Editorial: How Wellesley Can Become Even More Sustainable

Phyllis Theermann

teardownEditorial by Catherine Johnson

We have been a Tree City USA for 34 years. We passed a plastic bag ban at 2016 Town Meeting. We are completing the requirements to become a Green Community by 2017. We continually strive to support alternate energy, recycle, and reduce our carbon footprint. We even have an Integrated Pest Management Policy for town-owned land.

What else can we do? Well, a big part of our effort to make Wellesley truly sustainable remains offstage in the wings, unnoticed. We must start to spotlight residential housing: specifically, how do we manage the demolition of older houses and what are we building as their replacement? After all, approximately 20% of our nation’s landfills can be attributed to demolition debris. And replacing older, smaller houses with new large ones eliminates open space and mature tree canopy. And, in many cases, the new house is out of context with the surrounding homes, which is an affront to a basic principle of sustainability.

We should all join in the discussion:

1.) The Historical Commission has a subcommittee that is working to create a Demo Review Bylaw. This would review the potential demolition of older houses that add to the character and demographic fabric of Wellesley by promoting restoration and smart rehabilitation. Visit the Historical Commission’s website to read more. Consider signing the petition regarding tear downs and commenting on this issue.

2.) The Planning Board has a working group studying Residential Housing. Its goal is to assess what we have right now and what we need to do to promote smart growth. Eventually, we can craft Zoning Bylaw changes that make how we build sustainable. This is a large discussion that will be folded into the town-wide Unified Plan scheduled to be in place by 2018. At present, the Large House Review (LHR) Bylaw controls mansionization in Wellesley. But does it work as intended? The board plans to hold a public forum in early October so it can hear from residents.

More information on attendance and how to make your voices heard will follow.

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Phyllis Theermann
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