Three Important Measures Now Up for Approval at Town Meeting!

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With so much attention on issues of national importance – local issues can get lost in the shuffle. Wellesley Town Meeting opened Monday night and will soon be discussing three hyper-local issues that have a direct impact on sustainability and the fundamental character of our town — Articles 31, 32, and 40.

If you are a Town Meeting Member, we strongly urge you to approve Articles 31, 32, and 40.

If you aren’t a Town Meeting Member,  we urge you to call or email your Town Meeting Members today to ask them to vote in favor of these articles! (Wellesley has 8 precincts, each represented by 30 elected Town Meeting Members. To find out who your town meeting members are and how to contact them, click here.)

Please Support Articles 31, 32, and 40 (scroll down for more detail on each):

  1. Solar Overlay Zoning Amendment, (Article 31), proposed by the Sustainable Energy Committee – This measure would make it possible for the state to install a solar array on the cloverleaf at Routes 9 and 128. (No current solar project is proposed.) Approval of the zoning overlay would allow Wellesley to apply to become an official “Green Community,” making the town eligible for state grants to improve energy efficiency and increase renewable energy use.

  1. Large House Review Amendment (Article 32), proposed by the Planning Board. This amendment would improve the accuracy and equitability of the current Large House Review by including garage and attic spaces in determining which houses are reviewed.

  1. Historic Preservation Demolition Delay/Review Bylaw, (Article 40), proposed by the Wellesley Historical Commission. This bylaw would allow a pause in advance of the demolition of a home built before 1949.

Please contact your Town Meeting Member now and ask them to vote to approve Articles 31, 32, and 40 to preserve the sustainability and character of our town!

Read on for more details….

  1. Solar Overlay Zoning Amendment, (Article 31), proposed by the Sustainable Energy Committee

The Sustainable Energy Committee (SEC) is proposing an amendment to the Zoning Map and Bylaws for a future solar overlay. If approved, this amendment would allow the town to apply for the “Green Community” designation from MA Dept. of Energy Resources (DOER). As a Green Community, Wellesley would be eligible for grants and technical assistance to improve energy efficiencies and increase renewable energy in public buildings, facilities, and schools. Neighboring towns have won more than a million dollars in grants.

In order to apply for the Green Community designation, towns must demonstrate that they have the potential to develop a large-scale solar installation. The proposed Solar Overlay Zoning Amendment would allow for potential future development of ground-mounted solar installation at the clover-leaf at Route 9 and 128, which is owned by the state Dept. of Transportation. (The DOT has no current plans to develop the site.)

  1. Large House Review Amendment (Article 32), proposed by the Planning Board.

The “Large House Review” is a process approved by Special Town Meeting in 2007 that allows the Planning Board to invite input from neighbors, and to address whether a proposed house is compatible with the character of the neighborhood. Size thresholds are set for each zoning district — if a proposed house is larger than the threshold, it gets reviewed through Planning.  Currently, the calculation exempts garage and attic spaces, so builders design houses that fall just under the definition of “large,” but actually include large garages and potentially livable attic space.

Article 32 calls for two relatively simple and reasonable changes that will make Large House Review more predictable and remove unintended consequences: Counting garage space as part of the “Total Living Area,” and counting attic space when the roof height allows at least 5’0” under it. This would result either in more houses coming through the Large House Review or in developers building houses that are somewhat smaller. Either way — Wellesley wins with houses that are more in keeping with the character of our town.

  1. Historic Preservation Demolition Delay/Review Bylaw, (Article 40), proposed by the Wellesley Historical Commission.

One house is torn down every four days in Wellesley. There have been 859 teardowns since 2002, significantly more (pro rata) than neighboring towns. Teardowns are less environmentally friendly than renovations and it can take up to 80 years for energy-efficient new construction to overcome the negative environmental costs associated with the teardown-rebuild process. In addition, there’s an enormous environmental cost from new materials and associated transportation (e.g., asphalt shingles, lumber framing, insulation, paints, metals, carpeting, etc.), not to mention the clear-cutting of our mature canopy trees to make way for larger foundations, and the massive increase in landfill waste from home demolition.

Currently 148 Massachusetts towns have demolition review bylaws and EVERY abutting town has a demolition review bylaw. We need to level the playing field and better manage the rampant pace of demolitions and developer-built construction in our town.

This bylaw is a priority of Wellesley’s Comprehensive Plan (2007 – 2017) and is specifically recommended in Wellesley’s current Comprehensive Plan. It was crafted to provide a window of opportunity to protect our history and character and slow down the teardowns, which are actually on the rise.

The Demolition Delay will allow for thoughtful discussion in the face of wanton destruction; allow neighbors to weigh in on a proposed demolition; offer a pause to consider; and encourage renovations and additions vs. complete teardowns.

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