By this time next year, some city leaders are hoping Stoughton will be putting in place policies and plans to help guide investment into its downtown.
Armed with up to $40,000 and led by long-term resident Sharon Mason-Boersma and outgoing Ald. Denise Duranczyk (Dist. 1), the Downtown Revitalization subcommittee will meet with downtown stakeholders to determine the area’s strengths and weaknesses and how the city can help.
“My hope is to have a business association we can jumpstart to figure out these public and private partnerships,” Duranczyk told the Common Council before it unanimously voted to create the committee Tuesday, Jan. 22. “Not just listening to people complaining about these things, put(ting) in place strategies (to address them).”
The group will report to the Redevelopment Authority, which had stirred up some controversy in recent weeks over whether it has the authority to write a plan for the downtown.
It will focus on the area from Page Street to Coffee Street along Main Street and two to three blocks off of Main Street to the north and south, according to the application. The group will pay specific attention to the east end of Main Street, Duranczyk said.
The committee’s budget will come out of the downtown tax-increment financing district, TID 4, which lists up to $150,000 in its project plan for use by the RDA. The money will pay for a consultant and any further surveys that are determined would be helpful, such as traffic or parking studies or a downtown economic analysis.
After gathering feedback, the group will determine goals for the project and make recommendations to the Common Council about how best to proceed.
The plan is for the committee to be seven or eight people, including a representative from the RDA, Common Council and at least two or three downtown business owners.
A preliminary timeline submitted with the proposal includes an implementation period from July 2019 to April 2020. The TID is scheduled to close in 2020.
Council President Tom Majewski (D-3) was among those who have wondered whether this effort falls out of the purview of the RDA, as the Planning Commission has the responsibility for creating downtown plans. He noted the RDA has yet to complete the several thorny tasks its been charged with already, like redeveloping the riverfront and Marathon sites.
But Duranczyk said the RDA is tasked with eliminating blight and improving the vitality of underutilized areas, including the downtown. And, she said, the new task wouldn’t add to the authority’s workload, as it would be done by a subcommittee rather than the body as a whole.
When the plan was first presented to the council in November, Ald. Matt Bartlett (D. 4) said he hoped the effort could lead to an economic development committee. The city has been operating without an economic development director since the finance department was restructured last year.
Ald. Regina Hirsch (D. 3), in expressing her support for the effort, said the effort could lead to a downtown master plan, which the city’s 2017 comprehensive plan recommends be created before 2022.