Orleans Board Discussing Plan of Action for Route 6A

ORLEANS – After devoting many hours to developing and advocating changes for the downtown village center, the Orleans Planning Board has moved its focus to the potential of the Route 6A corridor through town.

“We want to understand what happens along Route 6A,” Director of Planning and Community Development George Meservey said at the board’s recent meeting.

“There are implications for the whole town.”

To accomplish this, the board has enlisted the help of some home grown consultants: the bicycle and pedestrian committee, the architectural review committee, the historical commission, the cultural district committee.

Last month members of the affordable housing committee spoke before selectmen.

Tom Johnson, a member of the committee and former member of the planning board, recalled that Route 6A property holders, such as Selectmen David Currier, had asked that density changes approved for the village center be extended to the limited business and general business zones along the corridor.

“Basically affordable housing should be encouraged in all of the town including areas of mixed used, residential, and business development,” said committee chairman Katie Wibby.

According Wibby, the incoming sewer system is expected to make a significant difference in those areas and encourage mixed use buildings with stores on the first floor and apartments above.

Wibby also pushed for more housing complexes like the one across from the bowling alley that are, “not intrusive on that main road and by their nature and density are more affordable.”

“What shocks me the most is the affordability gap between what people are making and what it cost to afford a house in Orleans,” Wibby continued.

“It’s that gap that I would like to have a conversation on how to close.”

Increasing housing density would require installation of crosswalks and, preferably on both sides of the street, sidewalks.

The discussion continued as everyone rose to gather around an elongated map of the corridor stitched together by Meservey.

Increasing density without an overall design for the area is a problem, committee member Nancy Renn warned.

“Just building housing without thinking about a community center, what’s the plan?”

The discussions between the board and the consultants is still ongoing.

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