Priority Development Sites and Expedited Permitting
At a Special Town Meeting on February 21, 2008 citizens of the Town of Orange voted to accept the provisions of Chapter 43D of the Massachusetts General Laws in regard to the Expedited Permitting Program and approved three Priority Development Sites (PDS) in downtown Orange, all located within the Commercial Area Revitalization District (CARD) and the National Register Historic District.
The three sites consist of several multiple parcels each stretching from North Main Street. to West River Street, and are divided upsegmented by the railroad tracks and the Millers River. For a parcel to be included in a PDS area, prior written approval by the property owner was required. The three PDS areas were officially designated by the State’s were included in the program with the written permission of the private owner for participation and were approved by the state Interagency Permitting Board in May 2008.
The Town of Orange’s three Priority Development Sites are:
- PDS 1: Putnam Hall Block
- PDS 2: South Main Street Block
- PDS 3: West River Street Block
- (See the CARD District Map and more detailed descriptions of each PDS below.)
Developing Your Priority Development Proposal
The Chapter 43D: Expedited Permitting Program provides a transparent and efficient process for community permitting and guarantees local permitting decisions on Priority Development Sites within 180 days of the filing of a completed application. Applicable permits that would be subject to this timeframe include: Orders of Conditions and wetlands decisions issued by the Conservation Commission, Special Permits and Site Plan Reviews issued by the Planning Board, Flammable Materials License issued by the Fire Chief, and Title V and septic decisions issued by the Board of Health. (Building permits issued by the Building Inspector and ANR plan approval and subdivisions under the Subdivision Control Law as administered by the Planning Board are not affected by this statute. In addition, state and federal permitting are also not affected by this statute.)
See the links for the guide to Developing Your Priority Development Proposal, including the Priority Development Site Checklist, flow charts, and copies of all forms and applications needed to submit a complete development proposal for a PDS in the Town of Orange.
Advantages of the Expedited Permitting Program
As a result of participation in the Expedited Permitting Program, eligible projects within the Orange PDS areas will receive priority consideration for select state grants, such as PWED, CDAG, Brownfields remediation assistance, infrastructure funds, and other financing through quasi-public organizations. The state also will provide online marketing of PDS site areas and promotion of the Town's economic development incentives for these sites to bring together willing landowners and potential developers.
The Town of Orange receive $100,000 in grant funding from the Massachusetts Permit Regulatory Office (MPRO) to provide for technical assistance in the implementation of the local expedited permitting process. This included a legal review of all of the Town's bylaws, rules and regulations that would affect PDS areas, development of the permit application package referenced above, and creation of this expanded website to permit easy access to all materials needed to submit a complete PDS development proposal. The grant also provided funding for a Parking Study of the downtown and an architectural/engineering review of stabilization efforts for the Putnam Hall to assist the Town in attracting development to this area.
Putnam Hall has been identified as a top priority by both the Town and the region. On West Main Street, the building has two retail storefronts and an entrance to the three upper floors. According to historic materials it was built in the 1870s and had been known as Odd Fellows Hall, the name of a fraternal organization. The upper floors of the building had been an opera house with retail operations on the first floor. In the 1980s, the building was used as a fitness club with the performance space converted into racquetball courts. By 1992, the building had been foreclosed and purchased by a local arts organization. After this arts group disbanded, this prominent downtown building remained vacant and continued to deteriorate over the years. The Town took over ownership of the building through Land Court proceedings in 2002.
In addition, the Town has already purchased the adjacent vacant lot to provide downtown parking to support the reuse of the Putnam Hall building and other businesses. On the west side of Putnam Hall are two commercial buildings that are underutilized that would benefit from increased economic activity in the downtown. Across the street from Putnam Hall is an underutilized parking area owned by the town Town, and a vacant former gas station that has had its underground storage tanks recently removed.
The Putnam Hall Block (PDS 1) includes a total of 8 parcels, totaling 1.2 acres. These parcels are identified in the Assessor’s Records by the following map and lot numbers: 107-209, 107-210, 107-211, 107-182, 107-183, 107-184, 107-185, and 107-186.
Downtown Orange was once the location of the New Home Sewing Company, a major driver in the industrialization of the town beginning in 1863 until they moved out of Orange in the 1930s. The buildings located in the South Main Street Block (on the west side of the street and north side of the Millers River) were once part of the New Home Sewing Company complex. These structures have been host to other manufacturers in the following decades, including the Riveto Manufacturing Company. Over the last twenty years, the South Main Street Block buildings have been predominantly underutilized.
With over 60,000 square feet, the six buildings included in the South Main Street Block present a tremendous redevelopment opportunity. The current commercial activities in this Block include a copy shop, a café, a pub and retail storefronts. The copy shop is operated by Young Entrepreneurs Society, Inc. The South Main Street Block is at the very heart of downtown Orange, and is located directly across the street from the historic Memorial Park that has the Commonwealth’s only statue dedicated to peace. The recent rehabilitation of the bridge that crosses the Millers River links this PDS 2 with the PDS 3.
The South Main Street Block (PDS 2) includes a total of 5 parcels, totaling one acre. These are identified in the Assessor’s Records by the following map and lot numbers: 107-177, 107-178, 107-179, 107-180, and 110-230?.
Once again, the industrial heritage of the Orange is reflected in the West River Street Block PDS. These buildings were also once part of the New Home Sewing Company complex, on the south side of the south of the Millers River, including the facilities that harnessed the power of the Millers River. A hydro-electric facility continues to operate on one of these parcels, and is owned and operated by Mini-Watt Hydroelectric. The largest building in the PDS with nearly 80,000 square feet was a paper mill complex, owned and operated by Erving Industries, Inc. (formerly Erving Paper Mills) for many years. In the 1990s, Erving Industries sold the facility to Innovative Cereal Products, Inc., which has since ceased operations.
At the intersection of South Main Street and West River Street and East River Street are three brick buildings. Past uses of these buildings include manufacturing, a grocery market and most recently retail and storage space used by a local antiques business. Two of the three of these buildings are currently for sale. Similar to the buildings in PDS 2, these large, historic brick mill buildings are predominantly vacant and underutilized. The structures in PDS 3 comprise over 147,000 square feet.
The West River Street Block (PDS 3) includes a total of 6 parcels, totaling 3.5 acres. These are identified in the Assessor's records by the following map and lot numbers: 10-14, 110-15, 110-226, 110-227, 110-228, and 110-229.