New Bedford Seeks Input for 10-Year Plan at Open House Event
NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — The City of New Bedford is asking its residents to provide input for its 10-year comprehensive plan.
At an open house at the Alfred J. Gomes Elementary School on Saturday morning, the public gave feedback on what issues or policies the city should prioritize for the plan.
Massachusetts General Law requires the New Bedford planning board to create a master plan to address the city’s physical development on a long-term scale.
The school’s lobby was in two sections, one explaining the comprehensive plan on whiteboards and maps and the other with stands offering city department resources. More than 40 people attended the open house.
Michael Robinson, who has lived in New Bedford for eight years, said he wants the city to create more affordable housing and help the homeless. Internet and broadband accessibility were also important to him, as it would help connect residents with other major cities such as Boston and Providence.
“Not only 10 years, but we should be talking about planning for 20, 30 or 40 years,” Robinson said. “We should be talking about how we can plan for the future.”
Creelyn Campbell, 19, said she is most excited about the arrival of South Coast Rail, the commuter rail service connecting New Bedford and Fall River to Boston.
Campbell said she visits her aunt in Boston frequently, but high gas prices have made the drive there and back expensive.
“I want to see more in transportation, and I am seeing more progress with the trains,” she said. “Using a car, a lot of gas money at this time.”
Campbell said she also wants to see maps in different languages installed at the soon-to-be-built commuter rail station to help those who do not speak English.
Other ideas suggested by residents included expanding education, offering more story time sessions at the libraries, zoning reform, walkable areas in the city and enticing more businesses to come to New Bedford. Ideas were written on sticky notes attached to the whiteboards in the school's lobby.
Jennifer Carloni, the head of the City’s planning department, said this open house would not be the only opportunity for residents to offer suggestions for the comprehensive plan. In the spring and summer, additional events will be held throughout the city to talk to department staff to learn more and provide feedback.
“This is the beginning of our plan,” Carloni said. “We’re looking for ideas today, so nothing has been set in motion just yet.”
Carloni said a draft is expected to be released in the fall.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, City Council President Linda Morad, Councilor at Large Brian Gomes, Ward 1 Councilor Brad Markey and Ward 2 Councilor Maria Giesta all attended the open house Saturday morning.
In a speech to the audience, Mitchell said this plan was one made by the people of New Bedford and will help define the city’s long-term goals. Citing the philosopher Plato, Mitchell said the city's success relies on its residents.
“This is a two-way street,” Mitchell said. “It can’t be done without its residents, and it can’t be done without the city government.”
Morad agreed with Mtichell’s philosophy and said it's her job as council president to listen and implement the ideas of her constituents.
“This is my city,” Morad said. “I want to see it be beautiful.”
While the ideas to improve the city were varied, the consensus among those attending the open house was the desire to see the comprehensive plan implemented.
One sticky note on a whiteboard offered a summation of what people want to see: "Don’t nitpick, just put it all together.”