WILMINGTON, MA — Spurred by a conversation led by Selectman Greg Bendel, the Board of Selectmen appear to be on the verge of creating an economic development committee.
“The hope is we can take a proactive approach and put together, in the near future, a task force made up of town officials (including the Town Manager, Assistant Town Manager, Planning Director and, perhaps, a designee from the Selectmen) and members of our community (Chamber of Commerce members, small business owners, and residents who show interest and have lots of ideas),” said Selectman Greg Bendel.
Bendel pointed to the town’s Substance Abuse Coalition and Bylaw Committee as examples of groups where town officials and residents are working side-by-side for the betterment of the town.
“However it’s assembled, and whatever it’s called, this group would look at the best economic development practices of our neighboring communities, and also what things we can avail ourselves to, such as the North Suburban Planning Council,” added Bendel.
“It makes perfect sense to start assembling this group now because the Planning Department is going to be putting together a market study of a section of Route 38 together in July. We’ll need folks to take a look at that data” pointed out Bendel.
The ultimate goal of the committee is to help put businesses in current vacancies, which would strengthen the town’s commercial tax base and lessen the burden on residents.
The current and past Boards of Selectmen have been talking about establishing such a committee. It’s lead proponent has been Selectman Chair Mike Champoux.
“The Town hasn’t been in the business of attracting specific businesses, like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but maybe we could be a little bit; maybe that’s an activity that the Economic Development Committee could be a part of, working in collaboration with some of the other regional associations and Chamber of Commerce to construct a way to communicate the awesomeness of Wilmington to the greater business community, help full some of our vacancies, and help improve the quality of life for residents,” said Selectman Chair Mike Champoux.
“No one is looking to increase traffic or density or the strain on existing town resources. The Committee won’t change the look and feel of the town. All zoning changes would still have to happen at Town Meeting and go through the full vetting process,” added Champoux. “The Committee, rather, is intended to be a focus point for what ways the town can be more proactive in economic development…. It’s about a marketing message – we all know how awesome our town is, we just need to get the word out.”
“This committee is definitely needed,” said Selectman Ed Loud. “We need to look at the bylaws and streamlining the permitting process.”
Loud noted, for example, that the current zoning bylaws restrict buildings in the highway districts (Ballardvale Street and Fordham Road) to be taller than 40 feet. Looking to other neighboring communities, like Burlington, Loud argues raising that maximum to 100 feet, which would allow companies to redevelop and increase the values of their properties. The former Fire Chief told Loud his department is equipped to handle such buildings.
Selectman Mike McCoy said he’d be willing to take a look at establishing an economic development committee, but cautioned that any new development would need to be done in an orderly way.
Selectman Kevin Caira agreed the idea was worth exploring. He did question, however, whether a committee was actually needed, pointing out that existing landlords, the Planning Director, Town Manager and any Selectman could help recruit new businesses to town.
Town Manager Jeff Hull pointed to the town’s pending TIF agreement with Analog Devices as a recent example of economic development.
Bendel hopes that a vote to establish the Economic Development Committee will be placed on the agenda at a Selectmen’s Meeting in the near future.
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