Land Use Planning and Zoning

Current or Recent Projects

Northfield Tree Inventory: Public trees in and around downtown Northfield were inventoried as part of a project to produce a tree planting and maintenance plan for the Town of Northfield. Data gathered during the spring 2018 inventory were mapped and analyzed, and a final plan, along with printed maps and infographics poster have been provided to the Northfield Board of Selectmen. The information contained in the report will help Town officials manage, maintain, and plan for additional plantings of trees in Deerfield. Read the report and view the infographics posterTo help the Tree Warden select trees that will withstand climate change impacts and other stressors, a list of resilient trees was provided the Town as well.  Read the Climate Resilient Trees for Streetside Planting. For more info, contact Kimberly Noake MacPhee at kmacphee@frcog.org or 413 774 3167 x130.

Deerfield Tree Inventory and Ecological Assessment: In 2017, the FRCOG conducted an inventory of public street trees in South Deerfield and Old Deerfield, funded by a DCR Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Grant.  The inventory includes a GIS (geographic information system) data layer with each street tree’s location, genus, species, common name, height, canopy spread, condition and other vital information, within the project’s geographic scope. A final report, along with printed maps and infographic poster have been provided to the Deerfield Highway Department and Tree Warden – as well as town officials – to manage, maintain, and plan for additional plantings of trees in Deerfield. Read the report and review the Climate Resilient Trees for Streetside Planting document.

This project also includes a collaboration with the Conway School, which has provided a student team to conduct an town-wide ecological assessment, focusing on trees. Read Ecological Resilience in Deerfield: Trees as Green Infrastructure. For more info, contact Kimberly Noake MacPhee at kmacphee@frcog.org or 413 774 3167 x130.

Vacant and Abandoned Buildings: Options for Town Officials: Vacant and abandoned buildings can be a financial drain on towns, can pose health and safety issues for residents and first responders, and can decrease the value of nearby properties. FRCOG Planning staff, partnering with our Cooperative Public Health Service, developed a Toolkit to help towns address vacant and abandoned buildings, focused on housing. The toolkit includes: 1) How to form a task force and who should serve on it, 2) How to inventory vacant and abandoned properties and set priorities for resolving issues and 3) how to follow various paths a town can pursue to clean up these properties. Click here to download a copy of the Toolkit. Learn about the Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Initiative here. More information: Kimberly Noake MacPhee at kmacphee@frcog.org or 413 774 3167 x130 or Phoebe Walker at walker@frcog.org or (413) 774-3167 x 102.

Housing plans identify the housing needs of a community and outline the strategies a town can take toward meeting those needs. Housing plans seek to address questions that are important to the future of Franklin County towns: Does current housing meet the needs of residents now and in the future? Will seniors be able to stay in town as they age? Will children be able to return to the community to raise a family? Can people employed in town afford to live here?

In recent years, the FRCOG has assisted the Towns of Buckland, Deerfield, Greenfield, Montague, Shelburne, and Sunderland with completing new or updated housing plans utilizing DHCD Local Technical Assistance funds. For more information contact Alyssa Larose at alarose@frcog.org or 413-774-3167 x127 or Megan Rhodes at mrhodes@frcog.org or 413-774-3167 x132.

The FRCOG Planning Department worked with the Town of Colrain and a committee of farmers to develop a logo, print materials and outreach plan for the new Hilltown Farmers Market. The Market has successfully opened and will run on the third Sunday of each month, from May through October. Located on the corner of Coombs Hill Rd and Greenfield Rd in Colrain, the Hilltown Farmers Market can be followed on Instagram and at www.facebook.com/ColrainFarmMarket/. Contact Kimberly Noake MacPhee at kmacphee@frcog.org or 413 774 3167 x130 for more information.

Green Communities Technical Assistance: Twenty one (21) of the 26 towns in Franklin County are now designated Green Communities. Towns can become a Green Community by meeting a set of five criteria outlined by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER). Once designated as a Green Community, the Town is eligible to apply for grants that can be used on energy efficiency and clean energy improvements in the community. To date, Franklin County Green Communities have received a combined total of $3,796,660  that has been used in our local economy to improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy in Franklin County.

The Green Communities Program is an ongoing program with annual designation and grant application deadlines. FRCOG has been awarded funding through DOER’s Municipal Energy Technical Assistance (META) grant to assist towns to either become a Green Community, or if already designated, to meet annual reporting requirements and apply for additional grants. FRCOG staff have also applied on behalf of towns to fund energy audits of municipal buildings through the META grant program, which is open to all municipalities regardless of Green Community designation. For more information, please contact Peggy Sloan (413 774 3167 x133) at psloan@frcog.org or Alyssa Larose (413 774 3167 x127)  at alarose@frcog.org or visit the DOER website for the latest designation and grant application guidance.

Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership (MTWP) Project:
The goals of the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership (MTWP) Project are to bring recognition and additional financial and technical resources to 21 municipalities in northwestern Massachusetts, primarily via special designation by the State and the U.S. Forest Service to:

— Increase economic development related to forestry and natural resource based tourism
— Support the expansion of forest conservation and sustainable forestry on private lands
— Improve fiscal stability and sustainability of the municipalities

Official project website: mohawktrailwoodlandspartnership.org

Click here to read the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership Project Quarterly Update
Click here for the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership Plan REVISED Oct 2016
Click here for the Plan Appendices REVISED June 2016 with maps
Click here for Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership meeting agendas and meeting notes

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Open Space and Recreation Planning: FRCOG has recently assisted the Towns of Ashfield, Erving, Gill, and Leverett in updating their Open Space and Recreation Plans. An Open Space and Recreation Plan (OSRP) helps a community to act strategically to protect and enhance the natural, cultural, and recreational resources they value most, makes them eligible to receive LAND (Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity) and PARC (Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations) grants from Massachusetts Division of Conservation Service, and increases their ranking for other competitive state grants. Contact Kimberly Noake MacPhee at kmacphee@frcog.org or 413 774 3167 x130. Click here for more Natural Resource related projects.

