Town Planner

The Town Planner's main responsibility is to create and carry out plans for the Town's development and prosperity. The planner works with Town officials, Regional, State, and Federal agencies, boards, and residents to make recommendations for the healthy development of the community and to provide sound professional advice and technical expertise.

A Town Planner is someone who develops plans and programs for the use of land. They use planning to create communities, accommodate growth, or revitalize the economy in communities. Other Town Planner services are:

  • Meet with public officials, department heads, developers, and the public regarding development plans and land use development;
  • Gather and analyze economic and environmental studies, censuses, and market research data;
  • Conduct field investigations to analyze factors affecting land use;
  • Review site plans submitted by developers;
  • Access the feasibility of proposals and identify needed changes;
  • Present, develop, and construct projects for the betterment of the community;
  • Stay current on zoning, environmental regulations, and other legal issues.

Planners identify community needs and develop short and long-term plans to create, grow, or revitalize a community or area. As an area grows or changes, planners help communities manage the related economic, social, and environmental issues, such as planning a fishing pier to attract new businesses and conducting a study to understand the needs of the town center. Planners work on broad, community-wide plans such as a Master Plan, while addressing specific issues. Ultimately, planners promote the best use of a community's land and resources for residential, commercial, transportation, historic preservation, and environmental or recreational purposes.

As a Town Planner, there is a great need to collaborate with public officials, engineers, architects, and developers, often giving presentations, attending meetings, and managing projects. There is ample opportunity to balance conflicting interests and negotiate deals, which often faces pressures from politicians, developers, and the public.

Shared Street Bike Lane

Bike, Walking Trail Upgrades in Store

Six South Coast cities and towns were recently awarded funding for new traffic safety measures, trail connections, bike-share stations, bus facilities, and areas for outdoor dining and community activities.

Dighton, Fairhaven, Raynham, Somerset, Swansea, and Taunton were among 77 municipalities across the state that applied for and received a total of $6.5 million in funding from the Shared Streets and Spaces Grant Program.

The program provides technical and funding assistance to help Massachusetts municipalities conceive, design, and implement changes to curbs, streets, plazas, and parking areas in support of public health, safe mobility, renewed commerce, and community betterment.

"Shared Streets grants kept local economies going and gave the public options for safe travel and activities during the pandemic, helping all of us reimagine how we can share streets and spaces to stay safe and improve the quality of life in our communities,' said Gov. Charlie Baker.

For this round of awards, MassDOT received 94 applications, of which, all but four were eligible. This is the largest applicant pool received in a single round to date. In this round, 78 applications were selected for funding - 77 municipalities and one transit agency (the MBTA) - for a total of $6,506,185.30 in awards and 51% of the awards are going to designated Environmental Justice Communities. In this round of funding, 28% of the awardees have never received a Shared Streets and Spaces award before.

"Projects like these can really have a major impact on daily life, safety, and accessibility in a community - making a difference in a family's choice to go out on the town, and a local restaurant owners' ability to keep their staff employed and busy,' said Acting Transportation Secretary and CEO Jamey Tesler.

Since June 2020, including this round of grants, the Shared Streets and Spaces Grant Program has awarded $33 million total to 183 municipalities and four transit agencies for a total of 310 projects.

This round of funding is under the Shared Winter Streets and Spaces program launched late in 2020 for municipalities to continue making accommodations for the public during the cold winter months and provides grants as small as $5,000 and as large as $500,000 for municipalities to quickly launch changes for safer walking, biking, public transit, recreation, commerce, and civic activities. These changes can be intentionally temporary or can be permanent improvements.

MassDOT is particularly focused on projects that respond to the needs of communities and provide safe mobility for children, for elders, to public transportation, and to open spaces and parks.

Somerset received $32,100 to extend a bike lane that was initially developed with funding from a Shared Streets and Spaces grant along Read Street, in order to make better connections to the South Coast Bikeway.

Swansea received $36,679 to complete a walkway that connects schools with ballfields and pedestrians and cyclists with scenic views as well as to bike and walking trails and municipal buildings.

Revision/Recodification of the Somerset Zoning Bylaws

As a part of the Master Planning process, a thorough review of the Somerset Zoning Bylaws was recommended. After reviewing the bylaws, it was apparent the town ensures its regulatory framework supports and facilitates sustainable land development and preservation practices in a coherent manner toward our long-term community vision. To that end, revising and recodification of the Town's bylaws, to improve the bylaw's organization, enhance government efficiency, and ease enforcement, while making the bylaws more user-friendly for the public.

