Downtown Initiative: Zoning efforts update and “Roadshow” at Library

by beth on January 14, 2020

Post image for Downtown Initiative: Zoning efforts update and “Roadshow” at Library

Above: A display at the Library is meant to inform the public on EDC’s goals for revitalizing the Downtown Business Village (Note: “COULD” image right is a compilation from multiple pages)

The Economic Development Committee plans to bring zoning changes to Town Meeting in March. Leading up to it, they’re trying to get assistance and drum up public support. One way they’re doing that is through a “Roadshow” now on display at the Southborough Library.

The display showcases EDC’s vision for revitalizing the Downtown Business Village. Images from downtown Main Street’s past and present are displayed along with examples of potential future development. Context is also provided on what the EDC is trying to achieve.

For years, the EDC has been working on an initiative to improve the downtown Main Street area. As part of that effort, they honed in on perceived obstacles. One is the current Town code.

To encourage development of mixed retail/commercial and residential buildings, the EDC is looking to update zoning bylaws. At last week’s Planning Board meeting, EDC members explained their strategy.

Downtown Business Village DistrictThe EDC will ask voters to create an “overlay district” for the downtown portion of the Business Village District. (The zoning map now shows the Business Village District as a section around downtown Main Street, plus a section of property around the intersection of Route 9 and Central Street/Oak Street. The new zone would be just for the section pictured right.)

The Article will then outline specific by right uses in that district. The new code would allow some projects with downstairs retail/commercial uses and upstairs living quarters. Rather than needing Planning to approve a special permit to site the project, the developer would get a Building Permit from the Building Commissioner. 

The project would still go to the Planning Board for Site Plan Review before it could be built. The bylaw would still leave the board some authority over project details and aesthetics.

At last week’s meeting, EDC Chair Thomas Collins updated Planning on its efforts and invited the board to participate. There was some back and forth as Planning members asked questions and voiced concerns.

Before I get to that, here are some of the images from EDC’s recent presentations and road show:

EDC DI Roadshow - How it could look - 1 EDC DI Roadshow - How it could look - 2 EDC DI Roadshow - How it could look - 3 EDC DI Roadshow - How it could look - 4

EDC zoning update presentation to Planning - village mixed use examples

You can also read the text from the roadshow in this pdf. The Roadshow will be on display in the Library’s downstairs Eaton Meeting Room through January. (Note: The room is often booked for meetings. So, if you are heading to the Library just to see the display, you may want to call ahead to make sure the room is free.)

As I previously posted, there will be a public hearing on the bylaw Article on January 27th.

Now, back to the discussion at last week’s Planning Meeting. . . 

EDC Vice Chair John Wood spoke about an intent to write zoning for responsible development in keeping with Town character. He said the committee would like to see a more pedestrian friendly area. They don’t want a drive thru or Dunkin’ Donuts. They want businesses that attract people to stay and maybe even walk around. He urged that if Planning members had things that they don’t want to see allowed downtown, explaining them at an EDC meeting would be extremely helpful.

Planning Member Andrew Mills said that whenever he thinks about improving downtown, he gets stuck on parking. He already finds it difficult to find parking downtown. He wondered how there could be enough parking for residences over restaurants. He opined that areas where he’d seen that work is in condensed areas where people do more walking or using public transportation. 

Wood said that he might be right, but the zoning would allow developers to bring their out of box ideas. Plus adding amenities would help attract businesses to vacant offices on Rte 9. He explained that business owners want nearby amenities for employees.

Mills said that would bring Rte 9 workers downtown where they would clog up traffic looking for parking. He posited that it would make more sense over at the train station. Wood responded that the great thing about the overlay language could be used for another district. Or you could customize zoning for that district.

EDC’s Kathy Bartolini, a former Planning member, pitched some possibilities for parking, like over in the Park Street area. She acknowledged that some were in areas that the EDC’s vision graphics showed as green space. And she noted that underground parking wasn’t an option due to drainage issues downtown. But she and Wood opined that in order to get developers to come in and work with them on creative solutions, they need to offer them a path for successful development. 

The EDC has complained that hoops developers have to jump through makes it difficult to attract good projects. The latest example was a project proposed at 2 East Main Street and supported by the EDC. It is now in appeals after failing to get a special permit from Planning.

Last week, Bartolini referred to 2 E. Main St rejection as having come after two months of hearings. EDC presented that the new code would more clearly define for developers what they could count on being allowed to construct vs which aspects would need to be negotiated with the board.

They asked Planning to attend a future EDC meeting to iron out details including what should be allowed by right. The EDC’s vision includes a table that would include restrictions by parcel size, to avoid buildings too large for the parcel. (The size of the building and placement near the edge of the parcel were objections cited by Planning members sided against the 2 East Main St permit.)

