Meet the Planning Board Candidates

townhall

This week, we are covering the race for the Planning Board. This Board both codifies Town policy to manage the community’s assets through Zoning Bylaws, and permits how many of these assets are developed. Catherine Johnson is running as an unopposed incumbent, for another five-year term. There is 1 seat and 2 candidates running for the 1 year term and they are Thomas MacDonald and James Roberti.

1. What is your track record on sustainability, including any particular interests and experience with sustainable ideas and initiatives?

Catherine Johnson
It is impossible to separate sustainability and planning. Since 2013, when I joined the Planning Board:

– I have pushed forward Planning’s sponsorship of the Natural Resources Protection Development Zoning Bylaw (Section XVI F), which protects 50% of all land in 5+ lot subdivisions as open space. It now needs to be reviewed.

– I also have worked to change Planning’s Zoning Bylaw/Map overlay for NRC-owned land from “residential” to “park/recreation/conservation”; the two boards brought some of the NRC parcels through the 2016 ATM and another 17 parcels will be before Town Meeting this year. This adds a layer of protection for open space in Wellesley.

– I was Planning’s representative to the Route 9 Enhancement Study Committee (Route 9 is both a thoroughfare and a residential street: it should have more trees, environmentally sensitive lighting, and even sidewalks).

– I am sponsoring a new Lighting Bylaw that will be before Town Meeting next month. Though not as comprehensive as everyone would like, it is a necessary incremental step to permit fully shielded, cut-off lighting and some Dark Sky Compliancy, where possible.

– However, my major focus is residential development and how to make it sustainable. Over the last 15 years, Wellesley has witnessed incredible changes to the character of our residential neighborhoods: tear downs and subsequent building of large houses. This chews up the open space in our yards and removes too many trees during the building process. One of Planning’s tools for restoring sustainable sanity to development is adjusting our Large House Review (LHR) Zoning Bylaw (Section XVI D). For the last two years, I have spearheaded a study to address what changes are needed for LHR. The Planning Board is bringing this very important Article to this year’s Town Meeting. If passed – and I need everyone in Sustainable Wellesley to email their Town Meeting Members to get them to vote in favor of Article 32, LHR/TLAG (Total Living Area + Garage) amendment – the size, scale, and mass of new houses will include the garage area and the “attic” area as part of the square footage of the house. This doesn’t prohibit large houses, but it mandates a review of mass and scale, lighting, trees and ground/storm water discharge. Almost all speculative developers try to avoid LHR permitting by building only to the square footage threshold that would trigger a review. If garages and attics are counted, as they are in Newton, Weston, and other nearby towns, much of the new construction in Wellesley still will be built below the review threshold. Houses will appear about 9-10% smaller than what you see today. More yard, more trees, smaller basements that push down into our land.

Thomas MacDonald
I am currently the Operations Manager, Office of Facilities Services at Boston College.  I have oversight at any given time of more than 150 buildings and their infrastructure, 338 acres of campus land and more than 7 million square feet of physical plant.  As you can imagine in a University setting sustainable initiatives are of key importance.  Some University-wide initiatives in conjunction with my department include converting all CFL to LED lighting in classrooms and common use buildings; investigating alternative energy sources for a conversion where possible to clean energy and the use of non-fossil fuels, the institution of a major water conservation effort; including low flow toilets and showers, the installation of faucet aerators, and the inclusion of a grey water system in the new 490 student dormitory to recycle almost one million gallons of water a week treating personal shower water for reuse as toilet water.  

James Roberti
I am a real estate attorney with 30+ years of experience in land use planning and real estate development. During my practice I have worked with several different clients in the area of  large scale development of solar fields.  I got involved in solar field development in 2008 upon the passage of the Green Communities Act in Massachusetts by Governor . Patrick and the Massachusetts Legislature.   At home my wife, my sister and I have been tireless recyclers since we moved to Wellesley in 1994.  I was also very involved in attending and supporting the process of acquiring the North 40 by the Town as a vital open space asset for the Town.  I also supported and voted for as a Town Meeting Member the ban on the use of  plastic bags by large retailers at last spring’s town meeting.

