Friday, April 27, 2001
MAGIC considers strategies for funding and economic development
Agreeing that team planning for the next 25 years of development is essential, or well be getting 25 years of the same, MAGIC (Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination) members arrived early and settled in for a full evening discussing the regions CEDS (Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy) in a joint meeting with METRO West town planners earlier this month. Both MAGIC and METRO West are subgroups of MAPC, ( Metropolitan Area Planning Council) and MAPCs deputy director Ed Tarallo and consultant Jay Donovan presented the CEDS material at the meeting. A regional CEDS plan is necessary to maintain eligibility for EDA (Economic Development Administration) assistance and ongoing planning grants, and thus is requisite for designation as an EDD (Economic Development District). The recent burst of development along the I-495 corridor and consequent impact on the towns in the MAGIC area make a CEDS plan essential, as an avenue to federal EDA monies that will help towns cope with regional changes. Tarallo and Donovan, who have been meeting with regional groups throughout the area, say these meetings will end April 30; the CED committee will meet May 9, and a final document will be submitted to MAPC by June 30 of this year.
CEDS guidelines state that a successful CEDS process should lead to the formulation and implementation of a program that creates jobs, raises income levels, diversifies the economy , and improves the quality of life, while protecting the environment. The CEDS guidelines require a lot more work and a lot more paper. The four main elements of a CEDS are analysis, vision, action plan, and evaluation, and a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Committee, identified by the planning organization (MAPC), becomes the principal facilitator for the CEDS process. MAGICs April meeting was a first step in this process as it explored new census data, quality of life issues within the region, and strengths and weakness of the region with respect to economic development. There are several data sources for this kind of discussion, including the U.S. Department of Commerce, labor statistics and state and local government data. There is an EDA web site which has links to some of this information: the EDA address is www.doc.gov/eda/.
Census data affects plans
New census data will lead each community in Massachusetts to redistrict this year. Tarallo indicated that more data releases are expected over the next months and year. Data already received indicate Boxborough is the largest growing community in the MAPC, and indeed four of the top ten communities in the state in terms of growth are from the MAGIC or METRO West area. The 495 area has grown 13 percent over the last decade, while the 128 area has only experienced 2.5 percent growth. The racial and ethnic composition of the area has changed with 89,000 residents classified as white no longer living here. The percentage of residents 18 years of age and under has increased just outside of Route 128, with one community, Medfield, having 34 percent of its residents in this category. Tarallo noted that in general, the MAPC population is growing at a faster rate than ten years ago.
Brief community reports are usually requested at the end of each MAGIC meeting. These are often dramatic illustrations of the rate at which change is occuring within the area. Bedford, for example , has 128 units being built under a comprehensive permit on one site and 258 units proposed by Princeton properties for another. The VA Hospital in Bedford intends to create 40 single occupancy rooms and is getting ready for an assisted living unit for Alzheimers patients and spouses. This will be the first facility of its kind . Stow rewrote its cell tower regulations and has five applications before the planning board. Lincoln reported on the need for more commuter parking. Carlisle was not represented at the April MAGIC meeting.