Sturbridge has been aptly described as quintessential New England. While this is true, it is also unique and irreplaceable.
This small town brimming with natural beauty has embraced its historical roots keeping the past alive to support a vibrant present. At its heart is a tight-knit community that values the resources here on the southernmost border in the middle of the Commonwealth.
There is a deep and invaluable character to Sturbridge that must be preserved. And that was the driving underlying imperative in planning the proposed Agricultural and Equestrian Center.
This would be a recreation and entertainment complex that would benefit residents of all ages both directly and indirectly. It would be built to support and maintain what makes Sturbridge so special.
This would be a place for horses to race and to live out their lives with enthusiasts who would care deeply for them. It would not be the foundation for a giant casino filled with slot machines, nor for a casino of any size.
It would provide grounds for festivals and other events open to the entire community. It would also provide other much-needed facilities on a regular basis. This includes four athletic fields that could be used for a variety of sports by all ages from youth starting out to adults staying in the game.
Nature trails would wind around the property giving more access to the natural beauty of Sturbridge. This would be a place for families, seniors, and youth groups to organize activities and explore their town. The community gardens and a farmer’s market would further connect residents to the roots of this rural community with the added benefit of bringing people together.
At every step of the planning process, the center has been designed to support the community, to provide what residents want to see happen with the site. Those intentions will be incorporated moving forward as the town watches over the progress of the plans at every step of the way.
The next most important step is the approval of the Overlay District, which will create a way for the plans to proceed. This is a necessary zoning change to allow the specific use described in the project plans. It is important to note that this is not the final approval of the project, it only allows for the specific use of the land. There will be more opportunities for review and the project must meet all of the town zoning and building requirements.
The project will also be governed by a Host Community Agreement that specifies what the developers will do and what can and can not be done on the property. This document details such things as restrictions on types of use and payments to the town.
The expectation and the goal of this project is to build a center that is not only in keeping with the character of the town but that can bring welcome improvements that will add to the uniqueness and enduring charm of this quintessential New England community.
photo credit: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism