This "letter to the editor" was published in the Reminder on 10/28/2021 and reprinted here with permission of the author, Bruce Colton who submitted this letter as an individual.
As a long-time member of the Longmeadow Planning Board, I am proudest of my sponsorship of the town’s site and design review by-law. Site and design review is the town’s strongest tool for regulating growth.
The bylaw is most empowering when combined with a developer’s need to obtain a zone change to accomplish its goals.
Though it is not widely realized by our residents, the former Christian Science Church, at 916 Williams St., was sold several years ago to a developer who seeks to use the site for commercial development. Insofar as the property is presently zoned “residential,” this will require that the property be rezoned to “business” use.
The proposed zone change is arguably the most significant item on the warrant for the Nov. 2 Special Town Meeting.
In the normal course of events, a developer would have come before the Planning Board with detailed plans showing the proposed structures, site layout, traffic flow and curb cuts in order to request an endorsement of the proposed zone change.
However, in this instance, breaking with the practice of virtually every proposed development over the past 30 years, the Planning Board was shown only tentative and generalized proposals for the site’s development. The proposed development seemed designed to squeeze every last developable inch out of the property. Finally, the proposal seemed to ignore the steep decline in the need for retail space over the past decade.
For all these reasons, and the board’s need to be sensitive to the surrounding residential neighborhood and very heavy traffic on Williams Street and Bliss Road, the Planning Board voted 3-1 against rezoning the property as a business zone.
Given the rising cost of government services, it is important that Longmeadow obtain as much property tax revenue as possible. However, the source of this revenue must be strictly regulated.
The site and design review process works best for the town when a proposed development requires a zone change. This gives the Town Meeting voters the ability to see detailed development plans before casting their votes on a zone change. Granting a zone change at this stage of the process will seriously compromise the Planning Board’s ability to shape this development in the town’s interests.
The developer should consider withdrawing its request for a zone change at the Nov. 2 Special Town Meeting.
If not, the voters should vote down this premature zone change.
I am writing this letter as an individual.