Letter: Meme Luttrell for Planning Board

[Ed note: I have invited each candidate for a contested seat to submit one letter before the May 9th Town Election.]

To the Editor:

Hello I’m Meme Luttrell and I’m running for a seat on Southborough’s Planning Board.

My family and I have lived in Southborough for the past 25 years; my children attended Southborough Village Preschool, continued through the Southborough school system and graduated from Algonquin. I have volunteered in numerous capacities with the following organizations for the benefit of our Community: Kindergroup, SOS, Southborough Schools, Southborough Citizens for Community Preservation and the Southborough Open Space Preservation Commission (OSPC). In 2012, as acknowledgement of my accomplishments and dedication I was honored to receive the Elaine Beals Award for Conservation.

I believe my knowledge and experience make me the best candidate for the open position on the Planning Board.

  • I understand the importance of the Planning Board’s role in Town Government. What the Planning Board does at every meeting affects, for better or for worse, the look and feel and the character of the town we live in.
  • For the past 13 years I’ve been a member of the OSPC and served as chair for over a decade. In that role I’ve been actively involved with planning and land use issues in Southborough.
  • I have extensive knowledge of the Planning Board’s activities, having worked with four Town Planners and attended numerous Planning Board meetings; I’m ready to hit the ground running on May 10th as a fully-up-to-speed Planning Board member.
  • I believe that state law and the town’s bylaws should steer town board processes and decisions. This approach allows, all participants in permitting processes, including the public and local abutters, to have clear expectations of what can (and cannot) be done. This particularly includes the requirements of the Open Meeting Law, the Public Records Law and the State Ethics Commission regulations.
  • I bring an objective, independent view to the Planning Board. I have no conflicts of interest – either real or apparent. I can address each issue, based on the facts presented to the Board without pre-conceived biases.
  • I have a long record on the OSPC of listening to the concerns of the abutters to proposed projects, and working to mitigate those concerns. I believe that this is a critical component of reaching fair and balanced permitting decisions, and as a Planning Board member I will continue to listen to local neighborhood concerns.
  • I plan to take a proactive role on the Board – looking for ways to be involved in planning for the future of our town as we face ongoing challenges on how to balance anticipated growth while maintaining Southborough’s uniqueness.

My experience, dedication and vision make me particularly well qualified for effective service on the Planning Board and make me the best choice for this position. I ask for your vote on May 9th.

Thank you!
Meme Luttrell

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8 years ago

Hello Ms. Lutrell,

Nice post, thank you! Your bullet points highlight an array of skills and experience that are essential to work in an efficient and cooperative manner. For this reason I am planning on voting for you in the upcoming election.

However, while administrative competence and knowledge of the inner working of a town committee are valuable, I would be much more enthusiastic about supporting you if I heard about your view of what distinguishes SB from other abutting towns. What IS our character? To say you would work to “balance anticipated growth while maintaining Southborough’s uniqueness.” is way too vague for me. I don’t thing this stance will separate you from anyone running.

Q: “HOW” can SB preserve a ‘look and feel” of a quintessential New England Town (throughout the town) while smartly, discreetly and cost-effectively expand the tax base AND maintain tax payer rates?

A solid, specific and measurable response to the above question will be a challenge. Give if a shot…..

thanks for your service to the town !!!!

Meme Luttrell
8 years ago

Concerned Resident,

I believe Southborough still maintains much of its small town feel through connections to open spaces and our rural heritage. The challenge is how to plan future development without losing that small town feel. A robust business community is also important but it should be in scale with the residential community. The Planning Board has a role to play in both protecting our open space and planning for future growth. However the Planning Board should not operate in a vacuum, better communication and cooperation between various town entities is vital. On the Planning Board I will work with the other members of the Planning Board to build consensus on how to move my objectives forward. The following outline some ideas:

