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Community Compact Best Practice Areas

Descriptions of the best practice areas for the Community Compact Best Practice Program.

Table of Contents

Age and Dementia Friendly Best Practices

Age Friendly is a community that is livable for residents of all ages inclusive of older adults and those living with dementia.  Age friendly communities strive to be equitable and accessible with walkable streets, housing and transportation options, access to services, and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities.


Best Practice: Convene leaders of municipal departments, businesses, local citizen groups, regional planning agencies, and private and non-profit organizations to align interests with a goal of creating an ongoing process of community assessment, action planning and implementation, and prioritize age and dementia-friendly efforts. Create process to support, acknowledge and reward local businesses and non-profit entities that work to become age and/or dementia friendly.

Best Practice: Utilize data for a baseline assessment and recommendations, including Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative (MHAC) Community Profiles or World Health Organization (WHO) Checklist of Essential Features.

Best Practice: Conduct a comprehensive baseline assessment utilizing an indicators analysis and community survey. The assessment will inform action planning and implementation phases.

Best Practice: Conduct a baseline assessment of dementia friendly practices using National Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center dementia-capability tool or similar nationally recognized assessment tool or process.

Best Practice: Create maps from the research conducted through the baseline analysis, illustrating the geographic properties of the indicators. These indicators may include, but are not limited to: housing, mobility, food distribution, dementia-friendly services; indicators unique to the community.

Best Practice: Review municipal policies and regulations with a goal of promoting “aging in all policies.”

Best Practice: Engage in a community-wide conversation about attitudes toward aging and dementia and language related to aging to raise public awareness that aging is an asset and that individuals living with dementia can make meaningful contributions to community life.

Best Practice: Create an online database with local information and resources of programs, services, discount programs and benefits for older adults and their caregivers.

Best Practice: Develop policies and services to improve elder economic security and help people age in community, such as: property tax deferral program, property tax work-off program, handy man programs, energy assistance, transportation for non-drivers, designation of age-friendly employers, etc.

Education Best Practices

Best Practice: Map community’s priorities, funding and assessments for children from birth to age eight in order to better align resources and achieve greater impact.

Best Practice: Focus on college and career planning beginning in middle school and continuing through high school in order to ensure that all students have access to the opportunities that provide both experience and help to foster informed decisions about college and career pathways.

Best Practice: Maximize opportunities for students and mature workers to access specialized vocational education through collaborations between regional vocational technical schools, comprehensive high schools and community colleges.

Best Practice: Understand projected changes in student enrollment and demographics and the impact of those changes on the school district’s budget and operations in order to provide a district with the needed information to develop a strategic plan for its future.

Best Practice: Coordinate and communicate key student- and school-level data in real-time in order to inform decision-making and reporting.

Energy and Environment Best Practices

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Best Practice:  Become a Green Community pursuant to M.G.L. c. 25A §10 to realize the energy & environmental benefits

Best Practice:  Adopt Zoning for Renewable Energy to reduce GHG emissions and fuel costs

Best Practice:  Expedite Permitting for Renewable Energy in order to provide clear and predicate approvals

Best Practice:  Complete an Energy Use Baseline so that the community can set goals and track performance

Best Practice:  Produce an Energy Use Reduction Plan that lists intended activities and the parties responsible

Best Practice:  Purchase Fuel-Efficient or Electric Vehicles to increase vehicle efficiency and reduce GHG emissions and fuel costs

Best Practice:  Encourage or Require Energy Efficient & Sustainable Construction to reduce energy & resource use in homes & businesses

Best Practice:  Realize or Exceed a Green Community Obligation in order to further reduce emissions & costs

Best Practice:  Obtain Green Community 2.0 Status in order to establish a municipal GHG reduction target

Best Practice:  Construct Zero Energy Buildings to eliminate GHG emissions, reduce cost, & enhance resiliency

Best Practice:  Provide Electric Vehicle Infrastructure to facilitate the purchase & use of electric vehicles

Best Practice:  Complete a Community Energy Audit & Manage Energy Consumption to use energy effectively and save money

Best Practice:  Undertake a Behavioral Effort to Reduce Energy Use to educate and inspire people to cut their energy use


Climate Change Mitigation

Best Practice:  Plan Ahead to mitigate climate change by establishing goals, creating an action plan, assigning responsibility, and tracking progress

Best Practice:  Use Renewable Energy instead of fossil fuels by generating or purchasing clean power and by zoning for renewable power generation  

