Fifty or so residents came out on a cold, rainy evening last night for the Framingham Planning Board's Master Plan "Visioning Workshop." The purpose was to get input from the community on what we'd like the town to become in the future.
The exercise involved breaking up into small groups and answering several interesting questions, such as: What's good about the town that you'd like to preserve? What changes do you see occurring, either bad or good? What things need changing?
The good: Diversity was one of the most frequently mentioned aspects. Diversity of people -- racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, family types -- but also diversity of development patterns (rural, suburban, urban), housing stock and so on.
Residents also liked the location and easy access to so many other areas; water features (lakes and rivers); historic buildings; neighborhoods; schools and more.
The bad: Growing traffic problems topped many lists. Also mentioned that I agree with: Suburban sprawl, auto-oriented development, crime downtown, dispersed government accountability, areas are dirty and not well maintained.
Needs changing: More walkability, not surprisingly, topped my list. Among the other issues brought up that I agreed with: Opportunity lost in not better integrating the college into the community, form of government, better taking advantage of water features in town, dealing with traffic, improving non-auto forms of transportation.
In my group, the MetroWest Daily News came under intense criticism for not caring about the community, having people from outside the community who don't understand the town writing about it with skewed perceptions and misunderstandings, emphasizing negatives and ignoring positives, and having outsiders lecture the town on what it should do (when this town shoulders much more of its regional burden than the lecturers' own communities).
There should be a report coming out summarizing what all the different groups came up with soon.