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Planning for the Future
Michael R. Sweeney
PlanningDirector for the city of Lawrence

During the past twenty years the Merrimack Valley has seen the rebirth of a number of communities. The cities of Lowell and Newburyport serve as examples of how much improvement can occur when municipalities are focused are long-term, sustainable growth and renewal.

More recently the communities of Haver-hill and Amesbury have also made strides to improve the development and economic future for their citizens. The city of Lawrence has a similar oppor-tunity before it.

Over the next year a new high school, a revitalized Veterans Memorial Stadium and a revamped Water Treatment Facility will provide the foundation for future growth in Lawrence.

Critical to managing that future growth will be the city's ability to put together a comprehensive and community-based Master Plan. The Master Plan would be used as the framework to help make and guide fundamental decisions about future growth, implementation of development plans and the funding sources for projects in Lawrence.

A key aspect is to ensure that an extensive and inclusive public process be utilized in the creation of the Master Plan. A great deal of resources and time have to be committed to guarantee a successful process, but a well crafted Master Plan becomes an important document for a community because it serves to articulate a broad vision for a community's future.

It is my goal to have the city's Planning Department play a central role in the Lawrence's growth and future. To do so we need to build the capacity of the office to handle projects successfully and we also need to conduct a top to bottom review of current regulations and procedures to ensure that Lawrence is positioned to aggressively bid for economic development opportunities.

To do so we need to prove to govern-mental agencies, private businesses and to our own citizens that the city will be accountable for the money invested here and for the projects entrusted to us.

Over the next couple of months, I will be working with Mayor Sullivan and the City Council to provide better public access to information that the Planning Office is responsible for, including produc-ing a guide to the planning and de-velopment process for all citizens.

We also intend to create a website that is more user-friendly and to provide critical forms and other information on line. What is really needed is feedback from members of the community, including the private citizen, the private business owner, and the board members of non-profits. How can we improve our office to better serve your needs and answer questions that you have in a timely and professional fashion?

The next few years will provide an opportunity for Lawrence to create a community with upgraded housing options, better open spaces and recreational opportunities, enhanced economic development and sustained growth.

To fully realize these opportunities we are going to have to work harder and better than ever before. I'm confident that with the sup-port of the community we can meet the chal-lenges before us and fundamentally change Lawrence into a better place for current and future generations to live and work.

Michael Sweeney is the planning director for the City of Lawrence and a former member of the Lawrence City Council and School Committee. You can e-mail Mr. Sweeney at esqsweeney@aol.com              

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The February, 2006 Edition of the Valley Patriot
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