[Editor’s note: This spring, Southborough voters will be able to choose among two candidates for one seat on the Planning Board. To help you make that decision, each candidate is invited to submit one letter to readers promoting their campaign. (To find other candidates’ letters click here.)
As in past years, you may use comments to endorse the candidate. No mudslinging allowed here.]
To the Editor:
Southborough resident for 31 years. Education: Harvard College; Occupation: principal of the landscape architecture firm, Michael Weishan and Associates; former host of “The Victory Garden” on PBS; contributor to numerous national TV shows as well as NPR. Author of three books on design: The New Traditional Garden (1999); From a Victorian Garden (2004); and The Victory Garden Companion (2006), as well as two books on the history of Southborough, Lost Southborough (2019) and Tales of Old Southborough (2021). President and CEO of the Southborough Historical Society, leading the restoration of Fayville Hall as Southborough’s new History and Arts Center.
The Planning Board is perhaps the most influential government body in any town. Its decisions often have lifespans measured in decades, affecting everything from major issues such as the character of your neighborhood to simple things like how easily—or not—you can get in and out of a new parking area. Sidewalks, shade trees, traffic patterns, street lighting, new residential and commercial developments—all fall within a Planning Board’s purview.
The Planning Board is, in effect, the elected guardian of the quality of life in your town, and to be effective, it functions best with people who have planning expertise and know how to get projects done efficiently.
I have run a nationally recognized landscape architecture firm for over 35 years, designing everything from the exteriors of single-family residences, to public memorials, to commercial developments. I work daily with engineers, architects, builders, and developers. I speak their language, which means that I know how to work together to produce beneficial outcomes—as well as how to recognize projects that simply seek single-party gain at public expense. I understand the technicalities of urban planning, and I am completely at home with complicated plan sets and design concepts. I am also acutely aware of the importance of long-term planning, and the pitfalls that come with initiating schemes that are poorly considered.
In terms of public service, I spent over 20 years on the Historical Commission, where I was responsible for the creation of the Demolition Delay Bylaw that has helped preserve almost a dozen historic homes to date. I was also co-author of the Adaptive Reuse Bylaw, which rescued Fayville Hall.
Obviously, a single member of a board does not set policy, but in terms of issues coming down the road for Southborough, two loom very large. Most voters won’t know that the town has a multi-million-dollar plan to widen RT. 85 (Cordaville Road) from Mt. Vickery to Southville Road. That scheme calls for cutting down every large shade tree on the west side of the road and thrusting the paving 6 feet or more into residents’ living rooms (coincidentally, including mine), not to mention millions and millions of additional taxpayer expenditures. As currently envisioned, this would be a disaster for the south side of town, and this plan needs to be shelved or, at the very least, highly modified. We certainly need better sidewalks and paving, but we don’t need a wider road to encourage even more traffic, depress homeowners’ property values, and weaken the town’s tax base.
Also largely under the radar is the multi-family zoning requirement for MBTA communities, a new state mandate that allows multi-family homes as a matter of right near commuter rail stations. This is one of those programs that could either result in a thriving new residential area in Southville, or completely destroy the quality of life for current residents. My professional expertise could prove invaluable here in making sure this new legislation bodes well for Southborough residents.
Finally, I now have had the rare experience of running for election to a board while navigating a large project through the very same system—the creation of the new History and Arts center at Fayville. Seeing the process from both sides has given me a vast and valuable insight into how our Planning Board works, how projects are brought to fruition, and how I might contribute to make the process easier to navigate for Southborough residents.
I hope to have your support this May 9th. Thank you for your consideration.
189 Cordaville Road