DCR Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Grant Greenfield: The FRCOG partnered with the Greenfield Tree Committee in 2016 to increase tree planting in Environmental Justice neighborhoods, classified as such based on a percentage of low income and/or minority populations. Two volunteer tree plantings were completed, with over 30 trees planted. FRCOG identified design challenges for planting street trees, such as narrow tree belts and overhead utilities, and  suggested approaches for dealing with those challenges. For more info, contact Kimberly Noake MacPhee at kmacphee@frcog.org or 413 774 3167 x130.

bylaws iconZoning and General Bylaw Technical Assistance:
In 2016, the FRCOG provided technical assistance to Montague on zoning bylaws for natural resource protection and Sunderland on zoning bylaw reorganization. For more info, contact Peggy Sloan at psloan@frcog.org or 413 774 3167 x133.


Past Projects

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The Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan, co-authored by the FRCOG and released in December 2015, presents goals and actions that will help strengthen the state’s food system. The Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan is a comprehensive assessment identifying current strengths of the Commonwealth’s food system and opportunities for improvement. “Through the recommendations in this plan, we will continue our efforts to support Massachusetts agriculture and increase access to healthy food for all of our state’s residents,” said Governor Charlie Baker. Over 1,500 people contributed to developing the plan– now it’s time for even more people to work to make it a reality. Work with us to build an integrated, sustainable, and equitable food system! Download the plan. For more info, contact Kimberly Noake MacPhee at kmacphee@frcog.org or 413 774 3167 x130.

natural gas flameKinder Morgan-TGP Northeast Energy Direct Gas Pipeline: Eight Franklin County towns would have been directly impacted by the proposed Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline (Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving, Northfield and Warwick) with approximately 34 miles of pipeline traversing Franklin County. FRCOG staff spent 2016 preparing and submitting testimony and petitions to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) review, MA Department of Public Utilities and our Federal Legislative delegation in coordination with the Regional Pipeline Advisory Committee.  The Regional Pipeline Advisory Committee formed in February 2015 was made up of local officials from the eight impacted communities.  In 2016, the Committee met several times but disbanded after the NED Project was withdrawn by Kinder Morgan on May 23, 2016.  Documents and testimony created and submitted in 2016 included:

— Petition to FERC for a Formal Evidentiary Hearing on the Need for the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline 
— Testimony to the MA Department of Public Utilities
— Completion of a model Major Development Bylaw to protect communities from construction and operation impacts of Large-Scale Projects
— Request to FERC to Dismiss NED Pipeline Application
— Letter to Federal Legislators with suggestions to improve the FERC Process

For more information contact Peggy Sloan at psloan@frcog.org. Documents related to the proposed pipeline are available on the Regional Pipeline Advisory Committee Resource Page.

 farm land and barnRegional Food System Plan: Lack of access to affordable farmland for new farmers and expanding farms is an issue that was identified in recent Franklin County and statewide food system projects. Through District Local Technical Assistance the FRCOG mapped and analyzed land in a four-town pilot area (Bernardston, Gill, Greenfield, and Northfield) to determine the amount of suitable town-owned land that could potentially be leased to farmers. As part of this project, the FRCOG teamed with Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and Land for Good to offer a workshop for land owners interested in learning more about leasing land to farmers and for farmers interested in keeping their land in farming when they retire. The team also offered a training for town officials on leasing town-owned land to farmers, and options for stewarding and protecting farmland. The presentation given at the training for town officials is available here. For more info, contact Kimberly Noake MacPhee at kmacphee@frcog.org or 413 774 3167 x130.

Sustainable FC thumbnailsSustainable Franklin County: A Regional Plan for Sustainable Development: The FRCOG and its Project Partners were selected in 2010 as one of 45 regional areas nationwide to receive a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. The plan is being used to guide local and regional sustainable planning and implementation activities, and addresses housing, transportation, economic development, energy, infrastructure, and natural and cultural resources. Sustainable Franklin County was given an American Planning Association Massachusetts Chapter Comprehensive Planning Award in 2013 for its unusually high merit. This award reflects the great work by many FRCOG planners and staff from our Consortium Members: Community Action, Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority, Franklin County Community Development Corporation, the North Quabbin Community Coalition and the towns of Deerfield, Greenfield, Montague & Orange. Read the Sustainable Franklin County Executive Summary or Sustainable Franklin County Complete Plan. For more info, contact Peggy Sloan at psloan@frcog.org or 413 774 3167 x133.

Franklin County Regional Housing Study: The FRCOG completed the Franklin County Regional Housing Study, a report to determine the affordable housing needs of Franklin County.  This study shows generally whether there is sufficient housing that is affordable for households at various income levels.  This analysis was performed for three sub-regions and the county as a whole.  For more information, contact Megan Rhodes at 413-774-3167 x132 or mrhodes@frcog.org.

FC Farm and Food Project Banner compressedThe final report and action plan for the Franklin County Farm and Food System Project is available HERE. Funded by a grant from the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, the Franklin County Farm and Food System Project focuses on food system infrastructure, processing, and distribution as well as on food access. The project supports the work of key organizations working toward a resilient food system in the region. Farmer outreach for this food system project was conducted via the Franklin County Farmer Survey. View the survey findings.  For more info, contact Kimberly Noake MacPhee at kmacphee@frcog.org or 413 774 3167 x130.