Easthampton, MA
Large single family homes sprout on farmland.

The Center for Rural Massachusetts (CRM) is a collaborative effort of the University of Massachusetts Extension, via its Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Program (NREC), and the UMass Department of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning (LARP).

During its first ten years of existence, from 1985 to 1995, state-of-the art work was done in regard to accommodating community growth with minimal loss of rural character, instituting open space zoning, creating vital village centers, quantifying change in rural Massachusetts, and exploring alternatives for economic development. Under the leadership of Professor Robert Yaro and Randall Arendt of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, the Center was an early proponent of smart growth. Open space fragmentation

After the mid 1990’s, CRM functioned principally as a publishing medium for relevant research and studies. In 2004, the Center was re-energized with a new mandate and vision: to affect a true integration of traditional land use planning with natural resource conservation and the promotion of working landscape strategies.

For too long, environmental organizations have looked at natural resources, land use planners at zoning tools and economic development groups at tax bases, each with little consideration of the whole picture. CRM now strives to employ the most advanced tools and techniques to help bring about an amalgamation of these approaches to local planning, rural and small town development.

CRM aspires to become the statewide center for innovation in rural long-range planning by:

  • Engaging (alone and with others) in specific demonstration projects that create and test new planning strategies.
  • Conducting an ongoing program of advanced research that identifies and compiles the most effective approaches in the field, and disseminates them in varied forms to client groups.


In brief ...

- The Five Town Action Initiative, CRM's flagship demonstration project was launched in September 2005 and has proceeded rapidly ever since. You can read about the latest Project news and activities here.

- CRM Research...CRM is conducting detailed research into ways that communities across the Commonwealth are utilizing an array of advanced land use tools and techniques, in order to establish more creative and sustainable development and to overcome the strictures of the zoning, subdivision and planning statutes. This empirical approach will provide the most helpful set of recommendations and strategies for Massachusetts communities, as well as landowners and developers. When completed, the analysis will be prepared in long and short report forms for various applications and distribution.

-CRM to Present at the 2006 Citizen Planner Training Collaborative Conference on March 18th, in Worcester.

Glenn will be leading a workshop focusing on two topics at this year’s conference.
1. How the Five Town Action Initiative can be utilized both as a strategy for municipalities working cooperatively on common issues and for growth management on a regional basis.
2. A progress report on CRM’s research into ways in which communities in Massachusetts are most effectively applying various tools and techniques for land use management.

- The Massachusetts Land Use Reform Act was re-filed in February, 2006 by Senator Pamela Resor of Acton, as the Community Planning Act, incorporating changes recommended by the housing advocacy, social services and civil engineering communities. This bill, the result of six years of intensive effort by volunteer practicing planners, land use lawyers, local government officials, consultants, non-profit advocacy groups and others, is the first comprehensive attempt to change the state’s zoning, subdivision and planning statutes. Certain provisions in those laws are obsolete, decades behind the national planning curve, and counterproductive to effective local planning.

The Five Town Action Initiative: Towns Find Common Challenges

The Five Town Action Initiative, a highly innovative demonstration project in which five contiguous Highland Region towns - Ashfield, Conway, Chesterfield, Goshen and Williamsburg, work to cooperatively implement elements of their existing community plans, is underway. The Highland Communities Initiative, a program of the Trustees of Reservations, is partnering with CRM in this unique effort, which will marshal the diverse technical resources of the University to work with these communities to build capacity, institute strong initiatives and ultimately make a real difference in the region. More

Local implementation from a regional perspective


Planning Tools and Techniques Course Information

Contact Information:
Glenn H. Garber, AICP
Center for Rural Massachusetts
109 Hills North
Amherst, MA 01003
Telephone: (413)545-0153
Fax: (413)545-1772
Paul Catanzaro
UMass Extension
Holdsworth Natural Resource Center
160 Holdsworth Way
Amherst, MA 01003
Telephone: (413)545-4839


Updated 2-7-2006

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