Daily Buzz | Planning Board Recap
Plus something to watch this weekend
I don’t know about you, but I am SO EXCITED to have a beautiful day and warmer weather ahead of us.
The Planning Board met last night. I’ll recap below, but I wanted to highlight a few other things first.
Hot off the presses - the Absentee Ballots have made their way to Town Hall, and are available for absentee voting starting now. If you’re not going to be able to make it to the polls on April 9, you can come in and vote at Town Hall during regular hours between now and then, or you can request a ballot to be mailed out to you.
Also, you might not know this 😉 but the deadline to register to vote in the April election is TODAY! The Town Clerk’s office will be open until 8 PM today, so please be sure to register. Even if you think you’re already registered, it can’t hurt to check here to be certain.
First Guest Post Drops Tomorrow
Tomorrow I’m handing the mic over to Judy Wasserman, long-time Burlington resident and local journalist. She did some research into the history of elections in Burlington, and now that you’re all registered to vote (RIGHT?) we thought it would be fun to bring you a story about how elections worked in Burlington in the past. Be sure to look out for Judy’s story tomorrow.
Updates from the Network
On Wednesday, we had our fourth Let’s Talk About It session with Burlington Public Schools administration. Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Ray Porch, facilitated, and there were presentations from the Special Education Parent Action Council, the English Learners Parent Action Council, and Director of Mental Health, Christine Concesion. These meetings are great ways to keep in touch with what is going on in our schools, and I highly recommend you attend if you have children who are or will be in BPS. You can sign up at bit.ly/letstalkburlington.
Speaking of DEI, Representative Ken Gordon (who represents Burlington, Bedford, and part of Wilmington in the state legislature) has a TV show on BCAT called Rappin’ with the Rep. This week he invited guests Nick Priest of the Burlington Select Board, Dr. Maritza Barros, Chief of Talent and Culture for the city of Revere, and Revere Mayor, Brian Arrigo, to speak about DEI at the municipal level - why it’s important and how we can get more of our leaders talking about and understanding it. You (and anyone in business or town leadership) should watch by clicking the link above, but here are some points that stood out for me:
Learning about history and recognizing where not all community members have the same opportunities isn’t about making anyone feel guilty - it’s about understanding the past and present so we can make thoughtful adjustments moving forward.
In order to have these conversations without getting to a place of defensiveness or guilt, it helps to have a common language.
It also helps if we can meet people where they are in their thinking around these issues.
There is a difference between impact and intent. It’s easy to say, “I didn’t mean any harm,” but it takes empathy and humility to recognize that regardless of whether or not you meant harm, someone was harmed. It requires the ability to “understand before being understood,” as Dr. Barros puts it.
In addition to being the right thing to do, being thoughtful about increasing opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds to enter into town leadership opens up opportunities for economic development in the town. Businesses pay attention to how well a town’s leadership represent its constituents.
Planning Board Recap
Before the recap of the Planning Board meeting, some related news: Planning Board came before the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday evening to present their budget, and one component of the budget was an additional staff member to monitor compliance with the requirements set forth in Planning Board decisions. This precipitated a conversation around adding positions in town departments. Maybe I’m a government & leadership nerd, but I was fascinated. Watch if you’re interested. At the end, they decided to revisit the conversation in a more holistic way at a later date.
Now, onto Planning Board from last night.
There’s a proposed bylaw to require new construction or additions with a footprint of 1,000 square feet or more to be built 2 or more feet above the estimated seasonal high groundwater table.
This is to prevent water discharge into neighboring properties.
It will be required to discharge the stormwater on the property, and won’t be permitted to connect into existing storm drains.
If you’re less than 2 feet, you’ll need a stormwater discharge plan.
No vote on this yet because the bylaw is still in review from other committees.
A representative from Novaya was present to discuss an updated plan for the project where Roger’s Piano is. Ultimately this was continued until a future meeting.
Remember, this is about creating a zone where multifamily can be allowed by right. Importantly, if created as multifamily, this zone has the potential to count toward the MBTA Communities requirements discussed at the Monday Select Board meeting (assuming the minimum parcel size is reduced to 3 acres as suggested in the Town’s comments). The language of this zoning bylaw will be very important. Zoning Bylaw Review Committee will be discussing this next week.
They’ll preserve wetlands and plant more trees.
Originally they wanted to have 98 units; they’ve adjusted to 82, reducing square footage of the building and reducing the height of the back of the building by one story.
They’re also proposing zero retail. This will lessen some traffic concerns.
But - residents are still concerned about traffic, wildlife, price point, and whether or not our town services can handle the added population.
The idea of whether or not they could go a little higher than the state-required 15% of affordable housing was floated.
Some creative ideas were discussed, including reserving some square footage for flexible community space or having some business offices in front and residential in the back.
The conversation can be mostly distilled into the following statement: The site is going to be redeveloped at some point. Right now, retail is allowed by right. The rezoning will allow residential by right. Full retail has the potential for much larger traffic impact than this mostly residential project that has been proposed.
The meeting continued after these items, so if you’re interested in the rest of the conversation, it begins around 2:35 on the video linked above.
This was me the entirety of last week. This week went a little better for me. How about yours?
Thanks for spending a few minutes a day with me. I really appreciate it.
See you tomorrow,