The Montague Planning and Conservation Department is responsible for:
• land use planning
• natural resource protection
• economic and community development activities identified in Town Plans.
The primary function of the Planning Department is to manage regulatory process for development proposals submitted to the Planning Board and Conservation Commission. As part of that process the Planning Department evaluates development proposals for their contribution toward community planning goals as documented in Montague Comprehensive Plan and other local strategic plans. The Department is also actively engaged in programs and projects that help the community achieve its planning goals.
The Department provides technical support to the Turners Falls RiverCulture Project, Board of Selectmen, and the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC). The Department represents the Town and its interests at both the regional and state level through a variety of projects and planning initiatives.
Turners Falls RiverCulture Program/ Turners Falls Cultural District- 12 years strong, this “Commonwealth Award” winning program that has been instrumental in making Turners Falls a special and attractive place. RiverCulture supports community events and public art that bolster the creative economy and develop a sense of place. In 2017 Turners Falls was designated a Cultural District by the Mass Cultural Council- firming up a strong partnership among the Shea Theater, Great Falls Discovery Center, Town Leaders, Artists, businesses owners and residents- with RiverCulture at the helm. Nested within the Planning Department, RiverCulture is a longstanding element of Montague’s economic development strategy.
Green Communities Program- Montague was among the first Green Communities designated by Massachusetts in 2010. Since then the municipality has taken efforts to reduce energy consumption by 19%. Through the program the Town has secured over $500,000 for energy efficiency improvements in 5 town buildings. The current funding round will implement efficiency projects at Carnegie Library, Shea Theater, and Sheffield School. The Planning Department manages the program on behalf of the Town.
Avenue A Streetscape Enhancement Program (Phase II) ~ In 2015 The Town replaced 33 downtown streetscape lights to new LED fixtures and install a pedestrian gathering area with a safer pedestrian crossing at the downtown’s main intersection of Avenue A and 3rdStreet. The Town is currently constructing a second phase to extend streetscape lighting from 5th street to 7th street and within Peskeomskut Park. A design is in process for the rehabilitation of Spinner Park. These were action items identified in the 2013 Downtown Turners Falls Livability Plan
Cultural Preservation Planning- 1676 Battle of Great Falls-~An unprecedented consortium of 4 neighboring towns and 3 tribal historic preservation offices have partnered with the Town and the National Park Service Battlefield Protection Program to conduct a comprehensive study of the extent and context of the 1676 battle that was a turning point in the King Philip’s War. An additional purpose is to engage local officials, landowners and the interested public in effort to locate and encourage the protection of the battlefield. Public events regularly attract 100+ attendees, which demonstrate substantial public interest in the project. The research lays the groundwork for a longer term battlefield Archeology project, national historic register designation, and cultural tourism. Archeological investigations in Montague, Gill,
and Greenfield will be ongoing through August 2018. The Planning Department is the administrator of the grant.
Commercial Homesteading Program- Since 2015, the town has attracted $3,000,000 of private investment into the preservation and productive reuse of vacant and blighted historic properties in Montague through the Commercial Homesteading Program. 26-28, 30, and 34 East Main Street now host a mix of uses including a Laundromat, a construction company headquarters, a restaurant space, and 9 residential units in the center of Millers Falls. The former Montague Center School building has been converted to 22 residential units. The Town is currently working with a developer to convert a former mill into artist live/work space at 15 Power Street and with another developer to create a whitewater recreation operation center at 38 Avenue A.
Department of Public Works Facility Planning- The Planning Department provides staff support to the DPW Facility Planning Committee in support of designing a construction a new public works facility at Sandy Lane. The DPW is the Capital Improvement Committee’s #1 priority for public facility replacement.
Sandy Lane Solar Park- The Town has partnered with a private developer to construct a 6 MW solar facility on and around the former landfill on Sandy Lane. The array will provide a significant and reliable revenue stream while providing renewable energy credits to the Town. With expected completion in April 2018, it will be the largest solar array in Franklin County. The Planning Department is the municipal lead for implementation of this project.