Dean Cardasis, Chair - Jack Ahern, Member - John Mullin, Member
Throughout the United States many small towns are facing development pressure. Many downtowns are dying or in danger due to competing large commercial developments outside the town center. More economic opportunities and incentives are needed in order to survive. Some communities respond to this pressure, while others simply let it roll over their town. In Rutland, Massachusetts, a small town of approximately 6,200 people, the townspeople are taking a step back to view their town and evaluate their situation before they lose their community character.
A key event that raised town consciousness was the demolition of a Greek Revival house in the center of town in September of 1999. This demolition made way for a Dunkin Donuts franchise. It was the sudden sense of losing control that brought a University of Massachusetts Historic Preservation Studio to Rutland during the fall of 1999. The studio group provided the town with various preservation design alternatives to accommodate the uses in the town center. What could a small town do to accommodate its needs? The townspeople wanted to preserve their small town character. They needed to have a long-range plan for the town center that considered both the historic integrity and the need to maintain or expand business uses in the town center. A part of this process would also include assessing the zoning in the center of town. The town has supported planning and design studies that have helped in this process. Now this master's project will provide a clear plan of action for the town to use in its efforts to preserve the character of the town center.
The issues that will be addressed include defining small town character, providing tools and techniques to preserve small town character, studying the town of Rutland and making final recommendations for the town center of Rutland. The townspeople can then incorporate these recommendations into their ongoing planning process. To date, the planning process has involved writing a master plan, which takes into consideration many aspects of town character. The master plan contains a chapter that focuses on the character of the town center and includes both information and recommendations from this master's project. Currently the planning process is focussed on rewriting zoning by-laws, which have also taken into consideration the recommendations of this project.