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South Hadley hears pitch for redevelopment authority

The Select Board hosted a special presentation from John Fitzgerald, urban development coordinator for the state Department of Housing and Community Development, who explained how a redevelopment authority could benefit the town.

A redevelopment authority (RDA) is a locally appointed body whose purpose is to bring life back into underdeveloped areas of a town. If established, the RDA would compile an “urban renewal plan” that would identify which parcels of land require redevelopment, as well as which parcels of land will be sold to private developers.

The RDA can also act as a developer by raising funds and owning and leasing property, Fitzgerald said.

For an RDA to be established, Town Meeting must approve two measures. One would establish the RDA, and the other would declare that there is a need for an RDA, he said.

The Select Board would appoint four out of the five members to temporary posts that would last until the next town election, where residents would elect the members to staggered terms from there on out. The fifth member, a state appointee, would be nominated by local officials and serve a five-year term.

To establish an RDA, a town just needs the “political will” to do so, Fitzgerald said. He noted how the RDA has been successful in redevelopment in nearby communities such as Greenfield, where the authority is involved in the Bank Row Urban Renewal Plan.

“The system for the most part works very very well” across the state, he said.

Town planner Richard Harris said there has been no significant investment in redeveloping the Falls area of town in at least 14 years.

Jeffrey Labrecque, chairman of the town’s Community and Economic Development Commission, said he believes an RDA would serve a vital function in furthering the commission’s efforts.

Select Board Chairman Frank DeToma said he believes the town could benefit from an RDA in the long run.

“We do need that kind of overall planning,” DeToma said.

In other news, the Select Board approved the appointment of Daniel Dodge, a resident of South Hadley for 15 years, as a new associate member of the Planning Board. Dodge was the sole applicant for the position.

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