The Town will follow a two-step process including a diagnostic review by an attorney, to identify deficiencies and conducting an in-depth review of Somerset's existing regulations, identifying topics of critical concern. A key component in the process includes the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals preparing their own punch list of proposed zoning changes and any concerns regarding the current application process.

On August 12, 2020, the Zoning Recodification Committee sponsored a Zoning Bylaw Informational meeting in order to gain more insight and feedback regarding how the residents and businesses in the community are utilizing the regulatory process and to assist in guiding the outcome of drafting the bylaws. Below is the link to the presentation:

Route 103 Access Study

The Town of Somerset in collaboration with the Southeastern Regional Economic Development District (SRPEDD) has embarked on the Route 103 Access Study to ensure safety, provide more efficient trips for motorists and improve access to the local businesses situation along the roadway. The Access Study is a direct result of the I-195 Exit 4 study recommendations. The limits are between the Lees River and the Town owned property past Brayton Point Road. The Route I-195 Exit 4 Study laid out the need due to an excessive number of driveways, including wide driveways that result in multiple, closely spaced points of conflict, creating safety issues along the corridor with vehicles entering and exiting. This is amplified by the heavy truck traffic on the corridor.

SRPEDD held a public meeting on April 27, 2021. Residents and business owners will have the opportunity to discuss and provide input on issues and concerns along the corridor. SRPEDD is also providing residents and businesses the opportunity to provide feedback via a survey. Click on the link below in order to submit your comments:

Somerset Master Plan

The Town of Somerset embarked on an approximately eighteen-month planning process to update the town-wide Master Plan. The Town engaged residents, business owners, and local stakeholders to help shape the ideas and recommendations in the Plan.

A Master Plan…

Documents and illustrates what a community looks like today and what direction it has decided it wants to go for the future; it includes assessments of existing resources and issues, projections of future conditions and needs, and consideration of collective goals and desires.

Is a policy guide and provides a framework for future land use decision-making and the physical development of the municipality. It will not only address buildings and infrastructure, it will also include the important social, natural resource, and economic values of the community. The Master Plan is a method of translating the community's values into specific actions.

Covers an approximate time frame of 20 years; it is assumed that shorter-term reviews will keep it current with the changing needs of the community.

Is closely integrated with other municipal documents and initiatives.

The Master Plan is Not a zoning ordinance, a subdivision regulation, a budget, a capital improvement program, or other regulatory document. It is meant to provide the framework for the development of these implementation tools.

Final Master Plan

We have reached the last segment of the project - the compilation of all pertinent data, information, maps, etc. into the final documents with a final Implementation Plan. VHB has prepared draft documents for review by the Town Officials, Planning Board, stakeholders, and any other interested parties and finalized the plan for the community.

Remember, the Somerset Master Plan will be a living document. It will need to be reviewed at least once a year and updated periodically. The Planning Board or other entities will be charged with overseeing the Implementation Plan and coordinating the efforts of the parties identified as having responsibilities for implementing the plan. As conditions change, and as various sections of the plan are implemented, the Town may find additional projects and/or strategies with which to achieve our goals and objectives.

The final Master Plan was presented on July 14, 2020, to the Somerset Planning Board for adoption.

Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Plan

Somerset participated in the Commonwealth's Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program. This program provides support for towns in Massachusetts that mitigate the impacts of climate change and natural hazards. Communities that complete the MVP program become certified as an "MVP community" and are eligible for State grant funding and other opportunities.

The goal of the MVP planning process is to raise awareness about the dangers posed by natural hazards and identify priority actions to improve resilience to the significant natural hazards that the community faces. On October 15, 2019, community members participated in a workshop with local and regional leaders to: Characterize the hazards facing the community, Identify community vulnerabilities and hazards, Identify and prioritize community actions, Determination overall priority actions for the community. On December 16, 2019, during a public meeting, the residents learned about the MVP process and provided feedback about the workshop recommendations. A final plan was presented to the Planning Board in February 2020.

I-195 Interchange 4 Transportation Evaluation

The Town of Somerset, with support from MassDevelopment, initiated an evaluation of improvements to I-195 Interchange 4 (Route 103). The intent was to seek solutions that address inefficient travel patterns and improve highway access and safety. The plan identifies a range of options that address inefficient travel patterns and improve highway access and safety. The study began in 2018 and was completed in the spring of 2020.

The Expanded Economic Development Plan

As part of the Somerset Master Plan process, the Town prepared an Expanded Economic Development Plan to supplement the Economic Development element of the Master Plan. The Master Plan Steering Committee hosted a public meeting for an update on this process and for the chance to contribute. Businesses and residents provided constructive feedback as an invaluable part of our success.