HILLSBOROUGH The Town of Hillsborough wants to know what you think of its draft “Vision 2030” plan, a blueprint that will shape town policies for the next 15 years.
The draft sets 58 objectives for the Town Board, advisory boards and staff. It includes such things as developing affordable-housing policies and finding money for an Amtrak train station.
Vision 2030 should also provide an accessible, transparent explanation of the town government’s priorities, Planning Director Margaret Hauth said.
You can weigh in at a public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15, in the Town Barn, during a joint session of the Town Board and the Planning Board. The town also hosted two informal open houses on the draft plan.
“Our main question (to the public) is, what are we missing?” Hauth said.
The Town Board will vote on whether to adopt Vision 2030 this spring. Once a plan is adopted, the town will review its progress on the plan every year, as part of the regular budget report.
Many of the objectives strive to balance growth and preserving Hillsborough’s character and heritage. The draft plan calls for increasing residential density, while maintaining neighborhood character. One objective calls for exploring increasing the drinking-water supply, currently a limiting factor on the town’s growth.
Several residents at an open house last week emphasized the importance of Hillsborough’s small-town feel.
“All we want the committee to come up with is a tight rope that you can walk,” resident Alex McBride quipped.
McBride, a retired college professor from Pennsylvania, moved to Hillsborough three years ago.
“We’re new to the area, and they’re planning to make changes, and we like it like it is,” he said.
Vision 2030 follows Hillsborough’s Vision 2010 plan, which the town drafted in 1991 through small committee meetings, and updated in 2000.
This time, the town cast a wider net for public input. At a meeting in 2013, over 75 residents gathered to discuss Hillsborough’s vision statement: “a prosperous town, filled with vitality, fostering a strong sense of community, which celebrates and preserves its unique heritage and small-town character.”
The residents, who represented a spectrum of town groups and businesses, fleshed out what that vision statement might mean for townspeople’s daily lives. Their comments fed into the draft plan.
The town will need to host more such discussions to include many different perspectives, Hauth said. One of Hillsborough’s steepest challenges in the next 15 years will be improving the town’s accessibility, affordability, and inclusiveness, she said.
“The folks who are (usually) around the table, they’re not a very diverse group,” Hauth said.
“That is probably the hardest part of this plan: to create a community that is welcoming to folks who aren’t like us.”
Open house participants agreed with Hauth on the need to balance affordability and development.
“This is a town that people want to be in, and it’s going to develop, and it could very well become something where (some) people get run over,” McBride said.
“There’s a danger that these people who’ve been here their whole life might find they can’t stay here.”
Participants also called for a commuter rail system, more senior living communities, and a more aesthetically-pleasing and pedestrian-scaled downtown.
Hauth emphasized the need to collect factual information to guide development policies. Much of the Vision 2030 plan involves data collection – from information on local markets to citizens’ access to transit and basic services. The plan will have to analyze strengths and gaps in the local economy and assess the local real estate market to define “affordable” and “market rate” housing for Hillsborough.
“If you don’t know what the current information is, you don’t know what the biggest problem is,” Hauth said.