Lunenburg was settled in 1718 and incorporated in 1728. It occupies a land area of approximately 27.69 square miles in area with open water bodies comprising approximately 2.37 square miles. Lunenburg is located in north central Massachusetts approximately 43 miles from Boston, It is bordered on the west by the Town of Ashby and the City of Fitchburg, on the south by the Town of Lancaster and the City of Leominster, on the east by the Town of Shirley and on the north by the Town of Townsend. The Town is both an agricultural community and a bedroom suburb of Fitchburg, Leominster, Worcester, and to a more limited degree Boston and the Route 128 and I-495 employment centers. Lunenburg has an approximate population of 11,835 (2022 Census), and provides three public schools; a Primary School, an Elementary School, and a Middle/High School. All of these buildings, with the exception of the Elementary School, are less than twenty years old. Additionally, the Town owns a handful of buildings in the Village Center District that it has been assessing for reuse, demolition, or other purposes.
Historically, Lunenburg grew from a strictly agricultural base that originally included the land of current-day Fitchburg. As the population of the Town and region has increased, a trend from rural to semi-rural character developed. Although the residential development boom of the 1980's represented the true turning point from rural/agricultural to semi-rural/bedroom community, the Town still maintains a low-density, open feel. Much of the Town is covered by farmland, open, and undeveloped land, providing scenic vistas and imparting upon the Town an open charm suggestive of its semi-rural character. Commercial and industrial development is permitted in several areas of town, primarily along the two major arteries (Routes 2A and 13) and the town's peripheries, due largely to the close proximity of Leominster's and Fitchburg's sewer and water systems. Although many farms and orchards had slowly developed into single-family housing, farming continues on in Lunenburg, In 2013 the Annual Town Meeting voted to establish an Agricultural Commission to represent, preserve and enhance farming in the community and to administer the "Right to Farm" bylaw. The Hickory Hills Lake area was developed as a private community comprised largely of vacation cottages. Shirley Reservoir is a public water body also developed with mainly vacation cottages that have now been modified to year-round residences.
The non-residential uses in Town, exclusive of agriculture, are limited but expanding in scope. Sand, gravel, and stone quarrying occur primarily in the southeast area of the Town. The commercial and retail areas of Route 2A and Route 13 in the west and west-central part of the Town are expanding in response to the regional economy and growing regional population base. Major industrial uses are confined to the south/southeast area of the Town. The commercial sector in Lunenburg continues to evolve as the economy grows. The Town has not significantly expanded the Commercial Zoning District, however, there has been significant investment in new construction and property rehabilitation in these areas.
Local legislative decisions are made by an open town meeting consisting of all registered voters in the town. Subject to the legislative decisions made by town meetings, the affairs of the town are generally administered by an elected five-member Select Board and a Town Manager, Local school affairs are administered by an elected seven-member School Committee while local taxes are assessed by an elected three-member Board of Assessors. The Town is managed by a five-member Select Board and an Open Town Meeting. The day-to-day management is under the supervision of a Town Manager appointed by the Select Board. Planning and development are controlled by Massachusetts General Laws and the Code of Lunenburg. The five-member Planning Board is elected by the general public. The five-member Zoning Board of Appeals is appointed by the Select Board. Both the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals are designated as Special Permit Granting Authority in the Code of Lunenburg.
The Town has strong fiscal management and operates with a balanced budget. Lunenburg is a moderately built-out community with significant opportunities for residential development and limited opportunities for commercial development. An update to the Master Plan is a critical component of the Town moving forward successfully.