Lenox 2025: A New Master Plan

master planAt the November 2, 2017 Special Town Meeting, the Lenox Planning Board requested $50,000 to launch work on a new Master Plan. Citizens unanimously agreed to the funding, and an RFP is being finalized.

The Town Master Plan will serve as a “roadmap” for our staff, Boards and Committees to focus their work over the next five years. The goal is to develop achievable action plans based first on (1) factual assessments of where we are today and then (2) the community’s consensus about the improvements we want to focus on and invest in within the time frame of the Plan. 

The funding will be used to:

FIRST: Engage a third-party consultant to lead an interactive public process to determine how residents would like Lenox to grow and develop over the next five years. The eight areas for citizen input are:

    • Town values related to growth and development
    • Land use
    • Housing
    • Economic development
    • Natural and cultural resources
    • Open space and recreation
    • Services and facilities
    • Circulation (transportation)

The consultant will:

  • Update existing conditions, drawing on existing plans and up-to-date data and stakeholder conversations
  • Measure success: Take a look at old goals from 1999 master plan and see how we’ve done
  • Present existing conditions, challenges and opportunities through a public process
  • Surface our most important policy issues
  • Working with Lenox, develop a vision and from it, identify and prioritize goals and actions 

SECOND: Create an easy-to-read website that will make all elements of the Master Plan easy for everyone in Lenox to access. (Note: Cost for this element should be modest because professional/volunteer website development expertise exists among Planning Board members.)

      • Each section of the Master Plan will have its own page that gets right to the point with key findings and actions. Longer, detailed findings will be linked.
      • The online Plan will be updated when new data, research studies and development initiatives are completed. For example: There will be an important national census in 2020 — we will be able to update the Master Plan with that data as soon as it is available.
      • Whenever we complete a new section of the Plan, we can publish it online — we don’t have to wait for the whole thing to be done.
      • We can update sections of the Plan on a rolling basis.
      • We can add sections that are not specifically required by the state, but which may be important to our community. For example: Neighborhood sections, topical sections such as “Rest of River”, etc.
      • The goal: Make our new Master Plan this a “living” document and an easy-to-use, up-to-date resource — not one that sits on a shelf.


    The Town of Lenox Comprehensive Master Plan has not been updated since 1999.

    State guidelines

    Below, we show actual text of the state’s requirements for a Master Plan. These are the areas that Lenox 2025 will focus on.

    Great news: Our Town Planner Gwen Miller has been working actively with various Boards and Committees over the past few years to update their strategic plans. Many of these recently-completed plans fit right into requirements for the new Master Plan. We have begun to link to these studies — they are inserted in the appropriate section below, and there are more studies to review for possible use.

    Section 81D of Massachusetts General Law:

    A planning board established in any city or town under section eighty-one A shall make a master plan of such city or town or such part or parts thereof as said board may deem advisable and from time to time may extend or perfect such plan.

    Such plan shall be a statement, through text, maps, illustrations or other forms of communication, that is designed to provide a basis for decision making regarding the long-term physical development of the municipality. The comprehensive plan shall be internally consistent in its policies, forecasts and standards, and shall include the following elements:

    (1) Goals and policies statement that identifies the goals and policies of the municipality for its future growth and development. Each community shall conduct an interactive public process, to determine community values, goals and to identify patterns of development that will be consistent with these goals.

    (2) Land use plan element that identifies present land use and designates the proposed distribution, location and inter-relationship of public and private land uses. This element shall relate the proposed standards of population density and building intensity to the capacity of land available or planned facilities and services. A land use plan map illustrating the land use policies of the municipality shall be included.

    (3) Housing element that identifies and analyzes existing and forecasted housing needs and objectives including programs for the preservation, improvement and development of housing. This element shall identify policies and strategies to provide a balance of local housing opportunities for all citizens.

    (4) Economic development element that identifies policies and strategies for the expansion or stabilization of the local economic base and the promotion of employment opportunities.

    (5) Natural and cultural resources element that provides an inventory of the significant natural, cultural and historic resource areas of the municipality, and policies and strategies for the protection and management of such areas.

    (6) Open space and recreation element that provides an inventory of recreational and resources and open space areas of the municipality, and policies and strategies for the management and protection of such resources and areas.

    (7) Services and facilities element that identifies and analyzes existing and forecasted needs for facilities and services used by the public.

    (8) Circulation element that provides an inventory of existing and proposed circulation and transportation systems.

    (9) Implementation program element that defines and schedules the specific municipal actions necessary to achieve the objectives of each element of the master or study plan. Scheduled expansion or replacement of public facilities or circulation system components and the anticipated costs and revenues associated with accomplishment of such activities shall be detailed in this element. This element shall specify the process by which the municipality’s regulatory structures shall be amended so as to be consistent with the master plan.

    Such plan shall be made, and may be added to or changed from time to time, by a majority vote of such planning board and shall be public record. The planning board shall, upon completion of any plan or report, or any change or amendment to a plan or report produced under this section, furnish a copy of such plan or report or amendment thereto, to the department of housing and community development.

    A city or town that has an established master or study plan under section eighty-one A and applies for a state grant from the commonwealth shall prepare and keep on file within such city or town an economic development supplement; provided, however, that such city or town shall not be required to prepare such supplement if such city or town has a supplement on file. Such supplement shall be at least one page in length and shall contain the goals of the city or town with respect to industrial or commercial development, affordable housing, and preservation of parks and open space.