Best Practice:  Increase Energy Efficiency in order to reduce power consumption, fuel costs, and GHG emissions

Best Practice:  Promote Fuel Efficient Transportation to reduce municipal transportation emissions & those from people living/working in the community

Best Practice:  Encourage Sustainable Development to reduce, through higher density & mixed-use, the number distance of car trips & resulting GHG emissions   

Best Practice:  Protect and Manage Natural Resources to reduce carbon emissions from loss of natural land cover and to encourage carbon sequestration

Best Practice:  Reduce Municipal Solid Waste and Increase Recycling in order to reduce GHG emissions associated with solid waste disposal

Best Practice:  Conserve Water & Increase the Efficiency of Municipal Water/Wastewater Systems as they consume a lot of energy


Climate Change Adaptation & Resilience

Best Practice:  Protect Vulnerable Populations to decrease risk to people who are more susceptible to climate change effects & less able to adapt

Best Practice:  Inventory Existing Resources & Assess Vulnerabilities to enable the community to prioritize climate change adaptation strategies

Best Practice:  Plan for Climate Change Adaptation to assess cost, risk, and potential solutions and produce a plan of action to enhance municipal resiliency

Best Practice:  Implement Structural Improvements & Nature Based Approaches to protect buildings and infrastructure

Best Practice:  Encourage Sound Land Use that minimizes risk and costs associated with climate change for new development and redevelopment projects

Best Practice:  Prepare for Emergencies by completing an Emergency Management Plan or otherwise readying the community for storm events


Sustainable Development and Land Protection

Best Practice:  Complete a Master or Open Space & Recreation Plan to guide land conservation & development decisions including zoning & land acquisition

Best Practice:  Zone for Natural Resource Protection, Transfer of Development Rights, Traditional Neighborhood, or Transit Oriented Development

Best Practice:  Adopt a Tree Retention Bylaw to preserve tree cover when a parcel is subdivided or redeveloped

Best Practice:  Invest in Land Conservation or Park Creation/Restoration to protect key parcels of land from development & provide recreational opportunities accessible to all

Best Practice:  Enhance Consistency with a Land Use Priority Plan to achieve shared local, regional, and state land conservation & development goals


Water Resource Management

Best Practice:  Require Localized Flood Protection Best Practices to manage water movement & protect lives, public safety, infrastructure, & critical assets

Best Practice:  Implement Stormwater Management Measures so that land use regulations help promote infiltration, control flooding, and reduce pollution

Best Practice:  Manage Water System Assets so that the condition of infrastructure is known & a plan for regular maintenance & rehabilitation is implemented

Best Practice:  Complete Water Audits & Mitigate Leaks to reduce distribution system water losses and associated budgetary & environmental impacts

Best Practice:  Protect Public Water Sources in order to reduce potential threats to water quality and the public health of system customers

Best Practice:  Implement Water Conservation Measures to ensure long-term water resource sustainability, enable growth, & avoid new source development 

Best Practice:  Address Infiltration and Inflow to reduce unintended storm and waste water in the system and the cost of treating it

Best Practice:  Implement Energy Efficiency Measures and Generate Clean Energy to reduce energy bills and GHG emissions

Best Practice:  Utilize Advanced Financing Tools such as an enterprise fund, stormwater utility, or water bank to finance water/waste/storm water systems 

Best Practice:  Establish Full Cost Pricing so that users pay the true cost for all aspects of water, sewer, or storm water management & service delivery

Best Practice:  Institute an Inter-Municipal Agreement in order to realize the economic and technical efficiencies of a regional approach to water infrastructure


Waste Management

Best Practice:  Enhance Waste Ban Compliance so that recyclable and hazardous materials are diverted from the waste stream and reused or recycled

Best Practice:  Develop Waste Contracts that are fiscally, environmentally, and otherwise beneficial to the community

Best Practice:  Reduce Municipal Solid Waste and Increase Recycling by following smart waste practices


Site Cleanup

Best Practice:  Complete a Brownfields Inventory so that the community is aware of all abandoned & underutilized properties & can develop plan of action

Best Practice:  Conduct Site Assessments to determine the nature and extent of contamination and develop a plan of action

Best Practice:  Clean Sites to prevent further releases or the spreading of contaminants and to bring sites back into productive use

Best Practice:  Offer Tax Incentives to help property owners finance sometimes expensive site assessment and remediation

Best Practice:  Update Regulations to remove barriers to redevelopment and encourage productive reuse of brownfield sites

