Land Use and Economic Development
- Canton Center Study
- Rapid recovery plan
- Route 138 Study
- Canton Junction Area Study
- Draper Knitting Study
- Golf Course Study
Project description and context
The Canton Center Economic Opportunity Overlay District (CCEOD), especially sub-sections A and B and its complementary Design Guidelines, have been in place since the early 2000s. This overlay district has successfully led to mixed-use development in the area over the past 20 years. However, the recently updated Master Plan (2020) and Downtown Parking Study (2019) have found some recommendations for improvements.
Specifically, the Master Plan states to revisit zoning in the Downtown to:
- Clarify the Zoning Map to have one set of development procedures and standards for Downtown.
- Revise signage requirements to ensure high quality design and appropriately scaled signage.
- Revise the Use Table to ensure that only highly desirable uses are allowed in the Downtown area. Highly desirable uses are those that contribute to the development of a cohesive, walkable, and attractive Downtown experience.
- Include better standards for dimensional requirements that reflect best practices in downtown design.
- Develop design standards/guidelines for elements like building form, façades, pedestrian space, building materials, and other important aspects of site and architectural design.
- Adjust parking requirements in the Zoning Bylaw. Current parking requirements for Downtown exceed standard recommendations for a mixed-use vibrant downtown.
- Use results of the Parking Strategy and curbside inventory to designate ride share drop off/ pick up zones for services like Uber and Lyft to provide curbside management.
Additionally, the Master Plan Action Plan states to revisit zoning in general in the following areas:
- Evaluating the implementation of resilience design standards (required or voluntary) for new nonresidential and multi-family buildings in general. This includes for commercial, industrial, mixed use, and multi-family housing, requiring landscaping practices that are drought tolerant.
- Amending the Zoning Bylaw to remove impediments to the development of multifamily housing models where they are already allowed.
- Review and amend the individual sections of the Zoning Bylaw that potentially allow for a more diverse housing stock. These sections include accessory dwelling units, provisions for inclusionary zoning, home conversions, missing middle housing options, and the Mixed-Use Overlay District.
- Project need and alignment with local, regional, and state goals: This analysis is recommended in our Downtown Parking Study (2019), our Master Plan update (2020), and is consistent with goals in MAPC’s regional plan, as well as statewide goals for supporting COVID economic recovery in downtowns, multi-modal transportation, and multi-family housing/ mixed-uses near transit.
Project Deliverable(s) and Outcomes
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) will review the existing Zoning Bylaws of the Canton Center Economic Opportunity District(s), the Canton Master Plan 2035, and the Downtown Parking Study (2019). MAPC will come up with new, revised draft zoning recommendations in order to eliminate the overlay district, and create a new underlaying mixed use zoning district – or to modify the existing CCEOD to have one set of development procedures and standards. As needed, MAPC will also draft revisions to the off-street parking regulations, signage bylaws, special regulations for multi-family housing, and update the Canton Center Design Guidelines (2003). The outcome will be to streamline and make easier permitting/uses that we want to see in the downtown, and updating parking requirements and design guidelines to meet best practices.
Managing zoning and design review changes is demanding from a technical and administrative perspective. Municipal staff, boards, and committees may be required to understand new funding programs, regulatory tools, and policy frameworks within which decisions will be made. In addition to the technical work needed to implement new zoning changes, a steady public education component will be necessary. To adequately address concerns a continuous, well-developed community discussion needs to occur. This requires a combination of technical study, effective messaging, and regular communication with the public.
The project kicked off in March 2022 and the effort will take several months to complete. Ideally, zoning proposals would be ready to bring to Town Meeting in 2023.
The Local Rapid Recovery Plan (LRRP) Program was a project of the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative (MDI). It provided municipalities in the Commonwealth with the opportunity to develop actionable, project-based recovery plans tailored to the unique economic challenges and COVID-19 related impacts to downtowns, town centers, and commercial areas. Included are analysis and exploration of challenges, barriers, strategies, and actions, with a focus on developing tactical and strategic project recommendations to help communities achieve their recovery goals. The effort culminated in plans that summarized the diagnostic findings and offer clear, tactical project recommendations.
3 Phases of Local Rapid Recovery Planning
*Phase 1 – April - May, 2021 - Data Gathering and Diagnostics: Canton Center businesses were surveyed (134 contacted by hand-delivery, mail, and/or email. Received 28 responses. Results can be viewed here.
*Phase 2 – June - July, 2021 - Analysis and Project(s) Recommendations: Piloted a Regional Restaurant Week, featuring restaurants from Canton, Dedham, Norwood, and Westwood. Early strategic intervention ideas are being vetted with Canton Center businesses via a second (quick) survey, concluding at the end of June. The presentation to the Select Board can be viewed here.
*Phase 3 – July - October, 2021 - Prioritization of strategic intervention ideas, final presentations, and Final Plan creation.
Route 138 Corridor Economic Development Study
Route 138 is Canton’s most heavily traveled arterial, a main location for the town’s commercial base, and a location for future development. The area has large lots, with some vacant/underutilized land, and a hodge podge of zoning and uses. Development on Route 138 needs to be shaped carefully to minimize traffic problems and safety issues, and to create an environment that will be aesthetically pleasing. Generally, the community has expressed a desire for a stronger design identity to create a sense of place, and destination stores, restaurants, or other community resources as a draw.
The Route 138 Corridor Study was completed between June 2019 and January 2020. It was good timing to look at a strategic plan and vision for the Route 138 corridor. The Town has recently updated its comprehensive Master Plan, and the MassDOT will likely implement infrastructure improvements for safety, pedestrian, and cyclist access in the next 5 years.
Canton Junction Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Plan
The Town worked with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council to facilitate a community-driven process to plan for the future of the area around Canton Junction Commuter Rail Station. The objective of the study was to determine what uses could be viable and desirable given current market conditions in Canton and the region, while being sensitive to the long-range vision for the Town and neighborhood. This process lead to the development of a vision for the area and the development of strategies to achieve that vision.
This effort is under the understanding that current land owners have no immediate plans to sell or significantly redevelop their property. However, the findings have been included in the updated town-wide Master Plan (adopted April 2020). The final report is now available. This study took place in 2019-2020.
View the Canton Junction Plan presentation.
Draper Knitting Company Site Redevelopment Market Feasibility Study
The Town of Canton was awarded a Planning Assistance Grant to study the feasibility of reusing the historic Draper Knitting Company site. Parts of the site are currently underutilized and offer potential for creating a unique multi-use district with a mix of programming and uses. The objective of this study is to determine whether such a district could be viable given current market conditions in Canton and the region, while evaluating the fiscal impacts of redevelopment on the Town. This study took place 2017-2018.
View the final report here.
Environmentally Sensitive Design & Approaches for Golf Course Conversions & Development
Canton’s recently updated Master Plan (2020) noted that all the golf course lands are located in areas that are considered environmentally sensitive, whether because they lie in the Groundwater Protection Overlay District or sit adjacent to the Reservoir Pond. It recommended zoning these areas with more environmentally sensitive design, that would allow for pavement reduction, buffers to surface waters, and the use of nature based solutions to treat stormwater runoff.
In coordination with the Planning Department, a group of Tufts University Planning graduate students developed options for the Town to ensure that any golf course development or conversion would be done in an environmentally sensitive way that is broadly appealing to the community and consistent with the Master Plan. This study took place February - May 2020.
Click to download and view the students' presentation.
Click to download and view the final report.