SHIRLEY -- At the request of the Economic Development Committee, selectmen voted unanimously to authorize Town Administrator Patrice Garvin to sign a District Local Technical Assistance grant application on their behalf.
EDC Chairman Enrico Cappucci explained at the Jan. 14 meeting that the state grant is nothing new. Rather, it's part of an initiative the EDC has been working on with the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission until momentum was postponed. But they're back on track now, Cappucci said, with grant approval anticipated soon.
Citing a single parcel tagged for development under the "43D" provision in state law that offers perks such as expedited permitting and grant access and which town voters accepted a couple of years ago, Cappucci said creating an overlay district in the targeted area would allow the EDC to widen its net and "get to work."
"We're looking for a bylaw change to create an overlay district in the Lancaster Road area," Cappucci said. To that end, the EDC plans to submit a warrant article for the April 13 Annual Town Meeting. With the warrant opened last week and set to close March 12, he asked selectmen to hold a place for the pending article, which they agreed to do.
"We'll be back in March with another grant" application, he said.
Selectman Robert Prescott has been attending EDC meetings with an eye to helping the cause, and the committee values his input, Cappucci said, citing Prescott's specialized knowledge and experience as a contractor and real estate developer.
Prescott said now is the time to move forward.
"We should get those properties back on the tax rolls," Prescott said. Besides much-needed tax revenue, there's also a need for services that new commercial development could bring to town, he said.
Established in 2009 and charged with bringing $1 million in new tax revenue over the next 20 years via commercial and industrial development, the EDC has stacked up a substantial roster of accomplishments to date.
The list Cappucci shared with the Oracle includes eight MRPC grants, approval of the 43D process and development of a guidebook to explain it to town residents. EDC also developed a plan for the Devens "Village Growth" area that MassDevelopment "has seriously considered," wrote the economic development portion of Shirley's Master Plan, worked with other towns on an initiative to hire a part-time ED director and identified areas of town to be considered for economic growth, with the first focus on the Lancaster Road area near the town line.