Response to questions from Colette Afranc
1) What is your position regarding the proposed real estate developments for the Tailby and Railroad parking lots? If the proposal was to be approved, what do you think will be some of the positive and negative aspects of the development?
Since there is ongoing construction at Delanson Circle and Weston Road so close to these lots, I feel it is necessary to finalize and digest these projects and understand the impact of full occupancy of these developments on traffic patterns in the neighborhood. Putting a pause on planning and development of the lots at this time has the added benefit of letting us see how we emerge from the current pandemic, and what the effect will be on patterns of commuting behaviour. We have built a relationship with the developer who has worked well with the town and our residents - lets keep investing in this relationship and keep dialog going in the meantime.
Overall, I am interested in furthering the development of these lots at a scale and style that is appropriate for Wellesley. The reasons I am generally supportive of this development are that it is adjacent to mass transit, is very much in line with our Unified Plan and Housing Production Plan, and it is in close proximity to our downtown. Density of housing so close to our downtown is one more positive step we can consider in reinvigorating the area and supporting our merchants.
Of course, redevelopment means change which is challenging as well as rewarding. The construction itself will need close management and discussions with the contractors and neighbors to limit, as much as possible, the noise and disruption that comes with all construction projects. Fortunately, the town and the Select Board staff have significant experience in developing construction management plans on similar scale projects all throughout town.
More residential units will mean an increase in traffic. The junction of Crest Road, Central Street and Railroad Ave is currently challenging, and could really benefit from an overhaul as part of this project and redevelopment. With careful analysis of traffic studies, creative design and resident engagement there is an real opportunity to improve this intersection.
2) Considering the detrimental health effects associated with pollution emitted by trains and other forms of automotive transportation (cars, buses, and trucks), how would you describe the efforts by the town to build high-density residential units in this area? In our opinion, the town should consider these very important issues when providing support to private developers by offering advantageous conditions to develop town land to place environmental concerns at the forefront of its policies.
3) The neighborhood delimited by Weston Road, Route 9 and Linden Street has been the subject of overdevelopment as a result of several multi-residential properties over the last couple of years. For example, construction in Delanson Circle (opposite the Tailby parking lot) has just started. What is your opinion regarding the consequences that these developments will have in the neighborhood? In particular we are concerned about safety and increased traffic. Since state legislation encourages housing developments with easy access to mass transportation infrastructure, what is your position regarding the development of town-owned properties in other areas such as Wellesley Farms?
For me, it makes sense to answer questions 2) and 3) together as I see lots of intersecting ideas - so here goes!
You are certainly correct that the neighbourhood you mention has changed a lot. I moved to our home in this neighborhood in 1998 when there was perhaps one set of traffic lights the entire length of Linden Street, there was a lumberyard and an oil distribution business on Linden Street, and the grocery store was on the opposite side of Linden Street. I was very involved in the redevelopment of Linden Square and found that my voice and that of my neighbors could be heard and was valued. I really encourage you to continue to engage in constructive dialog with the town as we move through this process. Local government works best with strong citizen engagement, not only through public hearings but also by attending and engaging in conversation at Select Board and planning meetings all along the way. I know from my own experience that something like this is a long conversation, but so worth the effort.
Despite the fact that there has been a LOT of change on Linden Street and we, the neighbors, were nervous about those changes, I feel there has been incredible benefits resulting from redevelopment. That doesn't mean construction was entirely pleasant or that I have not noticed the increase in traffic but I do really appreciate the new Linden Square and its amenities. I will say my behaviour has changed as my surroundings have changed. I walk to Linden Street and downtown Wellesley destinations a lot more than I did in 2006 when this all began, and I feel really good about that.
I recently joined the Select Board and my work assignment includes the “Mobility Committee” - a committee formed as a recommended strategy of our Unified Plan to address better access for multimodal transportation. To that end we are currently working on a “Sustainable Mobility Visioning Plan”. Lowering our greenhouse gas emissions by reducing reliance on single occupancy vehicles is an important goal of the committee and critical focus on the development of the visioning plan. The plan is intended to make non vehicular travel more attractive, by looking at safe routes to schools, shared use paths, sidewalk connectivity, reimagined sidewalks and improving connectivity of trails among other things. Again I would encourage your group to participate in soon-to-be-scheduled public hearings designed to get community ideas, concerns and feedback.
Having higher density development near mass transit, and indeed close to our commercial district, would be highly aligned with the goals of the Mobility Committee. Concepts such as “the 15 minute village” really encourage housing within easy walking distance of critical amenities. As I live in this area, this is certainly something I can attest to. I feel so lucky to live within walking distance of the grocery store, library, Town Hall, downtown shopping and restaurants, the Police Department, the town trail network, parks and playing fields and the schools. While Wellesley Farms is also adjacent to mass transit, and some retail and restaurants, it does not have the same closeness to the density of these and other amenities adjacent to Wellesley Square. That being said, I would certainly be open to hearing more about development opportunities near any mass transit location.
I hope these answers are helpful as you make your decision and cast your vote. You can read more about my background, qualifications and experience, and my work to date on the Select Board (including more details on the mobility work) on my website www.electcoletteaufranc.com or call me on 617-633-9650.