetings are open to the public and are posted. Check the Town Calendar for meeting postings, agendas and minutes.
No. A Master Plan is a comprehensive plan for a city or town at large and is intended to guide the municipality’s actions over the next decades. The recommendations in the Master Plan are broader than those of an urban renewal plan. An urban renewal plan is a physical plan for a specified area within the community. The urban renewal plan is primarily for the Redevelopment Authority and guides actions with the goal of creating an attractive environment for private investment resulting in a more vibrant community, in which citizens can live, work, and visit. Those actions include property acquisition, infrastructure and streetscape improvements and opportunities for partnerships with other entities engaging in actions that complement the plan.
A list of properties for acquisition can be found in the urban renewal plan.