Residents speak out against proposed changes to village zoning

by susan on March 2, 2010

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How would you like an art gallery in downtown Southborough? What about a playhouse? Or more restaurants and shops? The Zoning Advisory Committee (ZAC) believes enabling that type of development downtown — as well as in Southborough’s other three villages — is key to reinvigorating the town center.

But some village residents feel the specific zoning changes being proposed will threaten the historic character of the village and potentially lower property values. They plan to share their concerns at a public hearing on the matter tomorrow night.

The zoning changes proposed by ZAC would expand the downtown village district and allow for taller three-story buildings on smaller lot sizes with reduced setbacks – including the option for buildings to be constructed right along the sidewalk with no setback.

In a letter to the ZAC, a group of downtown residents said the proposed zoning changes would have a dramatic impact on the character of downtown. “A developer could buy an existing house lot … demolish the house, and divide the lot into two smaller lots,” the letter said. “This will create a domino effect. Once it starts it will continue.”

Higher density multi-family housing would also be an option within the village district and in a surrounding “overlay” district that includes areas now zoned residential. Multi-family housing in the overlay district would require a special permit.

That proposal has the ire of not only downtown residents, but also some from Fayville. In an open letter to the Planning Board, Larry Cain, who is purchasing a home in Fayville wrote, “The property values in the entire neighborhood will decline as it gradually changes from a single family area into a multifamily area.”

Residents will get the chance to air their views on the proposed changes that would impact all of Southborough’s villages — downtown, Fayville, Cordaville, and Southville — at a public forum on Wednesday night. It’s sure to be lively.

The meeting starts at 7:30 pm in Cordaville Hall (the Senior Center), 9 Cordaville Road (map). All residents are encouraged to attend.

Here is some background documentation — including the opposition letters from the downtown and Fayville residents — that may be helpful if you’re planning on attending the forum.


Opposition letters

1 Mary Hynes March 2, 2010 at 3:41 PM

It’s great that there is so much interest in this process. Those of us who’ve been involved over the past several months are hoping that participants come to the meeting with the under-standing that there are a lot of “large” policy questions that we are wrestling with, in addition to the more specific dimensional and other regulations for the villages & districts. And that this is not an “us against them” situation, contrary to any perception that the Committee has acted without any transparency or public input. The ZAC meetings have been open to the public and posted. Many residents who are non-Committee members DO attend in order to listen & provide information. Gathering everyone’s feedback is a key component of this process. We hope that everyone comes to the meeting with an open mind & respectful demeanor.

2 John Kendall March 2, 2010 at 7:24 PM

We wouldn’t want multi-family housing. It would allow more people to move to Southborough, and it would dampen the exclusiveness of our little town.

Nobody ever really wants to improve things here. We want to live in our own little worlds.

3 CopywriterJess March 2, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Thanks, Susan, for providing all of this info. I’m a part-time working mom with small kids and it’s very difficult for my husband and/or me to attend any town meetings. But we do like to stay informed, and your blog helps a lot!

I would LOVE to have more to do in downtown Southborough. It would be great to get another restaurant or two, a coffee/ice cream shop, kid- and parent-friendly places to hang out…the types of places that would help build a sense of community and give people a central place to gather, especially when the weather is nice. I have this picturesque idea in my head of what it could look like – did you ever watch Gilmore Girls? I want a town center like theirs. :-)

4 Karen March 3, 2010 at 8:38 PM

To Copywriter Jess: I guess you have never been downtown there IS a coffee/ice cream shop that is kid and parent friendly. What happens to the store owners that are there now? make them leave? Maybe if the town worked on making the downtown look better instead of improving Rt. 30 starting at Sears Road and stopping before downtown it might appeal to you more. If you want a more picturesque, MOVE ! My family has lived in this town since 1944 when there was more cows than people. I liked it much better then.

5 John Kendall March 3, 2010 at 10:20 PM

Thank you Karen!

6 Daniel March 4, 2010 at 1:05 AM


Southborough sounds like a wonderful place to live in 194!. There must have been lots of open spaces, trees and people who would be respectful of others even when they have differing opinions. :)

7 More Downtown March 4, 2010 at 8:38 AM

No, let’s not make the current businesses leave, let’s provide more variety and competition so the quality of the products and environment keeps pace with our community. I for one, never go downtown for the things I would like to go downtown for. I want a good cup of coffee, a nice environment to meet with friends or clients, an attractive streetscape, good food, and a variety of retail offerings and services. How about a bakery, a cheese shop, a nice gourmet grocery? We have precious little of that now.

I’m sorry, but for a large number of us in town, what is there just doesn’t cut it.