In public comment, Newton Street resident Karen Sokel expressed concern about the EDC’s vision. She worried about the impact to her street. She projected a tremendous amount of traffic would be added where there is already too much traffic in the morning. She said it “almost feels like” the EDC’s plan was being snuck by area residents. 

Sokel claimed that no one she spoke to on Newton Street had heard of the survey the EDC conducted about downtown or the ULI meetings with stakeholders. She opined that if you really want the feedback of people most impacted you need to do a better job reaching them. Referring to a “great example”, she said that St. Mark’s School sent her and neighbors a certified letter about their plan to build a dorm. 

Bartolini pointed out that while the EDC didn’t pay for a certified mailing, St. Mark’s was required to by law. She defended that the EDC made many outreach efforts through the media and postings in public places like downtown businesses and the Library.

Former EDC member Claire Reynolds called on Planning to to help the EDC get the bylaw done.

She told the board that realtors don’t take people through the downtown area when they show them houses because of the state it is in. As for parking, she pointed to possible development if some people sell their property. She posited that new zoning may create opportunities for those who would rather accept a high enough offer on their property rather than fixing up their houses.

You can read the EDC’s presentation to Planning here, which included some proposed allowed uses. Those were draft proposals that the EDC hope to work out with Planning. There may be changes before the hearing on the 27th.

If you’ve been following EDC’s efforts, you may realize that the second obstacle to downtown development is septic issues. In the fall EDC shared:

an engineering wastewater feasibility study will be conducted that builds on the wastewater pre-feasibility study already conducted in-house.

The study is funded by a state grant.

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Casual Observer January 14, 2020 at 9:10 PM

Sounds like an EDC strategy to work around results they didn’t like from the Planning Board! The EDC wants to cut the Planning Board out of the process by changing the rules. It just sounds wrong to me. l see that the EDC would get its desired easier path to the EDC achieving what it wants.

The Planning Board members are elected by the people of Southborough to review and approve projects according to the Town bylaws. Who is the EDC? Are they elected? No. They aren’t.

I think that making it hard to do something means more care goes into what gets done. I want lots of thoughtful consideration of what gets done downtown. Easier isn’t better. Easier can have unintended consequences.

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2 beth January 15, 2020 at 8:50 AM

I should point out that the EDC originally urged the Planning Board to write the zoning law and has continued to ask for the board’s to participation. The board pushed to hold it off for the Master Plan Committee. EDC didn’t want to keep putting off changes. The compromise reached was that the EDC would work on it and Planning would hold public hearings. But even after that agreement, the EDC has continued to publicly push for Planning’s involvement.

That said, EDC made clear last week that they are looking to remove some subjectivity around what is allowed that changes based on who is serving on the Planning Board.

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3 TP January 15, 2020 at 9:07 AM

In a free democracy, residents and stakeholders get to participate and give their opinion. Every taxpayer should beware of this committee and its initiatives.

Upon reading their draft zoning bylaw, it is clear that this is an end run, run-around on an elected board, Planning Board. This bylaw as written is a blank check for developers. A significant development could happen without transparency or even site plan approval.

The voting taxpayers of this town should take major caution in understanding this proposal. Also, that this is originated by a committee that now has Special Municipal Employee (SME) status, thereby lessening the application of Conflict of Interest Laws. This policy was spearheaded by Mr. Healey of the BOS who got himself a similar designation years ago. The BOS (Healey, Shea, Kolenda) voted it through to award this to the EDC, with no actual vote taken by the EDC requesting the designation. The person requesting it on his letterhead, never took it and left the committee. The designation should be rescinded immediately as the award was in violation of the policy itself (must be requested by committee, not individual). All taxpayers should hold this BOS accountable. Also, this EDC is completely disrespectful of an elected board, the Planning Board. Bottom line: their plan does not fit this small downtown. Is this EDC representing the developers or the taxpayers? Reader, you be the judge.

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4 Gina Glazomitsky January 15, 2020 at 1:38 AM

Hello – My husband and I just purchased a home in Southborough. We are millennials with a young growing family and theoretically the exact people who will be moving to the area more and more in coming years. I’d love to get involved with town government in any way I can. I think I can offer an alternative perspective on some issues, I’m just not sure where to start. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

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5 Al Hamilton January 15, 2020 at 9:19 AM

Gina

Welcome to Southborough. Participating in town government is pretty open and easy. There is a long list of committees and boards that have vacancies. https://southboroughmaboards.vt-s.net/vt.php Many of these are appointed by the Board of Selectmen. Contrary to popular opinion, the Selectmen are not like the Great and Powerful Oz or scheming miscreants they are normal people like you and me (well you anyway) who are trying to serve their community. They are very approachable. Some other boards are appointed by the Moderator, Paul Cimino, who is also very approachable, and occasionally by other elected officials.

If you stop by town hall you can talk to the Clerk Jim Hegarty who I am certain will be happy to help you, and register you to vote.

The charm of small town government in Mass is it’s relative openness. Of course, if you serve you will also need to be prepared for occasional controversy.

