Downtown Initiative: Join the resident interview panel, and/or attend the presentation – Wednesday

by beth on May 7, 2018

Post image for Downtown Initiative: Join the resident interview panel, and/or attend the presentation – Wednesday

Above: The EDC is inviting residents concerned about the future of Downtown Main Street to be part of an interview panel this week. (Main St image from past Town communications)

The Economic Development Committee is seeking a few more residents to give their feedback on downtown Southborough this Wednesday from 11:00 am – noon. It’s one of two related invitations for that day.

As I posted last week, the EDC is hosting sessions with the Urban Land Institute this Wednesday. It is part of their initiative to improve the Downtown Business Village on Main Street. ULI will offer expert advice. But first, they will interview key interest groups – residents and business owners.

Initially, the EDC invited residents who live near downtown. Now, with a couple of seats still open, they are inviting any interested residents to sign up. It’s first come, first serve and there are only a couple of seats left. That panel will exclude Town officials “to encourage free and open discussion.” (Scroll down for details on signing up.)

EDC Downtown Initiative flyer

(click to enlarge)

In a second invitation, the EDC is again inviting the public to ULI’s presentation scheduled for that evening at 6:30 pm. This time, they are offering more details on what to expect (and where to go). You can find those in the flyer. (Click right for the image, or here to open the pdf.)

Here’s the EDC’s new announcement:

Improving our Downtown – Visit with the Urban Land Institute on May 9th, Please Join Us

The Economic Development Committee will be hosting the Urban Land Institute for an all-day visit as part of its Technical Assistance Program on Wednesday, May 9th. Please see the attached flyer and previous blog posts for additional information. The program will include a tour of downtown, followed by two panel interview sessions with individuals who will be most closely affected by changes to the Downtown – Downtown residents and business owners.

After inviting Downtown residents, there are two remaining spots available on the residents’ interview panel, and the EDC would like to invite other members of the public to fill those slots. The requirements are as follows: (1) you must be a resident of Southborough, (2) you must be available to participate at St. Mark’s on Wednesday, May 9th at 11:00 a.m. for one hour, and (3) Town employees, committee or board members, or anyone running for such a position, cannot participate. ULI has specifically requested that public officials be excluded from the panel interview session to encourage free and open discussion. If you meet the above requirements and would like to participate, please contact Dominque DuTremble at ddutremble@southboroughma.com or Julie Connelly at jconnelly@seyfarth.com no later than Monday, May 7th at 4:00 p.m. Panel spots will be granted on a first come, first served basis.

Additionally, the EDC invites all members of the public to join us for a presentation by ULI of its preliminary findings and recommendations for improving our Downtown. The presentation will be held at St. Mark’s Taft Building at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9th. We welcome and encourage your participation and input.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Concerned Voter May 7, 2018 at 2:44 PM

“We welcome and encourage your participation and input” — except during the closed door sessions and the rest of the event where the public is not welcome to sit in on PUBLIC TOWN BUSINESS.

An invitation to participate for “two remaining spots (wow — are you sure all two can fit?) — “there are two remaining spots available on the residents’ interview panel . . .”

Did it ever occur to anyone that this “initiative” doesn’t just impact those who live specifically right in the downtown area? Two additional slots for a town of 10,000 persons? Really?

This is outright ridiculous: 1) for the lack of ability to participate by the public at large; and 2) sending out the invite the DAY BEFORE the event .

With all due respect, Ms. Connelly states that the EDC’s “primary focal points were (1) public participation, and (2) transparency. This has been the cornerstone of our efforts.”

Nonsense. This is anything but open to public participation; the process BYPASSES the public. The public is welcome to learn of the results AFTER the process is over. Ridiculous.

I agree completely with the earlier comment by “Marcel Proust” . . .

Marcel Proust May 6, 2018 at 11:38 PM
According to the town’s website, the mandate of the EDC is: “to assist the Town in maintaining and enhancing a prosperous and sustainable economy.” Does this mean bringing in more businesses for our tax base even if they wreck the way the downtown looks?

Are we supposed to hand over control of downtown’s future to the ULI, who doesn’t even live here?

According to their website, ULI is a group of real estate interests: “The goaL of ULi’s Advisory Services Program is to bring the finest expertise in the real estate field to bear on complex land use planning and development projects, programs, and policies.”

Why is this meeting being held at St. Mark’s?