8 More Downtown March 4, 2010 at 8:48 AM

And by the way, telling others in the community to MOVE is a very immature response. A community is about diverse people, often with differing opinions, coming together. When you feel compelled to kick people out of town for disagreeing with you, stop and think how much will get done in town without ALL of our tax dollars. The next step would be you and your family moving out of town because of the inevitable, negative result.

We all pay taxes in this town and no one is entitled to a “bigger” opinion because they have lived in town longer. Like everything in a Democracy, it comes down to the majority ruling. If the majority of taxpayers in this town want change, change will come.

9 Sue Grinblatas March 4, 2010 at 10:40 AM

After attending last night’s session and hearing from many, many residents from all over town, what I take away is this: Many of the townspeople would like to see the existing commercial sites grow and/or improve and are not opposed to seeing some nice new businesses in town, not to mention beautification of what exists and greater accessibility through sidewalk extensions/repairs. People would like to see the vacant spaces used for something (anything) useful or attractive to all residents — the vacant lots on corner of Main/Newton, Rt 85/Southville, Rt 9/Parkerville, and others. There is no need to change the existing zoning to implement these changes. Nor is there any obstacle to new business coming into town and using the above listed or other spaces that these zoning changes would address. Changing zoning does not necessarily mean new business. Creating “overlay” districts which change the zoning and building requirements in four areas of town will not promote the change and improvements sought. It is worth noting that multi-family dwellings and multi-use buildings and smaller lot size already exist in the four areas addressed in the proposed overlay districts, but do not exist in most of the other areas of town where there are just giant single family homes spaced far apart with huge lots. The ZAP has done a lot of hard work, a lot. I am afraid that much of the time and expense of consultants over the past 1 1/2 years spent on this could have been saved had the residents in the affected areas been DIRECTLY approached BEFORE undertaking this endeavor and using town funds to pay for something so overwhelming and blatantly opposed by residents. I do not mean to disparage the committee members’ efforts to improve our town and appreciate their volunteerism. I do think this particular endeavor was ill advised, however, and wasted (wasting) tax payer money.

10 De M March 4, 2010 at 12:45 PM

Sue. You are right we do waste a lot of tax payer money conducting studies before they ask the citizens what they think.

Change is tough. And it’s true we all moved to this quirky little town with two Town Centers and no common area for a reason. The bad news is. we all have different reasons.

And to Karen. I know there are more people than cows. But you have to admit, it’s nice NOT to smell smoked “meat” on Newton St today. Some change is good. And don’t dispense advice unless you are willing to take it your self. 1944 , In Southborough terms, you are a newcomer.

I’m all for change for the good, as long as it doesn’t upset my neighborhood. Good gosh, where are all of these people sitting in cute cafes eating pie and buying art going to park?

11 Karen March 4, 2010 at 7:09 PM

Sorry Copywriter Jess for my strong word. I guess when I feel the town I have LOVED for so long has changed so much I get a little defensive. But the Gilmore girls? If we asked the shop owners how business is in January, February, July and August, that maybe why downtown doesn’t have new businesses. I would love a bakery. De M, I lived close enough to smell both meat and sewer and yes, we have thought of moving to a less congested town. But I love Southborough it’s where my heart will always be.

12 carrie March 5, 2010 at 7:10 AM

I agree with Sue that spending money on consultants was rather waselful spending- when i believe i attended a very well thought out, calculated meeting with regards to the beautification and restructuring of Main Street a year or so ago that was not very well received. I am absolutely a newcomer to Southborough seeing as i have only been here for 16 years but the fact that Falconi Brothers put in our new heating system and became almost like family during the process or that i pop into Mauro’s and chit chat with whomever is behind the counter is important. Putting up new shops which would compete with what we have is a rather harsh way to look at a place we call home. Enabling what we have to flourish either by renovating or adding on to it preserves what we have and when you think of why you moved here is it really for massive businesses?
There is something to be said about keeping in tact what people have worked hard for or perhaps my thought process takes flight due to the fact that our family businees is 3rd generation and our son, who is almost 11, spends many vacation days at our place of business learning what he may or may not take over someday.
I think that the focus should be on fixing the sidewalks so that people can actually walk to and fro downtown, get from one village to the next on foot if they so desire. You could take the stimulus money and put people to work fixing up our streets and then people would walk to get that slice of pizza and ice cream.

13 carrie March 5, 2010 at 7:11 AM

just reread that and realized that it has only been 14 years, don’t want to get ahead of myself!

14 bob a March 5, 2010 at 8:22 AM

We have a great downtown just the way it is!

If you want some quality meat or fish I suggest you try Mauro’s Market that has both high quality meats and fish. How about a cup of Green Mountain coffee at the cafe’ next door. You can get dry cleaning, haircuts (three shops) car repaired, banking etc.