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6 beth January 15, 2020 at 9:22 AM

Welcome to Southborough. Here are some of my tips:

The Town keeps a list of committee and board vacancies posted on its website. You can look for the latest here.

For more information on each committee’s responsibilities, click here, then click the link for committee details.

To apply for a position, click here for the application form. You can either indicate which committee(s) you are interested in – or you can tell them a bit about your background and indicate that you’re open to considering what officials think is appropriate.

Most of the positions are appointed by selectmen, but a few are by others. (Unfortunately, the filter doesn’t seem to be working correctly to indicate which.) So your best bet is probably assuming you’d be appointed by them and that if not, they’ll forward to appropriate body. You can send the completed form and an attached resume to the Selectman’s office (at Southborough Town House, 17 Common Street), or selectmensoffice@southboroughma.com.

You should also save the date for Annual Town Meeting: March 28 – 1:00 – 5:00pm and possibly continued to 7:00 – 11:00pm. Participating there is also an important part of being involved in Town government. If you aren’t familiar with Town Meetings, you can click here to learn more.

Leading up to Town Meeting, there will also be public hearings on some of the Articles headed there. They give people a chance to learn more details and weigh in. Sometimes it leads to changes in the Articles before the Warrant is printed. Sometimes, it leads to amendments proposed on the Town Meeting floor. As I noted above, on January 27th, the Planning Board will be holding hearings on four Articles.

Good luck!

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7 Julie Connelly January 15, 2020 at 10:36 PM

Gina,
Welcome to Southborough! It is a lovely community to raise a family, and nothing makes me happier then seeing new people come into town who want to be involved in local government. I’m glad you’ve already found Beth and MySouthborough, as this s a great source of local information (but as with anything, take the anonymous comments with a grain of salt!) Look forward to seeing you around!

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8 Interested January 16, 2020 at 9:22 AM

Before we go any further we must get something straight. Using a pseudonym is permitted by this blog’s rules. I use one so that I can freely comment while keeping harmony with my neighbors and relatives. Using a pseudonym does not mean that the opinion or information that is being shared is not justified, incorrect or inappropriate.
Conversely, when a commenter uses his or her real name, that does not indicate that the information is not biased or is factual.

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9 Al Hamilton January 16, 2020 at 12:27 PM

You, of course, have the right to post anonymously and the reasons you cite are perfectly valid as are your points about the factual accuracy of posts. But, there are differences:

1. By posting under your own name people in town can bring other information to bear about your point of view. For example if I post something people who have seen me in other forums can say “Yes, Al is that cranky cheapskate that does not like spending taxpayer monies and has libertarian leanings. I saw him speak at Town Meeting he speaks there regularly (perhaps too much).”

2. Posting under your own name serves as a bit of a restraint on the type of language we use since we can be held accountable for it which is not the case with an anonymous post.

So, yes, if you want to inform us that 2+2=4 anonymously there is relatively little controversy in your post. But if you want to take to these pages to excoriate the BOS and Rec department for failing to include a new Cricket Pitch in the latest budget and do so anonymously the readers have no basis to judge if you are a resident that is passionate about Cricket or if you are an agent of the Acme Cricket Pitch Company.

So, I don’t dispute your right to post as you wish but I think there is a qualitative difference between an anonymous post and one where the writer identifies themselves.

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10 Kelly Roney January 16, 2020 at 2:02 PM

Right on, Al! It’s refreshing how often we agree despite our widely differing views of the role of government.

11 Interested January 16, 2020 at 2:29 PM

Other forums? Hmm, you’ve peaked my interest. What are they?

12 Mary January 15, 2020 at 11:25 AM

Who owns these parcels? I’d like to know why the boundary is set where it is. It doesn’t seem to make sense the area is either zoned or not. It looks like the EDC is designating specific properties. Who owns what and why is the question? Isn’t Central St to RT 9 a good place to do this? Less impact for traffic and residents having it be closer to accessible roadways.

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13 beth January 15, 2020 at 11:53 AM

The outline is the downtown section of the existing Business Village District. If you want to look at who owns parcels in it, you can use the GIS Map on the Town website here.

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14 Kelly Roney January 15, 2020 at 2:00 PM

There is a huge amount of parking in downtown Southborough. It’s just privately owned and not generally available.

The Southborough Professional Building has 69 spaces, just in front. The building across Main Street has at least 8 spaces. The Skylark building that used to be the Post Office has 8 spaces with others possible in the rear. SHoP has 21 spaces behind it. K of C has, probably, 7 or more spaces. The Spa has 20 spaces. The Lamy building has at least 12 spaces. Main St. Bank has at least 18 spaces. Peter Bemis’s proposed building where the gas station was long ago has 8 or more spaces.

That’s 171 spaces, not counting the on-street spaces nor all the space on Park St. or on Boston Rd.

