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Putting plans into practice

Forum a learning tool for students, an asset to town

Mark Hamin. (click for larger version)
January 30, 2011
BRIMFIELD — Classroom exercises are imperative for any successful college student, but the most valuable exercises occur in the field, where students can practice what they have learned in real-life situations.

Students and faculty members affiliated with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Master of Regional Planning Program recognize the importance of field activities, as they have formed a strong, long-term partnership with Brimfield town officials. Their next project will involve hosting a public forum in Brimfield during which residents will have a chance to offer comments and suggestions about their concerns pertaining to land and zoning issues.

"This forum will build on the previous work we did by producing a land use and zoning report last year," said Mark Hamin, the director of the Master of Regional Planning Program. "The students have done a lot of preparatory work, and they are looking forward to this event."

The partnership began after UMass Extension Educator Robert Levite informed Hamin that Brimfield officials were searching for individuals to conduct a land use and zoning study. A strong impetus for the desire to receive such a study was the recent speculations that Brimfield might be a suitable town in which to construct wind turbines and a casino. Following a conversation with Levite, Hamin decided that students enrolled in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, a graduate level program, would be well-served to create a Land-Use Regulation Report for Brimfield. The report identified potential land-use strategies to address prospective regional development impacts, and it was discussed at length during a September 2010 meeting in Brimfield.

"Our partnership with the town of Brimfield has benefited both the students and the town," Hamin said. "It gives the students an opportunity to demonstrate the skills they learned, and Brimfield benefits by receiving input from a large group of students and faculty members with planning experience instead of one or two consultants."

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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