Thursday, April 22, 2010

Planning Board Endorsement

This is a difficult endorsement. Difficult because the incumbent, Ed Duffy, is a good man. We’ve been on the same side politically often, and occasionally on opposite sides, as with the Tucker Village proposal. Between his employment and years on the planning board, he’s given half a century of service to the town he was born in and loves. He deserves our sincere thanks.

As I watched the debates for this office, Ed’s refusal to consider any change to our basic zoning struck me as wholly incompatible with the approach we need to consider to keep Milton strong in the future. The zoning worked well for a time, but doesn't serve our needs going forward.

It was about 75 years ago that Milton developed its zoning laws. These laws and the effort to write them are treated with almost religious reverence by those who adamantly oppose any commercial development outside of the present commercial districts, ever. Based on original Euclidean zoning principles, land uses were strictly segregated, with residential zones separated, isolated, from the other uses. These other uses were much more likely to be industrial or manufacturing. It made good sense to separate homes from the noise, pollution and sometimes noxious fumes factories often produced.

Today, far fewer jobs come from smokestack industries and protection from their effects is less important. The three small commercial zones might have served a good deal of the needs of a pre-WWII community when the automobile was far less prevalent and the population 10,000 less than today. But times have changed. Milton probably has as many automobiles today as it had people in the 1930’s. The culture of work has changed, with two earner families now the norm. The pace of life has so accelerated that convenience now commands high value, especially to families with young children. Local amenities that save time are in demand, as people have no time to drive to the other side of town, or out of town, for things they need. Nor does it help traffic problems that now manifest themselves in almost all parts of Milton when a substantial car trip is needed to buy almost anything.

Oddly enough, many who hold the 75 year old zoning ordinance sacrosanct describe themselves as supporting “Smart Growth”. Current Selectman John Shields did in his campaign four years ago. Current Selectman candidate Sweeney proclaims as much as he declares support for commercial development in the three established zones only. One has to wonder if they’ve read anything about Smart Growth-- two of the core principles of which are mixed use development, and the creation of walkable neighborhoods. How do three small commercial districts located on the periphery of the town accomplish that?

Cheryl Tougias represents a different perspective on key planning issues and would bring to the board an appropriate skill set. Cheryl is a registered architect, who obtained her Masters Degree in architecture from Columbia University. She owns and operates an architectural firm. She has many years experience designing and taking through the approval process numerous types of projects. She is committed to sustainable design and historic preservation.

Cheryl is an impressive woman. Her design background is diverse, and she has worked with a large number of approval authorities. She understands the value of building consensus and the vital role planning can play in laying the necessary foundation for it. The Planning Board would benefit from what she has learned from dealing with other planning organizations, and the Town would benefit from her professional credentials in a job that should take on even more importance in the years to come.

I urge you to support Cheryl Tougias for Planning Board on April 27th.


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