HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini kicked off the city’s public outreach campaign for its first master plan in 20 years at a community meeting at the Consentino, where he outlined why the city is undertaking this process with the help of its consultant, Utile Architecture & Design of Boston.
The project, titled “Vision Haverhill 2035” will guide the city’s progress for at least the next 15 years and will help determine, among other things, where future schools, businesses, homes, parks and playgrounds should be built, the mayor said.
The kickoff and listening workshop introduced the public to the master plan process, presented an analysis of existing conditions by the Utile and gathered input from residents via sticky notes.
It didn’t take long for many of the more than 20 poster boards to fill with ideas.
John McCartin, urban planner for Utile, said his company’s goal is to collect input from as many voices as possible, with participants from all walks of life, and expects Utile to have a master plan completed by as early as next spring.
Residents who showed up Wednesday night wrote their future ideas for the city on sticky notes that asked questions such as “what do you love about Haverhill?” “what kind of jobs do we need more of and where?” and “what kind of housing do we need more of?”
“This is a good start to the process and it seems to be comprehensive,” said Kensington Avenue resident Llyod Walkauskas. “I like the idea of putting your ideas on the boards.”
One of his recommendations was for the city to create a medium-size performance venue in the downtown.
“I’ll be following this process and I’m sure my neighbors will also get involved once I tell them about what I saw tonight,” he said.
Rocks Village resident Christine Kwitchoff said she saw is a need for the city to preserve its green space.
“Suburban sprawl hasn’t happened yet, so let’s keep the city a mix of urban and rural, which will continue to make Haverhill a great place to live,” she said.
One poster board caught the attention of many residents, including local realtor Frank Novak.
“I’m concerned about the number of people who work in Haverhill but don’t live here,” Novak said about a poster board noting 13,073 people work in Haverhill but live elsewhere; 25,687 live in Haverhill but are employed outside the city, while 5,412 live and work in the city. “If Haverhill is a good place to work, then what is it that has prevented them from living here?”
East Broadway residents Sarah Weaver and Kara Sotirakopoulos gave high marks to Utile for using poster boards to gather residential input. Both want the city to maintain its rural areas and not let them be gobbled up by developers.
“We need to preserve the rural and historic qualities of the city that are important to me,” Weaver said.
Fiorentini said a master plan is intended to set the overall vision for the city.
He gave a brief history of planning, noting Haverhill was once a rural farming community that transformed into a shoe manufacturing center in the late 19th century.
He said that in the 1950s, the Haverhill Foundation introduced the city’s first industrial park to the outskirts, followed by four more as manufacturing was no longer an option in the downtown.
“Today, most of our old shoe factories have been converted to modern, upscale housing,” the Fiorentini said, indicating it was the result of a master plan implemented 25 years ago.
City Council President John Michitson said any master plan must primarily focus on zoning, and wants the city’s new plan to call for strong and clear zoning guidelines.
“It’s possible there could be a clash between people who live in rural areas and want to maintain that open space and by adhering to bigger lot sizes, and those who think housing of any kind brings money to the city,” Michitson said. “You need a lot of $1 million dollar homes to see a positive cash flow.”
Residents can register for email announcements at www.visionhaverhill2035.org to keep up with the master plan process and learn about future community engagement events.