Route nine has big office buildings from end to end. Do we need to allow bigger buildings?

Will there ever be commercial development in any significant way in Fayville? Are we going to jam some monstrosity on the northeast corner of nine and central?

Drive through downtown Northboro, Westboro, Marlboro, Ashland etc and tell me that they have a better downtown than southboro…….

15 resident March 5, 2010 at 9:32 AM

Oh my gosh Sue G. You have your nose in everything.

And you dog gone snobs wanting cheese shops and the likes. Move back to where you came from or better yet move to Sudbury or Newton where those things exist. Then you can see real community – right, laywer suing laywer is more like it.

Those shops downtown were there long before you and I came here. They serve a very good purpose to those who grew up here. And funny, those folks talk to each other not behind each others backs like the nu vo riche in town. And snobs and busybodies want to change it to their “Gilmore Girl” liking. If you are embarrased about our rustic downtown ambiance move or go to some other town center thats to your liking.

16 Sue Grinblatas March 5, 2010 at 11:09 PM

I guess it’s “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Get used to it.

And it’s nouveau riche, whatever you mean by that.

17 Sue Grinblatas March 5, 2010 at 11:16 PM

I hope that you are not suggesting that a fellow resident should not have one’s nose in everything, particularly those things like one’s children’s education and the zoning status of one’s neighborhood and the historical value of one’s village and town. You’re not suggesting that, right?

18 sborokid March 6, 2010 at 8:56 AM

I’m glad our town has people like Sue G. that care about the future of our town center, neighborhood, and kids. Thank you Sue.

19 Pat March 8, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Oh my gosh, you people are nasty!!! I had to check the site to make sure this wasn’t a
middle schoolers Facebook page.

First of all, resounding applause for my friend Sue G.
Despite the fact that she is busy with 3 children, is on SOS, is a Girl Scout Leader for her
daughter’s troop and works part time she manages to attend countless meetings whether they
are for school or town. She stays informed and makes a voice for herself and her children.
We all should be so involved and dedicated to the town we live in.

Second, shame on you “Karen” and “resident”…… didn’t think wanting a cheese shop
went hand in hand with being a “snob and busybody”. I also didn’t think people would be run out of town with pitchforks for wanting some changes in Southborough downtown. What’s next…… Witch trials ???? !!!!!!! My goodness, get real. If we live here and we pay taxes we are entitled to our opinions no matter how long you have lived in this town OR whether or
not you agree with them.

Everyone deserves a voice here WITHOUT being attacked or being called a name.
I come to this site to hear the many voices in this town and to try and see the bigger picture whensometimes I am consumed by the business of my own life. I want to see other view points or have a healthy back and forth with someone who wants to play devils advocate.
I don’t need the drama of name calling and small mindedness….I can get that from my 11 yr. old daugher with stories from the mornings bus ride to school for heavens sake.

As I say to my kids….. “if you can’t say it to someone face to face, then don’t type it and
hide behind a screen name”. I challenge you all to do the same. Keep it civil.

Pat Quill

20 Kathryn Marous March 9, 2010 at 4:45 PM

I just wanted to say that my friend Sue is actually a Girl Scout leader for TWO troops and that not only is she on SOS but is the SOS Chair of Finn School. :)

21 Down Town March 5, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Yay! It was about time for the “townies” to start the name-calling. It is so predictable you can set your watch by it.

22 Former Townie March 5, 2010 at 7:57 PM

I grew up in Southboro and still have a great love for the town. The comments I have been reading here pitting townies against “newcomers” are very disturbing. I didn’t realize that you had to be able to trace your family back to 1727 to be considered a Southborough-ite.I am not naive enough to think that this doesn’t go on all the time in small town New England. I guess I gave some of the the “townies” more credit than they deserve for being welcoming and inclusive to the “newcomers” who have only been here for 44 years !

23 CopywriterJess March 8, 2010 at 3:12 PM

Yikes. I didn’t think my Gilmore Girls comment would be so polarizing. All I meant was that I remember the show depicted a nice center of town, where people of all ages and backgrounds hung out together at town events. There were many shops and restaurants, an open green space in the center of town where people gathered…that sort of thing. It was just a reference to a pleasant, albeit fictional, town center.

Of course I know there are businesses in town, and I wouldn’t want them to go away. I buy flowers, get gas for my car, go to the doctor and dentist, grab a loaf of bread, etc. in town. I also spend money at many other Southborough businesses around town. And man, do I miss Capasso’s. I would just like more businesses – for the convenience, for the sense of community, and so I can spend more of my money in town instead of going to other towns.

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