Best Practice:  Track Cleaned Sites with Activity and Use Limitations in order to ensure that future property uses don’t endanger public health

Best Practice:  Engage & Educate Property Owners and the Public to enhance citizen safety and understanding of brownfield issues, resources, and reuse plans


Local Agriculture and Silviculture

Best Practice:  Adopt a Right to Farm By-law/Ordinance to clearly indicate that agriculture is a local priority and to minimize abutter conflicts

Best Practice:  Establish an Agricultural Commission to advocate for local farms, administer a right to farm bylaw, & otherwise represent agricultural interests

Best Practice:  Establish a Farmers Market to provide a venue for local farmers to sell and for residents to purchase locally grown farm products

Best Practice:  Support Sustainable Forestry to help the forest economy in rural areas, improve forest habitats, and assist in the conservation of forest land

Best Practice:  Increase Agricultural Marketing to enhance awareness and patronage of local agricultural businesses

Best Practice:  Support Aquaculture to help local businesses that cultivate aquatic plants or animals

Best Practice:  Promote Urban Agriculture in order to increase access to fresh produce and encourage community revitalization

Best Practice:  Protect Farm and Commercial Forest Land permanently through zoning and land acquisition

Best Practice:  Source Locally Grown or Produced Foods for Local Schools and Local Meal Programs for Older Adults to provide healthier and better tasting meals and to benefit local farmers

Best Practice:  Support Local Horticulture and Floriculture to benefit local businesses & enhance the largest agricultural industry in Massachusetts

Best Practice:  Plant Trees in order to reduce energy use, fuel costs, GHG emissions & stormwater runoff & increase property values

Financial Management Best Practices

Best Practice:  Establish a Budget document that details all revenues and expenditures, provides a narrative describing priorities and challenges, and offers clear and transparent communication of financial policies to residents and businesses.

Best Practice:  Develop, document and implement Financial Policies and Practices including reserve levels, capital financing, and use of Free Cash.  Such policies should identify the responsible parties and procedural steps necessary to carrying out the directed strategy or action.

Best Practice:  Develop and utilize a Long-range Planning/Forecasting Model that assesses both short-term and long-term financial implications of current and proposed policies, programs and assumptions over a multi-year period.

Best Practice:  Prepare a Capital Improvement Plan that reflects a community’s needs, is reviewed and updated annually, and fits within a financing plan that reflects the community’s ability to pay.

Best Practice:  Review and evaluate Financial Management Structure to ensure that the structure and reporting relationships of the community’s finance offices support accountability and a cohesive financial team process.    

Best Practice:  Utilize Financial Trend Monitoring, modeled after the ICMA’s Financial Trend Monitoring System (FTMS).

Housing and Economic Development Best Practices

Preparing for Success

Best Practice:  Create an Economic Development Plan that engages diverse stakeholders, leverages local and regional economic strengths and assets, encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, and/or promotes workforce development planning and implementation.   

Best Practice:  Align Land Use Regulations, especially zoning, capital investments, and other municipal actions with Housing Development, Economic Development, Master, Land Use Priority or other plans for future growth.  Promote development and reuse of previously developed sites.

Best Practice:  Create and Distribute an Economic Development Guide/Manual to not only promote development goals and priorities, but also specifically and clearly outlines the community’s policies and procedures related to zoning and permitting.

Best Practice:  Create Opportunities for Engaging Diverse Stakeholders in economic development efforts, such as to assist with identification of priority development projects, improve local permitting processes, and proactively address obstacles to housing accessibility and affordability as well as job creation.

Best Practice:  Create Cross-Sector Partnerships to help carry out community-driven responses to community-defined issues and opportunities for economic development.

Best Practice:  Create a District Management Entity that engages public/private stakeholders to develop and support downtown revitalization efforts.

Best Practice: Adopt as-of-Right Zoning and/or Streamlined Permitting to promote development in priority districts.

Best Practice: Adopt Zoning for Mixed-Use Development, including Transit Oriented Development, where appropriate.

Best Practice: Adopt Chapter 40R Smart Growth zoning to facilitate the creation of dense residential or mixed-use smart growth zoning districts, including a high percentage of affordable housing units, to be located near transit stations, in areas of concentrated development such as existing city and town centers, and in other highly suitable locations.



Best Practice:  Engage in an Economic Development Self-Assessment exercise to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas of opportunity. 

Best Practice:  Establish and Utilize Performance Data to evaluate the competitiveness of the community, conduct year to year comparisons, and measure performance against comparable communities. 