The real question is how to compensate the owners for opening up their lots more widely. Some of that compensation would surely come in the form of greater customer traffic for the businesses.

There’s plenty of parking downtown. There’s just an allocation problem.

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15 Interested January 15, 2020 at 8:12 PM

“How it could look” is miss leading. Don’t be fooled! There are NO TOWN PLANS for any of those renderings. The EDC is trying to prey on your emotion. It’s all pie in the sky thinking.
With Main St. homes being bought up by tax exempt nonprofits, how will changing to zoning codes bring in more tax revenue?

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16 Enough January 16, 2020 at 1:26 PM

Not sure how “How it COULD look” is miss leading. People need to see what *COULD* be possible with a change to downtown. They need to look at what’s done in other locations to get perspective. Some people just can’t visualize changes that others describe. Pie in the Sky thinking is that we will bring in any additional tax revenue with doing nothing in this town to promote some level of development. The prey on emotion most people are trying to make is that all these changes will bring in the big bad developer that will put anything they want here to make a buck.

The zoning in downtown, which I have no clue when they were written, has given us the what we have now. Developers can’t build projects with the zoning that are financially responsible (yeah, I know it’s so terrible that someone wants to make money in this world), so we are left with no change.

The latest project to get voted down was due to the building being too tall. Not that it was a scary business or could be a bad neighbor. It did have a majority of votes, just not a required super majority when it failed.

I know I’m not alone in the fact that our downtown could use improvement and development. Meetings are there for everyone to go to, but it seems more people want to speak out against something than for an issue in town.

[Editor’s Note: I belatedly realized that a commenter was posing under multiple names as though it was a subject line. Since that can lead to the impression of multiple commenters, that isn’t allowed under one thread. The commenter asked to have them all listed under the name “Enough.”]

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17 Interested January 16, 2020 at 3:35 PM

I think you don’t understand my meaning. I am not against anyone making money, I don’t know how you got that. What I am saying is that there are not any plans for any big development to happen downtown. People will look at the renderings and come away thinking that if they vote to change the zoning they will be getting a new downtown. That simply is not the case. Changing the zoning will allow for mixed use, it will not guarantee more shopping, more coffees shops, more anything. How the individual Main St.property owners proceeded will be entirely up to each property owner. There are no town plans to develop Main St.
Also, 26 Main St was recent purchased by St.Markds. it never even hit the market. How many other home on Main St are owned by either St. Mark’s or Fay? How will changing the zoning on Main St bring in more tax revenue, which is what the EDC has been charged to do, if many of the properties are owned by tax exempt organizations? And what will this proposed zoning bylaw change allow the tax exempt property owns to do with their Main St. properties?

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18 Julie Connelly January 21, 2020 at 4:07 PM

Currently, if you were looking to start a small business Downtown, for example, a bakery with residential units over it, you wouldn’t be able to do so for a couple of reasons. First, zoning laws do not permit a mix of residential and commercial use – not even by special permit. Second, a bakery use would likely not be possible due to a lack of wastewater management infrastructure. Currently, a developer or a business owner would not invest in a property Downtown because of these two issues. If we solve for these, then the vision the EDC proposed in its renderings becomes possible. We can control for density, height, building materials, green space, and whatever else the town deems necessary through design guidelines in the overlay area. By revising zoning and solving for wastewater management, we open up the opportunity for small scale development controlled by the rules the town now has the opportunity to lay out. Laying the conditions to allow for small business and mixed use development helps encourage a healthy local economy and an engaged and vibrant community where residents can shop, dine, and come together locally. Mixed use development and infrastructure improvement have been recommended in multiple reports and studies that have been paid for with our tax dollars over the past decade, including the master plan and the housing plan. This isn’t new, we’re just trying to move it forward based on the input we’ve received from residents which lines up with the recommendations of reports our town has commissioned and paid for over and over again.

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19 TP January 22, 2020 at 6:59 PM

Ms. Connolly, stop using the Vulcan mind-meld on the unsuspecting taxpayers. The taxpayers do not want to pay infrastructure costs for developers and increase their profits. We pay and they profit. Oh, please sign us up for that!

The taxpaying public should be on high alert. This proposed zoning change is a blank check for developers and bypasses Planning Board, the people you elected to office. Current zoning is perfectly adequate for this small downtown area. Also EDC meetings should be taped. Incredibly, the EDC very inappropriately would not allow a recent meeting to be taped. This is against state law! State law allows for the taping of all public town meetings.
EDC, where do you get off not allowing taping? This should be reported to State Ethics immediately, as well as the Attorney General’s Office. This EDC should be disbanded.

Also, close attention should be paid to Special Municipal Employee status granted to the EDC, thereby lessening state ethics laws. Former EDC Chair, Attorney Julie Connolly, you never answered the question: Where is the vote of the EDC in its minutes authorizing Attorney Dave McCay to go get the SME status? He requested it on his company’s letterhead, but no where references a vote or authorization by the EDC. Status is granted, then he resigns? Why?