Why does this feel like the residents are being told they are being included but in fact are being shut out of the decision making processes? Are we supposed to be overjoyed that ULI is soliciting our opinion and then going into closed session?

I agree with Concerned Citizen, that there’s no reason to shut residents out of any of this.

If we allow EDC and ULI to procede without checks, we will have a downtown that looks like Northboro’s main street or Westboro’s Lyman St., which are eyesores. Those “economically developed” areas look like strip malls on steroids.
No thanks.”

The above refers to calling out what should be A PUBLIC MEETING AT TOWN HALL. There is no reason to exclude the public.

Have heard commentary that the EDC should be disbanded for the way it conducts itself, by bypassing the public and for the potential for conflicts of interest.

On one hand, while some improvement may be needed, it takes a lot of chutzpah to cut the public out of public town business — a different issue altogether. Is there room for improvement? Maybe. Should the public fully participate? Absolutely. Should the realities of traffic, traffic flow, etc. be studied first? Yes! This aspect is not an afterthought, like the Public Safety Building—no study done apparently.

It is ridiculous that the public at large is being cut out of the ULI discussions and process as they put together their study and recommendations. The EDC should be disbanded for that reason alone.

Thanks

Reply

2 Julie Connelly May 9, 2018 at 11:15 AM

Concerned Voter,

I hope that you were able to participate in our survey, attend one of our two public forums this past Fall prior to our involvement with ULI, comment during our recent presentation at Town Meeting, take us up on our invitation to be a part of the resident panel, and that you will also attend our public meeting this evening at 6:30 at Taft Hall. If you have not been able to participate in any of these ways we invite you to attend our meetings to obtain accurate information and share your concerns in a productive way.

Reply

3 Concerned Voter May 9, 2018 at 3:13 PM

The main concern is holding public town business in closed sessions and not on town property. This is of concern to the town, as it is town business.

Your comment “in a productive way” is dismissive and not ok. Extending an invitation for 2 residents at large the day before the event is simply unrealistic and appears to be an afterthought.

Again, the overriding substantive concern is the bypassing of the public and the public at large’s input, BEFORE ULI comes to any conclusions. However, it is self evident that this is not happening. I am not worried about “accuracy” of information. The concern is going around the public. Deed is done. Next time have your meetings at Town Hall and have them taped. FYI, that is transparency.

Thanks

Reply

4 Jessica Devine May 10, 2018 at 12:05 PM

I wish I could have attended the presentation, but I had my first School Committee meeting at the same time! I’m looking forward to hearing more. Thanks to the EDC for all their hard work.

Reply

5 my town sb southborough May 10, 2018 at 4:33 PM

Why weren’t these proceedings televised?

With all due respect, I agree that these meetings should have been at Town Hall and televised – that’s what makes up transparency, in spite of Ms. Connelly’s long list of efforts claiming such.

If inclusiveness is an objective, these meetings MUST be held in a town facility with the public fully included, not “invited.” “Invited?” On town business?

It was abutters who were included in these meetings, and certainly not the public at large. This “Downtown Initiative” affects EVERYONE – not just the abutters.
However, here comes ULI (?!) with their study and recommendations without the public at large participating during all their sessions. There are two(?!) seats for the public to sit in for a ULI interview. Two. With “invitations” made known the day before?

Here comes rezoning? I don’t think so. Who are the EDC and ULI to dictate the next steps on our downtown? Invited? This seems deceptive: the venue, who was invited, carefully chosen words (“invited” versus open), etc. The public is “invited” until the door closes on sessions where the public is told by the EDC that they cannot participate.

Sorry, but watch all the fee based professionals come out of the woodwork. It is not hard work when you are lining up your next fee (or your partners). There is a real potential for conflicts of interest. Sorry, NOT drinking your Kool-Aid.

Reply

6 Julie Connelly May 11, 2018 at 11:08 AM

To answer some of your questions, the evening session where ULI provided their initial assessment and took questions and comments from residents was recorded by SAM. A diversity of opinions were heard and I hope you get a chance to watch. Again, after consideration of other public venues, St. Mark’s was the best fit to accommodate our needs for the full day of activities with ULI; there just wasn’t enough space in Town Hall, the Senior Center, the Community House to accommodate an all-day working session, as those spaces are used by town employees and residents during the day. The public was invited, and public meeting notices were timely posted. If Beth agrees, I will submit a summary of the day that she can share here when she posts the the recording.

Reply

7 beth May 11, 2018 at 11:17 AM

I’ll be happy to share.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: