Town to apply for Urban Renewal Plan grant
The town of Wareham will be applying for a grant to develop an Urban Renewal Plan for Wareham village, Town Planner Ken Buckland reported at the May 20 Redevelopment Authority meeting.
Towns with an approved Urban Renewal Plan are able to acquire real estate, including through eminent domain; demolish or rehabilitate structures; and receive grants and loans, among other powers.
If the town is selected, a consultant will be hired to develop an Urban Renewal Plan — a process that will likely take four or five months.
That means that the report wouldn’t be finalized until this fall.
The board voted to direct its rezoning of Wareham Village to further study at the June 12 Town Meeting because members felt more outreach was needed ahead of a vote.
The possibility of a new plan for the village had the group considering a further delay.
Although Buckland said he thought the rezoning plan would align with a consultant’s conclusions about the area’s needs, committee member Richard Swenson suggested waiting until next spring so all Wareham Village-related items could be approved at one time.
That delay also gives the group time to conduct more outreach about the proposed rezoning. Swenson held several workshops about the proposal but said that people aren’t drawn to traditional presentations.
“A presentation in a Town Hall auditorium, I would never do again,” Swenson said “It just doesn’t work.”
The group brainstormed some more engaging ways to reach out to the public.
Committee member and Selectman Peter Teitelbaum suggested an ice cream social at the old train station on Merchants Way might be successful. Judith Whiteside, also a committee member and selectman, said that developer Danny Warren’s open houses at his Main Street property had been successful.
Whiteside noted that she had observed some new investment in downtown Wareham, mainly from small businesses, and said those people should be involved in the process, too.
“The people with the most to gain or lose are current tenants,” Whiteside said.
Teitelbaum agreed, saying that the town doesn’t want redevelopment to mean that existing tenants are priced out of their current locations.
Buckland will submit the grant application to the state in the next week or so.