Recently, the Town Calendar had a number of new agendas posted for BOS, Planning Board, EDC, etc. The EDC had on their agenda: “Order, Decorum, and Hard Stop” Can someone please explain what the heck that means? Agendas are supposed to list their discussion items as actual business items with sufficient specificity to the public, so the public can understand what the heck they are talking about. So what does that mean? And where is the business task? It is not comprehensible to the third party reader and the public they are serving: Is this an Open Meeting Law Violation?

More importantly, it is impossible to follow along with what exactly the EDC is proposing on a supposed bylaw change (“Business Village District Zoning Amendment,” which is listed on the 1/6/20 Planning Board Agenda). That is Monday 1/6/20. If the EDC goes before Planning Board regarding a Zoning Amendment on Monday 1/6/20, but the Zoning Amendment and all that entails is not on their own agenda for discussion the immediate past week and the public cannot make heads or tails of this, is that an Open Meeting Law violation?

Bylaw change? What is it? Bylaw for what? This EDC and BOS needs to stop bypassing the public and respect process themselves. At a recent BOS meeting, Mr. Healy was asking about who can bring zoning bylaws to Town Meeting floor. There should be no monkey business and looking for ways to bamboozle the public. There are actual boards (elected!) charged with the business of zoning and it’s not the BOS, for legitimate checks and balances, non-political reasons.

Most importantly, this should be an open, public process with plenty of information available in sufficient detail to the public that this EDC is supposed to be serving. Remember us, the public? The people you are asking for more tax dollars from? These agendas (and the minutes) are so cryptic it is impossible to be informed. Also, members of this committee have been granted Special Municipal Employee status, thereby lessening Conflict of Interest laws for them. At least one argued for it (no one else from the committee before BOS), Mr. McCay, and then resigned. That person was not operating under a vote from the committee to go get the SME designation. But this BOS plowed ahead anyway and gave it to the committee, regardless of breaking their own new policy. Simply unbelievable. (Sam Stivers and Lisa Braccio did not vote in favor, BTW, for that very reason.) That didn’t stop Mr. Healy, Mr. Shea, or Mr. Kolenda. So the EDC has the benefit of a lower threshold to Conflict of Interest Laws and the person (who was not voted to do so) who requested it, did not take it and puzzlingly chose to leave the committee. The BOS should now re-review the so-called “need” (since it was McCay pushing based on his own need on his own letterhead) and rescind that designation immediately. All those in charge, especially those who “can’t remember” or have no idea why SMEs were doled out, should not be allowing any SMEs to stand without express demonstrated need.

Memo to Mr. Healey: You and the BOS certainly should not be violating its own new SME policy that you authored. Public trust is broken. There should be no SMEs. Earn it back.

Taxpayers, remember that in the voting booth in 2020 and at town meeting budget time for the EDC. The EDC is viewed by many as the development community’s voice, not yours. Is it? Reader, you be the judge. Their actual track record is abysmal. And they are asking for more of your money. They are the most vocal negative critics of an elected board, Planning Board, while seeking SME status (getting it!) and operating with barely to no accountability to the public or the actual homeowners. Hang on to your wallets.

These EDC meetings should absolutely be videoed by Southborough Access Media. The working public and taxpayers who are paying for this committee should be able to view these meetings by video to keep up. This EDC should be disbanded.
Thank you.

20 Julie Connelly January 24, 2020 at 2:26 PM

“TP”, while I generally do not engage with anonymous and misinformed attacks, I do want to respond to a few factually incorrect statements:

1. A form request for last week’s EDC meeting to be recorded was made by a sitting selectperson, and then withdrawn. It is disingenuous to say we did not allow taping. The EDC has previously discussed taping its meetings to promote transparency and avoid misinformation, and we will take up this issue again as I agree it could be beneficial to all parties. Either way, any citizen can request a meeting be taped, so feel free to put in a formal request to the Clerk’s office.

2. The EDC has not asked the taxpayers to pay for any of its proposed improvements. Our efforts have been through our volunteer hours, and will continue with the proceeds from a state grant which we were awarded because our vision is in line with state economic development priorities (along with being in line with the recommendations of the close to $200,000 worth of reports commissioned by the town in the past decade or so which have yet to be implemented).

3. Our zoning work has been AT THE DIRECTION of the Planning Board. We requested they update the mixed use provisions for Downtown, Planning asked us to draft a bylaw for their review. That’s exactly what we’re doing. Stating that EDC is skirting Planning is wrong.

4. While I’m flattered, I want to confirm that I do not have Vulcan mind melding abilities, although the dream remains. Live long and prosper.

21 TP January 16, 2020 at 12:12 AM

Wrong and wrong. Those are privately owned and fully utilized. Those buildings need their spaces. There is no excess, especially during peak business hours. Also, it is not the town’s business to start sticking its nose into private land owner’s business or parking.

