By Jamie Jensen

More than 50 Rye residents and civic leaders gathered in City Hall the night of September 26 for the first of three public meetings to gather input for the City’s Comprehensive Master Plan.

A master plan is the result of an extensive public planning process that is meant to act as a reference point for land-use policy-making moving forward. It traditionally includes a close look at community resources and public needs for transportation, recreation and housing. However, given the last decade’s super storms — Irene and Sandy — the Rye City Comprehensive Master Plan will also highlight public discussion of flood mitigation and coastal resiliency.

Master plans are usually completed every five to ten years. Rye City’s last official one was completed in 1985, more than 30 years ago. Sporadically, over the last ten years, there have been pieces of a plan completed including: a Capital Improvements Plan (2017), an Attic Regulation Workshop (2013), A City Planning and Streetscape Plan (2009), a Central Business District Plan (2007) and a Hazard Mitigation Plan (2007). The 2018 Comprehensive Master Plan, while not a zoning blueprint, will guide official decisions regarding all future growth and development in Rye.

After a brief presentation from BFJ Consulting, the firm hired to manage the process, community members gathered at four stations to share ideas and concerns. Armed with markers, stickers, and their voices, residents were guided by the following questions:

<What is your vision for Rye?

What should we preserve?

How should we grow?

What should we provide?>

Among the issues highlighted were preserving Rye’s community character, older homes, and cultural resources; providing central gathering places to better connect micro-neighborhoods, maintaining the liveliness of downtown, providing more playing field and parking spaces, flood mitigation, and the preservation of open green space.

Rye City Council candidates Josh Cohn, Sara Goddard, Elizabeth Parks, Julie Souza, and Ben Stacks were on hand to listen. Also actively engaged were Rye residents Christine Siller, Executive Director of the Rye Nature Center; Matthew Anderson, President & CEO of The Osborn; Scott Nelson, Headmaster of Rye Country Day School; and Margaret Ricketts, Rye Chamber of Commerce President.

This first public workshop was scheduled at the same time as the Rye City School District Board of Education meeting. However, the District — which serves nearly 3,000 children and their families — emailed all parents and guardians encouraging attendance at this public workshop.

Beyond the ‘usual suspects’, this author had a lively conversation with two fathers of young children. Mark Dlugokencky, a resident of Rye Gardens whose oldest child is 2, came to the workshop simply “because it mattered.” His wife grew up in Rye and his in- laws still live in town. As he shared, “I want to keep a good thing going and I believe in the tradition of paying it forward.”

The members of the Comprehensive Master Plan Task Force are: Mayor Joseph Sack, Deputy Mayor Julie Killian, City Councilman Terry McCartney, Planning Commission Chair Nick Everett, Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Committee Chair Brian Dempsey, former Councilmembers Laura Brett and Andy Ball, School Board President Katy Keohane Glassberg, Scott Beechert, Christine Siller, Kevin Grainger, and Margaret Ricketts. Monthly task forces meetings are open to the public and the next is scheduled for October 16 from 7-9 p.m.

The next public workshop will be held in December. Adoption of the Master Plan is set for late spring, early summer 2018. Details can be found at