Town Center South joins Guilford plan

Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — A plan to redevelop the area of town along Whitfield Street won acceptance from the Planning and Zoning Commission at a special meeting Wednesday night.

By a vote of 5-2, commissioners decided to accept the Town Center South plan, which recommends creating a “transit-oriented community” in the area between the Green and the harbor.

The land encompasses Guilford’s train station on the Shore Line East rail line. It also includes industrial sites, which proponents of the plan said are damaging the local wetlands and increasing truck traffic along Whitfield Street.

At Wednesday’s meeting, some commissioners said they were worried that people would view the plan’s recommendations as a path the commission must follow in the future.

“When I read this it sounds like a specific proposal (the committee is) proposing and my concern is if we adopt this nobody is going to remember what was said here tonight,” said Commissioner David Grigsby, who ultimately voted against accepting the plan.

But members of the Town Project South committee said that the “proposed developments” in the plan, which include suggestions for remaking certain industrial sites and moving the Public Works Department, are only examples.

“Just because you’re following a road map doesn’t mean you can’t stop and turn or even turn around and go back in the other direction, but you want to have a road map – you don’t want to just start driving,” Town Planner George Kral said. Kral added that any developer applying to build a project in the area would have to go through all the same approval steps as before.

The plan encourages residential and mixed-use development in the area designed to draw people who want to use the train to commute. Commissioner David North, who voted against the plan, disagreed with that focus.

“We’re just going to create more bedrooms and we’ll leave Guilford to go to work,” North said. “That’s the old model; it’s the easy model.”

The Town Center South report will now be part of the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development. The next step for the report will be acceptance by the Board of Selectmen.

The report could also be affected by the ongoing development of a new Coastal Area Management Plan. If that plan shows that the area south of the Green is at a serious risk of flooding in the event of a hurricane, the Town Center South report might have to be abandoned, Kral said at Wednesday’s meeting.

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