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22 Kelly Roney January 16, 2020 at 1:59 PM

Fully utilized? I guess you’re not downtown after 5 pm! Very few of those spaces are in use after normal business hours.

What I’m looking for might be a business association that could work out compensated sharing of lots. Wouldn’t the Professional Building and Main Street Bank like some marginal revenue from their empty lots after 5:00? The Spa and SHoP might need all their spaces.

Maybe the EDC could help broker an agreement – a voluntary, private agreement. Everyone could be better off.

Currently, all these businesses are using public resources – streets and on-street parking – to facilitate their businesses. I have no problem with this, nor any desire to change it, just the knowledge that building a town economy that works can work in both directions.

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23 n January 16, 2020 at 2:57 PM

Agreed. And I would gently suggest the town has no obligation to provide a parking lot at taxpayer expense for these businesses. We have one vacant lot in the village that is a mess. I don’t hear much about the other businesses that is negative and know many people who like the small down non-pretentiousness of the village. Wine and cheese shops and bistros… maybe Wellesley or Concord would be better choices for you.

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24 why bother January 17, 2020 at 5:40 PM

Why expend the energy and get worked up about something that will never happen? How Southborough could look? Of course it COULD. But it never will. Pretty soon St. Mark’s will own the rest of Main St. and downtown Southborough, and since it will all be tax-exempt property with tax-paying homeowners subsidizing all their municipal services, who will even need or want to go to downtown Southborough other than a Fay or St. Mark’s student?

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25 Enough January 22, 2020 at 9:41 AM

You are right, St. Marks will buy up all they can, if we don’t change something. They are the only ones who can offer to buy the property and do something with it, so when someone wants to sell what choice do they have? Changes to zoning and the wastewater treatment will create other competition for property that people want to sell.

[Editor’s Note: I belatedly realized that a commenter was posing under multiple names as though it was a subject line. Since that can lead to the impression of multiple commenters, that isn’t allowed under one thread. The commenter asked to have them all listed under the name “Enough.”]

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26 Al Hamilton January 24, 2020 at 9:46 AM

The old saying is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. “Main Street” is the result of the zoning regulations that have been in place for well over 25 years. That and the ability to responsibly dispose of sewage greatly limits what can be profitably built.

So, if you are happy with how Main Street has evolved including the gradual acquisition by the schools then there is no need for change. If you want something different then something has to change.

As for a sewage treatment facility in the neighborhood, my understanding is that it would probably be funded by a special district fee where those that benefited from the system would pay for it. No way it should be funded from general revenues.

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27 TP January 24, 2020 at 2:56 PM

The taxpaying public should be on high alert. This proposed zoning change is a blank check for developers and bypasses Planning Board, the people you elected to office. Bypassing an elected Board? As drafted, this bylaw appears to be intentional, creepy, sneaky, and dangerous to an unsuspecting average taxpayer or persons who don’t understand how an overlay works. Who stands to benefit and who pays the price? Al, it’s all taxpayer money. The public pays, so a developer can increase his returns? And destroy the “bucolic” charm of a small downtown? Because once the overlay is put in, the whole thing eventually goes. And an abutter / resident may not even know what is happening until it happens. Nice.

This “downtown” is much too small to accommodate this crazy overlay. This overlay would allow 4 story buildings and resulting densities of use that would simply overwhelm this postage stamp size district. Traffic congestion and clog, including commercial trucks etc., are already a problem. More volume on top of clog? This is barely an afterthought for the EDC.

The EDC’s energies are misdirected. Certainly not a dollar more of taxpayer money should go to this unprofessional, process ignoring, don’t video-tape us, Open Meeting Law flouting group. They should be disbanded and reported to the Attorney General and State Ethics, especially those who work directly for the developers they “consulted” with. (Memo to BOS member Healey: Review and rescind the SME status you just granted.) As for St. Marks and others, the BOS should have put deed restrictions on the old public safety sites. That was the Town’s opportunity in time. But no, we have our BOS genius dealmakers at the time to thank for no deed restrictions. Maybe they just didn’t want it in the deal.

In the meantime, Mr. McCay resigned from EDC and this “Downtown Initiative,” citing his partnership’s work for St. Mark’s and the golf course deals. Yet, St. Mark’s ends up with the former Public Safety building sites with no deed restrictions. And now some complain about St. Marks assembling properties on Main? It is all puzzling. Go figure.

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28 beth January 24, 2020 at 3:47 PM

FYI – in a comment I just saw and approved at the same time as this one, Julie Connelly responded to your earlier comment which made some of the same accusations.