Best Practice:  Create a Public Dashboard to benchmark, monitor, and communicate to the public regarding various housing and economic development performance measures. 



Best Practice:  Create a Housing Production Plan (HPP) that accounts for changing demographics, including young families, changing workforce, and an aging population.

Best Practice:  Amend Zoning By-Laws to allow for increased density and housing opportunities in a manner that is consistent with neighborhood character and supportive of aging in community. 

Best Practice:  Develop Sector Strategies and Plans in collaboration with various providers and stakeholders to address homelessness for specific high need population groups, such as homeless youth, veterans, older adults, and/or families.

Best Practice:  Complete an Assessment of Fair Housing Report, including strategic goals in alignment with HUD’s new rules to affirmatively further fair housing. Using HUD data, local data and knowledge, a significant community participation process, and the assessment tool provided by HUD, the community will prepare, complete, and submit its AFH to HUD.


Urban Renewal Planning

Best Practice:  Determine need and appropriateness of establishing an Urban Renewal Entity in accordance with MGL chapter 121B. If prepared to proceed, develop action plan and timeline for the creation of the urban renewal entity.

Best Practice:  Prepare an Urban Renewal Plan Application in accordance with MGL chapter 121B in partnership with the urban renewal entity.

Human Resources Best Practices

Best Practice:  Cost-Out Collective Bargaining proposals so that the impact of the total package is known.  This provides the municipality with a clear understanding of both short-term and long-term budgetary impacts.

Best Practice:  Develop a Workplace Safety program so that the risk of on-the-job injuries is minimized.

Best Practice:  Develop a formal Wage and Classification Plan that details, at a minimum, job descriptions, employee grades, and salary ranges, thereby providing the municipality with a tool to make pay decisions that are reasonable in comparison to similar work being carried out in all areas of city/town government.

Best Practice:  Develop Employee Policies and Procedures for things such as discrimination, sexual harassment, information technology use, drug and alcohol, use of social media, and town-owned vehicles.

Best Practice:  Manage employee benefit costs such as health insurance, dental insurance, unemployment insurance, and worker’s compensation/111F; includes eligibility review and evaluation of insurance choices.

Best Practice:  Prepare a Succession Plan to help address the pending wave of retirements that will challenge a municipality’s ability to maintain service levels and utilize expertise and experience of mature workers through consulting or mentorship programs.

Best Practice: Explore Centralized Human Resources/Personnel Operations to improve service delivery and build efficiencies.

Information Technology Best Practices

Strategy, Planning and Assessment

Best Practice:  Perform a general IT assessment that results in a written evaluation and best practice recommendations. At a minimum, the assessment should include a review of hardware infrastructure, networking, backup, email and user account management.

Best Practice:  Perform a cyber security assessment to identify human and technology risks within the environment, analyze and identify gaps in existing cyber security processes, assess vulnerability to external attack and identify steps to remediate identified issues.

Best Practice:  Review technology spending across the community and develop a strategy to leverage technology-related operating and capital dollars more effectively.

Best Practice:  Review the technology organizational structure across the community and develop a high-level strategy to effectively deploy or manage technology across municipal, school and/or public safety locations.

Best Practice:  Document short and long-term business goals and prioritize IT investments based on those business goals.

Best Practice:  Design a regional shared IT services program to maximize technology resources across communities and/or school districts.

Best Practice:  Develop IT resiliency, recovery and contingency plans that are aligned with community realities and position the community to effectively manage unforeseen events.

Best Practice:  Review existing data and system backup policies, procedures and technology, identify gaps, and help to prioritize remediation steps.


Engagement & Transparency

Best Practice:  Develop a high-level strategy to make public data more easily accessible over the Internet

Best Practice:  Create a social media strategy to actively engage the public in local events and government processes.

Best Practice:  Develop a plan to move from a website with content based on organizational structure to one that emphasizes end-user experience.

Best Practice:  Develop a plan to engage the public and promote the use of a new technology process or initiative.

Best Practice:  Evaluate open checkbook and/or open budget options and deploy a solution that is easily consumed by the public, promotes transparency, and allows data to be downloaded in a machine-readable format

Best Practice:  Deploy a public information request solution that improves intake and tracking processes.


Process Improvement and Staff Development

Best Practice:  Implement a cyber security training program that ensures staff is aware of, know how to prevent and know how to respond to cyber security threats. 

Best Practice: Review an inefficient or ineffective business process and identify opportunities for improvement through the use of technology.

