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Gill, Massachusetts: The Mariamante Parcel

In December of 2004, the small Massachusetts town of Gill took a tremendous step to influence its own future. A fifteen acre parcel of land in the south of town, near the intersection of two important town roads, had been put up for sale by its previous owners. The land had been under an agricultural preservation restriction, a program enabled by Massachusetts General Law Chapter 61 A. As part of this restriction, if the land were ever sold, the town would have right of first refusal. The town's recent Community Development Plan has identified the parcel as a prime site for commercial or other non-residential development. It is located directly across Main Road from the town's two largest existing commercial businesses, and is also quite close State Route 2 which runs along the southern part of Gill. By encouraging future commercial development to occur in already existing commercial areas in the town, Gill can expand its tax base while maintaining its rural characteristics. The citizens can see that such growth is occurring in small rural areas just like Gill, and the community decided that taking an active part in guiding this growth would be a wise investment. The town exercised its option to purchase the parcel for a sum of$239,000. While the town initially planned to sell the land to a carefully selected buyer, a charrette organized by Administrative Assistant to the Gill Select Board Deb Roussel attracted widespread interest, convincing the community to more completely explore the unique opportunity at hand. The charrette was held on December 13, 2004, and was led by Dr. John Mullin of the University of Massachusetts, along with his colleagues Dr. Zenia Kotval and Glenn Garber. An impressive turnout of citizens shared their visions for the parcel, and collaborated on S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) identification. Maintaining the existing rural character of the town is very important as future development options are explored. Following the successful charrette, an ad hoc committee was formed to allow interested citizens of Gill to continue participating in the planning process for the parcel. Ms. Roussel arranged with Professor Mullin to have students from his regional planning studio class undertake the job of mapping out alternatives for the parcel, and working with the town to identify the next steps in the process. The student team has met on a regular basis with the ad hoc committee, and the committee's input has been vital in directing the team's research, and in formulating this report.
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