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29 TP January 24, 2020 at 4:52 PM

Sorry Ms. Connelly, but no one is misinformed. And for disingenuous, let the reader be the judge. Here are your points:

1) “1. A form request for last week’s EDC meeting to be recorded was made by a sitting selectperson, and then withdrawn. It is disingenuous to say we did not allow taping. ” This is a BOS member, your appointing authority, requesting that an EDC meeting be taped. After being attacked, the request (for the Town Clerk, for goodness sake!) to tape was withdrawn. You don’t get to “think about” or “take up again” taping. It is allowed by State Law, and immediately not some future date.

2) “2. The EDC has not asked the taxpayers to pay for any of its proposed improvements.” The proposed wastewater treatment plant (funding to be determined of course) is paid for somehow. Typically, it could well be through a betterment tax. Your uncle, Al Hamilton, states above that it would be “funded through a “special district fee.” That’s not taxpayer dollars? Better ask Al what he means. But we’ll take you up on it being for free and at no cost (including operational) to the taxpayer.

3) “3. Our zoning work has been AT THE DIRECTION of the Planning Board.” Just for the record, Planning Board NEVER DIRECTED EDC to go draft zoning bylaws. You are thoroughly confused. EDC can, like others, might bring forward concepts. YOU ARE NOT LEGALLY AUTHORIZED to draft or “partner up” with Planning Board. Get it? You have no legal authority. They did not direct you. If you do not understand the distinction, you need to speak to Town Counsel.

4) As for “Vulcan mind meld,” perhaps the better term is “spin.” Stop spinning this as some wide-spread, resident supported idea. Many downtown resident / stakeholders never had a say. Go review the last Planning Board meeting tape where one resident very well articulated that exact complaint.

5) And lastly, since you finally have re-appeared, can you please answer the important question as to where the EDC vote is on the EDC minutes authorizing Mr. McCay to go seek “Special Municipal Employee” status? Then, after we get a straight answer, the taxpayers can live long and prosper.

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30 Enough January 27, 2020 at 3:26 PM

So what is the role of the EDC? The page on Southborough Town website says

“The mission of the Southborough Economic Development Committee (EDC) is to assist in stabilizing residential taxes through the growth of the Town’s commercial and industrial tax base while preserving the character and charm of Southborough. The EDC was established to expand and strengthen the local economy, promote job creation, and enhance the Town’s quality of life through prosperous, balanced and sustainable economic development.

The role of the EDC is to investigate current economic conditions, assist the Town with the creation and execution of appropriate economic development initiatives and marketing opportunities, coordinate activities to enhance or expand economic development, and engage in related activities as necessary to further EDC’s mission and purpose.”

Guess you disagree with that…

[Editor’s Note: I belatedly realized that a commenter was posing under multiple names as though it was a subject line. Since that can lead to the impression of multiple commenters, that isn’t allowed under one thread. The commenter asked to have them all listed under the name “Enough.”]

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31 TP January 27, 2020 at 3:53 PM

Have you ever heard the term “sufficiently vague.” EDC must have written that job description. It’s pretty much like their Agendas and Minutes — try to figure them out. It’s pretty close to impossible.

Taxpayers disagree with a zoning overlay that gives developers (wondering if they are actually clients of some EDC members or their companies?) a blank check.

Taxpayers disagree with a committee dissing an elected board that the taxpayers elected! Pretty bold. And taxpayers disagree with an attempted by-pass of Planning Board altogether. It doesn’t get more greedy or ham-fisted.

What would be great? Disbanding this EDC.

What else would be great? EDC members who do not have conflicts of interest and / or EDC members who do not have (or their companies) developers who may benefit from their “Downtown Initiative” as clients. That would be fantastic.

What else would be great? Video taping all EDC meetings. It would be wonderful for the working public to be able to view public town business and keep up.

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32 Enough January 28, 2020 at 9:21 AM

Stop with your own misleading statements and fear mongering. The “blank check” reference has been used 4 times in this threat alone. The changes don’t lift all the requirements and approvals or strip all the power away from the boards. They give the boards the power to approve projects that the people have already stated they want. Get with it. The studies, surveys and master plan calls for these changes, you just don’t happen to agree with them. Which is perfectly fine for you not to agree. You don’t represent all the taxpayers in town.

You think only the vocal people matter in this town. The majority of people in town don’t want anything to do with town politics and town meeting as it’s clear people just want to be petty and controlling.

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33 TP January 28, 2020 at 1:54 PM

Enough of your own enough. Clearly you have not read the bylaw or understand it as written. No taxpayer is going to go for a plan propelled by a group that represents developer voices over actual residents and stakeholders. And yes, the plan as written does bypass Planning Board. It also puts forward a density that is not supported by this small village area. Read the plan.

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34 Enough January 29, 2020 at 8:21 PM

It sure makes sense to have people that have experience in the matters they are dealing with on a committee. I was interested in working on some committees in town, but knew I had no knowledge on the subjects of the committee. So, I didn’t sign up.

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35 Interested January 28, 2020 at 2:07 PM

I hope you meant “thread” and not “threat.”

