Meet Norfolk’s Town Planner

Grace Allen
Richard McCarthy, Norfolk’s town planner.
Issue Date: 
October, 2018
Article Body: 

Richard McCarthy became Norfolk’s town planner last fall, taking over for Ray Goff, Norfolk’s town planner since 2014.
McCarthy has a bachelor’s degree in urban planning, and has worked as a planner in Poughkeepsie NY, Franklin, Wrentham, Raynham, and Dedham. He lives in North Attleboro with his wife and two children. He recently agreed to answer some questions for readers of Local Town Pages.
From your perspective as town planner, what are the issues facing Norfolk? 
The main issue facing Norfolk is managing growth to retain the rural character of the town.
What is the town planner’s role in the current and future 40B developments in Norfolk? 
I work with town department heads, consultants, board members and the public to address issues related to the projects. For future 40B developments, I will review any proposal to see how it fits with our 2017 Housing Production Plan and our Master Plan, and assess the type, scale and impacts the project would have on the town and make recommendations. Also, I try to find good projects to reach 10 percent affordable housing so the town has control against bad projects.
What is your role in updates to the town’s Master Plan? 
Based on my past experience, doing research on best practices, and reaching out to others in the field, I would advise board and committee members how to implement the Master Plan. There was an update in 2007 to the Master Plan but since 2007 a Housing Production Plan, an Open Space and Recreation Plan, and town-wide Economic Development Strategy were developed so the Town could carry out those recommendations over the next few years before needing a new Master Plan. The pace of implementation often varies and is typically slower than what is recommended in the Master Plan; therefore, the shelf life of the Master Plan can be longer. Further, some recommendations at the Master Plan level oftentimes need significant adjustments as you move forward with implementation. I’ve seen recommendations in Master Plans for year 1 that end up being implemented in year 8. 
How have your previous experiences prepared you for Norfolk’s
I’ve worked in rural towns, suburban towns and a city, and without exception change is hard for some people. So, taking time to talk to people is very important because it helps figure out the concerns people might have. The Boston metropolitan area is experiencing significant growth and that growth has an impact on Norfolk.  Discussing that growth is important so people have some context for what is going on.  Unless you are involved with development, it’s not necessarily something you are thinking about until that notice gets delivered in the mail.  
What town departments do you work with? How do you come to a consensus on issues? 
I pretty much work with every department in some shape or form. The Housing Production Plan, the Master Plan, and the Open Space and Recreation Plan pretty much touch each department. Consensus typically takes time to reach, so pacing a project is important to give people time to think about it.  Giving people information by laying out the pros and cons helps to reach consensus.
What attracted you to the job in Norfolk? 
I had the opportunity to work here back in 1995 through the Regional Planning Services Office, when the planning services were shared between Franklin, Norfolk and Wrentham. I didn’t stay very long because back in the mid 1990s Franklin needed its own planning department. As a result, we were understaffed. I found many of the ideas from Norfolk’s 1992 Master Plan interesting to work on. Norfolk has a commuter rail station and a developing town center which add interest and opportunity to plan. This job includes meetings at night, and since Norfolk is close to where I live, I can go home to spend time with my family and then come back for those meetings.