‘Plan it. Live it. Love it’

Master-planning Westfield’s future


Photo Brianna Hatch

Map of Westfield used at Master Plan meeting to measure community involvement

Dozens of Westfield residents left the comfort of their own homes and trekked through the pouring rain to EIS on March 22 to attend the first of six Master Plan re-examination meetings. The Master Plan re-examination is required every ten years by law—but this time, Westfield took a different approach.

“This level of public engagement has not really been done in this town for decades,” Jim Gildea, Westfield’s Town Administrator, said. “It’s so critically important to get that input. What we don’t want to happen is that at the end of the process we have a plan that is not representative of the town.”

The meeting started off with a half-hour presentation, led by members of the Steering Committee, a board comprised of various town officials to facilitate the re-examination. They explained the purpose of the Master Plan itself, its updating process and the schedule for the other five meetings.

After the initial presentation, community members were able to walk around to different tables which focused on five main issues: transportation, historic preservation, parking, land use and community facilities. People were encouraged to speak with members of the Steering Committee and write down their concerns on a chart dedicated to each of the five categories.

The most popular table of the evening was land use, but people with all different concerns were at the event to voice their opinions.

“I am here because I’m concerned about how the town is using the green space,” said long-time Westfield resident Nancy Smith. “I happen to live across from a field that I want to make sure remains a field. I’m also concerned about single-family homes being torn down and turned into duplexes.”

Town councilman Mike Dardia believes that this meeting was important in order to voice concern for things such as infrastructure. “I think this is important because this is the future of our town, so we want to provide valuable input to improve the infrastructure and pedestrian safety,” Dardia said.

Elizabeth Talmont, the vice chair of the Board of Health in Westfield, said that her main concern is pedestrian and cyclist safety. “This particular meeting is all about re-engineering our downtown so that we can really maximize safety and get up to speed with the standards,” she said.

Talmont also emphasized the need for Westfield to maintain its beauty—especially in terms of  its historic roots. “I think preserving the historic nature of our town is key and vital to what makes us a town,” she said.

One member of Westfield’s Green Team, who preferred to remain anonymous, agreed that the appearance of downtown Westfield is a pressing issue among residents. “[Downtown Westfield] is losing stores, and it seems to be dying,” he said. “We need a plan to make a much more vibrant downtown area to bring in stores and bring in businesses.”

Writer’s Note:

Out of all the passionate advocates present at the first Master Plan re-examination meeting, one demographic was strikingly absent: teenagers. If you have an opinion to voice about our town, visit publicinput.com/westfieldmp to fill out a survey regarding the future of Westfield and to read more about upcoming Master Plan re-examination meetings. The next one is on April 3 at Westfield Town Hall at 7:00 p.m.—be there to impact Westfield’s future; where you can plan it, live it and love it—as the slogan says.