Framingham appears to face a dilemma of two uneasy paths: one of empty, blighted eyesores and the other of skyscraping apartment complexes. Neither choice is appealing, but it is, in fact, a false choice.
The way forward is not to wait passively for developer proposals and then to reject them out of hand. The way forward is to identify, preserve, and improve our open, active spaces and when development is appropriate, to work proactively with developers and community members to find a middle ground that is worthwhile for the developer, but also serves the interests of Framingham. This middle ground is sustainable development.
Sustainable development considers long-term implications over short-term benefits, it values community input and promotes community loyalty to local businesses, and it makes Framingham a more desirable city for residents and businesses alike.
Specifically, sustainable development
1) generates revenue in the long-term after accounting for any impact on infrastructure.
2) addresses the concerns of residents and businesses.
3) improves the overall reputation of Framingham.
How does the idea of sustainable development apply to some of the current proposals kicking around?
On the Millwood development, I voted in Town Meeting for Framingham to purchase the golf course, but because the vote failed, the land is slated for development.
The current proposal is for over-55 housing, which is in demand in Framingham and this type of project produces revenue with a moderate burden on traffic and schools. However, the project is too dense and too close to existing homes on Grove Street and the open space that is included will largely be unusable scrub brush.
The current Mt. Wayte project is also too dense and should have a greater retail component.
It is hard to accept that NO retail will work there when businesses nearby are succeeding. I would also like to see an active, open space component that capitalizes on proximity to Farm Pond and connects to the new bike/pedestrian paths.
The Staples proposal is a short-term gain that squanders a long-term opportunity. We need to preserve this area of Framingham for commercial and industrial uses. Using a large section for residential property may offer some short-term benefits, but down the road when the pendulum has swung away from apartments to commercial, we will regret losing this potential space.
The most recent Nobscot Plaza plan is the result of a collaborative process with residents, town officials, and the owners, and it is no surprise that it is the closest to sustainable development. The design is sound overall, but would benefit from a higher percentage of retail and some additional community active green space as well.
Sustainable development is not just a buzzword, it is a way to structure our thinking around space and potential development.
If I am elected to our first city council, it will guide my decision-making, promoting an inclusive approach with a long-term perspective on development that will serve Framingham far into the future.
Town Meeting Member, Precinct 4
Candidate for Framingham City Council – District 3