Best Practice:  Develop a document and/or records management strategy that results in operational efficiencies and improved responsiveness to the public.

Best Practice:  Implement a data standard that supports integration with local, state or federal systems or improves the community’s ability to make data-driven decisions. Examples include, but are not limited to, permitting, addressing, 311 and parcel data standards.

Public Accessibility Best Practice

Best Practice:  Undertake an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Self-Evaluation and Develop a Transition Plan to comply with Federal civil rights laws that require public buildings to be accessible to persons with disabilities.

Best Practice:  Strive for the Universal Participation (UP) designation from the Mass Cultural Council by encouraging and supporting arts and cultural facilities and events in the community.

Public Safety Best Practices

Best Practice:     Conduct Active Shooter Preparedness and Response Training in collaboration with the Massachusetts State Police Tactical Operations (STOP) Team, onsite with local law enforcement.

Best Practice:     Establish an Emergency Preparedness Plan in partnership with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to develop and enhance a community’s disaster and emergency response capabilities.

Best Practice:     Establish Hazardous Material Response Protocols in conjunction with Regional Hazardous Materials Response Teams under the Department of Fire Services, to enable cities and towns to protect their citizens, the environment, and property during incidents involving a release or potential release of hazardous materials. 

Best Practice:     Hold In-service Training Programs for Municipal Police to better prepare local police officers and first responders for incidents involving domestic violence, mental health disorders, and substance abuse.

Best Practice: Convene an opioid task force, consisting of key stakeholders, to identify, implement, coordinate and improve strategies around the prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery of substance use disorders.

Best Practice: Adopt Standardized Tools for Domestic Violence Cases  by partnering law enforcement with local domestic violence organizations to adopt a best practice policy on training and implementation of standardized, evidence informed danger and strangulation tools. Municipalities are encouraged to apply individually or as a collective.

Best Practice:  Establish a Triad program (a partnership of three organizations—law enforcement, older adults, and community groups). This group maintains an ongoing schedule of community education to combat fraud and elder abuse involving the Attorney General’s Office, Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, District Attorneys, and other state agencies, as appropriate.

Regionalization/Shared Services

Best Practice:  Regionalize services and share resources among municipalities for efficient and effective service delivery to residents and taxpayers in this era of shrinking budgets, loss of seasoned employees to retirement, and increased need for service improvements.

Transportation / Public Works Best Practices

Citizen Safety

Best Practice:  Develop a Safe and Mobile Older Drivers plan for the aging of the population by proactively addressing older driver issues, including education for older road users, infrastructure improvements, and transportation options.

Best Practice: Enhance citizen safety by establishing community-based programs to increase pedestrian, automobile and motorcycle safety.  The community will demonstrate participation in the Commonwealth’s Office of Public Safety and Security’s trainings and conferences as well as the dissemination of public safety information to citizens.

Best Practice: Ensure Safe Infrastructure so as to provide a safer environment for all users and modes by implementing traffic engineering enhancements. The municipality will demonstrate regular and routine improvements on locally-funded roads, such as cutting back vegetation at intersections where it is known to interfere with sight distance, clearing brush that obscures traffic signage, renewing or installing pavement markings, conducting nighttime surveys to check visibility and retro reflectivity, implementing traffic calming measures at known high crash locations.  


Active Transportation

Best Practice:  Implement the Complete Streets Program by becoming certified through MassDOT and demonstrate the regular and routine inclusion of complete streets design elements and infrastructure on locally-funded roads.   

Best Practice: Utilize Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) fundamentals to create zoning around transit centers that  maximizes bike, pedestrian, and transit use and which allows for lower levels of required parking and mixed use to put needed amenities near population centers.

Best Practice:  Develop a Safe Routes to School program that also includes student education on pedestrian safety.



Best Practice:  Participate in the Bay State Roads, which provides on-going training and helps municipalities share ideas and information with other communities about state of the art planning, design, and operational information for city and town public works managers.


Asset and Infrastructure Management

Best Practice: Inventory and Geo-Code all public works assets so that a database of every public works asset is created, geocoded and condition rated, which is used to inform capital planning, as well as emergency repair.

Best Practice: Develop a Pavement Condition Index that rates street condition for the municipality.

Best Practice: Develop a Multi-Year Vehicle Maintenance and Replacement Plan for their municipal vehicle fleet.

Best Practice: Develop a Bridge / Culvert Preventative Maintenance plan to help prolong the life of these critical transportation assets.



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