2. How do you see sustainability as a factor in the development of planning policy in Wellesley?

Catherine Johnson
Right now, the answer is simple. Planning is revising its 2007-2017 Comprehensive Plan to merge it with the Board of Selectmen’s strategic plan. The new name will be The Unified Plan. It should be ready to come before Town Meeting for endorsement by the spring of 2018. It is not supposed to be a magic wand that will make Wellesley as sustainable as we want it to be on day one, but it will address issues and give us tools. It should provide policies, goals, and action strategies. Everyone can and must have input. Your voice is as important as mine. Going forward, it will be my personal goal to adopt the action strategies at the Planning Board level to guarantee preservation of open space, to resist bad development in favor of smart growth, and to support the residents and other Town boards or committees that want to keep us Green and sustainable.

Thomas MacDonald
I will bring the sustainability ideas and initiatives from my experience in facilities construction and management to the projects before the Planning Board.  Sometimes small project changes can make big differences in our use of energy and natural resources.  I will be a keen eye in the review of development projects and large building initiatives, especially as we look at the 900 Worcester Street project and the proposed land uses for the North 40, as to how resources are being used and in what instances new sustainability systems and ideas can be instituted.  I believe this should be the norm for review of not only town-wide development but also for private projects put before the Board.

James Roberti
I see sustainability as a factor in planning policy in the following manners:

– The Planning Board has proposed a lighting bylaw to regulate the effect of lighting in residential proposals that come before the Planning Board for large house review and for commercial projects that also come before the Board for review and approval.

– The Board is currently working on the implementation of recommendations that resulted from a study of the Route 9 corridor to better improve transportation along Wellesley’s portion of Route 9.

– The Board will continue to implement the storm water management bylaw that relates to the impact of storm water and drainage into the natural environment.

– The Board has supported the adoption of a Large Scale Solar Overlay Bylaw that is being proposed by the Sustainable Energy Committee that will hopefully lead to Green Communities Designation for the Town.

3. What specific sustainability related initiatives should the Planning Board undertake in your prospective five-year term?

Catherine Johnson
There is a lot of work to be done. On the list are:

Change the Tree Protection and Preservation Bylaw (Section XVI E) so it really protects trees. Planning can work jointly with the tree wardens on the NRC to adjust the regulations for preservation and replanting, end the concept of clear-cutting, and make sure that the Bylaw is enforceable.

Address storm water management town-wide, through the creation of a new Bylaw that gives policy tools to the DPW as well as the Building Department.

Continue what Planning has begun with its Lighting Bylaw: how do we permit commercial lighting, sign lighting, and residential lighting that isn’t supposed to cross property lines but still shines in a neighbor’s window?

Protect the North 40. Yes, some of the land may be used, but we have to control how much and when.

Most importantly, make residential growth “smart” growth, not “dumb” growth. “Green” construction may speak to lower use of energy and new building materials that are environmentally friendly, but a strong, viable alternative is to reuse, rehabilitate, and repurpose. If we do this, Wellesley can maintain its character because that is also sustainable.

Tom MacDonald
Immediately speaking I applaud the Planning Board for working with the Sustainable Energy Committee in wanting to help pave the way for the proposed ground mounted solar installation at the clover leaf of route 9 and route I-95.  The Solar Overlay District change to the by-laws provides a significant opportunity for the production of a sustainable energy source in our region but also the oversight of how it will be designed, built and maintained.

I will bring the sustainability ideas and initiatives from my experience in facilities construction and management to the projects before the Planning Board.  Sometimes small project changes can make big differences in our use of energy and natural resources.  I will be a keen eye in the review of development projects and large building initiatives, especially as we look at the 900 Worcester Street project and the proposed land uses for the North 40, as to how resources are being used and in what instances new sustainability systems and ideas can be instituted.  I believe this should be the norm for review of not only town-wide development but also for private projects put before the Board.

Jim Roberti
– The Board will continue to refine its subdivision rules and regulations to allow for low impact development measures to be included in new subdivision projects

– The Board will be a vital part of the Unified Plan process that will lead to the preservation of open space and natural resource protection.

– The Board will continue to refine the Off Street Parking Bylaw.

– The Board will continue to be involved in the regulation of large houses through its large house review bylaw that will lead to decreased energy consumption.

– The Board will continue to work with the DPW and the Board of Selectmen to improve transportation and traffic issues throughout the Town.

 

About Author

Connect with Me:
COPYRIGHT © 2016 By Sustainable Wellesley

Join us!

Join us and find out all about awesome local sustainability ideas and events!
Holler Box