A survey that had less than 500 responses does not represent the “vast majority” as the EDC would like you to believe. It would have been helpful if the EDC had been open to learning about the concerns of those who live and work in the downtown area. They might have gleened some important knowledge while making an effort to work with everyone. Instead, from the get go, they have made efforts to cast a negative view on the opinions of those who have legitimate concerns for what our teeny tiny downtown can handle. They have set the tone.

Aside from the Downtown Initiative, I would be interested to learn what the EDC has accomplished in strengthening Southborough’s economics since our last town meeting, or at all really. I see many available retail and office spaces around town. What has been done to draw businesses to us and to fill these empty spaces? Why are there always empty spaces at the Town Center? If we, as a town, can not support the businesses that we do have, how will more spaces mean that we can?

Incidentally, I will never forget the beautiful jewelry store that we did have at the Town Center. Such a nice couple, who ultimately had to shut down. We also had a clothing/gift shop that came and went in a blink of the eye. Mauro’s Cafe did try to sell ice cream, it didn’t go over, but we do have Cold Stone. And we do have a wine/cheese shop that sells really great sandwiches, The Vin Bin. But, unfortunately, in between Cold Stone and Vin Bin is an empty space. And oh yeah, and we do have coffee shops, 5 of them actually.

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36 Enough January 29, 2020 at 8:25 PM

So, do you have a survey of 500 people that are not interested in changes to downtown? Do have a different master plan that doesn’t call for changes in downtown?

I’m not going to try and tell you that everyone is all for changes downtown, but you are inflating the numbers on the negative side.

Negativity is usually the loudest and not always the largest group of people.

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37 Enough January 27, 2020 at 5:05 PM

In watching earlier videos, trying to find more points I’d like to make, there is nothing new about people wanting something to change and get better with downtown..

https://youtu.be/jp2DTITFXXM?t=241

[Editor’s Note: I belatedly realized that a commenter was posing under multiple names as though it was a subject line. Since that can lead to the impression of multiple commenters, that isn’t allowed under one thread. The commenter asked to have them all listed under the name “Enough.”]

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38 Enough January 29, 2020 at 11:12 AM

Help me understand what you define as a coffee shop? Know of Red Barn 2x and Starbucks. I enjoy Mauro’s for breakfast, but that isn’t a coffee shop.

[Editor’s Note: I belatedly realized that a commenter was posing under multiple names as though it was a subject line. Since that can lead to the impression of multiple commenters, that isn’t allowed under one thread. The commenter asked to have them all listed under the name “Enough.”]

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39 Kelly Roney January 29, 2020 at 4:22 PM

Well, there is Dunkin’s in the Town Center [sic] Plaza.

Totally agree that Mauro’s isn’t a coffee shop. They’d have to have decent coffee first.

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40 Enough January 29, 2020 at 8:14 PM

I agree I left off Dunkin, by accident. They are a “coffee shop” where people do enjoy sitting down and conversing.

But the notion that just because a place sells coffee makes it a coffee shop is crazy.

[Editor’s Note: I belatedly realized that a commenter was posing under multiple names as though it was a subject line. Since that can lead to the impression of multiple commenters, that isn’t allowed under one thread. The commenter asked to have them all listed under the name “Enough.”]

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41 Interested January 30, 2020 at 8:49 AM

Happy to help and glad you asked, Coffee

By definition “coffee shop ~ a small informal restaurant”

To me, Mauro’s Cafe is the quintessential New England coffee shop. There, a patron can sit at the counter or a table and order as little as 1 coffee and no one will mind. The coffee that is made available is of gourmet quality, with many different flavors to choose from and is offered either hot or iced. One can also order a coffee “to go.”
Not all that long ago the Cafe (or Spa as some of us still call it) was the only coffee shop in town. In addition to that we now have Red Barn west, Red Barn east, Dunkin Donuts and my personal least favorite, Starbucks.

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42 Enough January 30, 2020 at 10:53 AM

“A coffeehouse, coffee shop, or café is an establishment that primarily serves coffee (of various types, e.g. espresso, latte, cappuccino). Some coffeehouses may serve cold drinks such as iced coffee and iced tea; in continental Europe, cafés serve alcoholic drinks. A coffeehouse may also serve food such as light snacks, sandwiches, muffins or pastries. Coffeehouses range from owner-operated small businesses to large multinational corporations. Some coffeehouse chains are franchise-based business models, with numerous branches across various countries around the world.”

Mauro’s Cafe does not meet that definition. The Spa is a diner. Gourmet is a bit a stretch there for the coffee offerings. Red Barn, Starbucks, and Dunkin does match that.

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43 Interested January 30, 2020 at 11:38 AM

Well,

I did look up “coffee shop” in multiple dictionaries.

I did say, “to me….”

Green Mountain coffee is a gourmet coffee.

And,

Maybe you haven’t lived here long enough to remember when the cafe was called the spa.

But,

I do agree that this thread has had enough.

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