• I will work within the jurisdiction of Planning Board to investigate revitalization, improvements and beautification projects for the downtown area, working with our new town planner looking for funding and resources to implement those tasks. A vibrant down town will contribute to maintaining the small town community we cherish and bring in added tax revenue. It will also increase property values in the surrounding neighborhoods and provide services for all Southborough residents
• Streamline the permitting process to create a favorable business environment; this is in line with the Economic Development Committee (EDC) recommendations. The EDC has stated that Southborough has the reputation of being unfriendly to business because of its time consuming permitting process. I support working with other town entities to develop a more efficient process that does not decrease oversight. A streamlined permitting process would facilitate the EDC’s mission to attract business to the town and reduce the vacancy rate in commercial buildings
• In survey after survey Southborough residents list open space as one of the top reasons they moved to town, and the continued preservation of open space as a top priority moving forward. The town has a subdivision bylaw that encourages the clustering of residences in exchange for preserving open space. On the Planning Board I would work to ensure the requirements of the bylaw are met in preserving meaningful open space. I am also committed to working with the Conservation Commission, the OSPC and private land trusts to preserve a large track of land if another one becomes available.

Thank you for your support,

8 years ago
Reply to  Meme Luttrell

Good morning Meme,

Well said, Meme. You got my vote and full-fledged support. Go get ’em !!

You articulated quite clearly three key aspects of a town planning board member:

1. “… revitalization, improvements and beautification projects for the downtown area,… vibrant down town … will bring in added tax revenue. … also increase property values … and provide services for all Southborough residents”

Couldn’t agree more. Revitalizing the downtown area, particularly the commercial section of Main St (Mauro’s Store, etc ) has to be high on the list. How is it possible that after soooo many years the town leadership in conjunction with SB Economic Devel Comm. has not made much progress in cleaning up the “brown field” corner lot on Main and Newton Sts? Attract more businesses of value to the residents? That section needs help…. eyesore

2. Streamline permitting process. Sounds like a good idea. Amend the time consuming permitting process. High priority, indeed.

3. Maintaining Open Space. this is an area where kudos to the Planning and Conservation Committees should be given. keep up the good work.

Barn Hollow Resident
8 years ago

Hello Ms. Luttrell,

While I applaude your service to the town, I question your effectiveness.

You led the witch hunt against the Barn Hollow residents three years ago, after allowing the developer to market and sell houses with yards built on Open Space for over 10 years. It was not until the developer had sold the last house that you decided it was an issue

We worked with different groups in town to try and find a solution. I found it interesting that the group who caused the issue by their dereliction of duty over the course of 12 years (your OSPC), was the only group who found no solution to their liking.

I am still waiting to see OSPC take action on the hundreds of other Open Space violators in town we were promised would be addressed in similar fashion. As things stand today, it just feels like a very costly (to the homeowners) vendetta against Barn Hollow residents.

Based on what I read on this blog, I would not characterize the relationship between the OSPC, the Planning Board, and others as collaborative and productive. I fail to see how moving you from one of these boards to another will improve the situation.

Based on my experience with the OSPC, and your inability to work effectively with other town boards, I will not be voting for you for Planning Board.

Best regards,

Meme Luttrell
8 years ago

Barn Hollow Resident,
I am sympathetic to the situation you and the other Barn Hollow residents were put in and concede there was failure on the part of the town to ensure the subdivision complied with the approved plans and decision. The responsibility to ensure compliance does not fall on the shoulders of the Open Space Preservation Commission (OSPC). The OSPC is advisory and has no regulatory or enforcement authority we rely on other town organizations to utilize the information we provide to take any necessary actions.

This subdivision was approved in 2001 and when I was appointed to the OSPC in 2003 there was no automated mechanism to know where the open space created through the subdivision process was. The OSPC advocated for a mapping project to create an inventory of all these parcels and easements. We worked with the Planning Board to have the open space parcels and easements digitized and added to the town GIS map. Once we knew where the parcels were we sought to determine the level of legal protection on these parcels and easements. Working with the Planning Board and the Community Preservation Committee initiated the deed research project which is near completion. The information derived from these projects will enable the OSPC working with the Planning Board to inform residents who have open space on their property of its existence.

The OSPC became involved with Barn Hollow open space because it was on the Town Meeting warrant to be accepted as town owned open space. The OSPC advised that the property should be walked before a recommendation could be made to the legislative body on whether to accept the property. This is same process the OSPC follows anytime a warrant article with an open space component is to be brought before Town Meeting.

On the Planning Board I will work collaboratively with the Board to create a process that assigns ownership of responsibility to ensure projects are built in compliance with the approved plans and decision. I will also work for the completion of a process that is in draft form that will ensure open space is protected as the bylaw intended and per the Planning Board’s decision.

Thank you,

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