Planning for cities and towns should be an open, inclusive process. Our Planning and Zoning Commission understands this. Development of the latest town plan was an exemplar of an open process.
P&Z provided suggestions for implementation of the plan, in particular regarding the central part of town. At the recent League of Women Voters of Weston’s Town Affairs Update, insight was provided into how that is evolving.
In summary, I think the selectmen are trying to create a walkable, or in more au courant language, “sustainable” centralized public services complex — without major new construction costs coming solely from Weston taxpayers, if possible.
I am in awe of any public agency, in this case the Board of Selectmen, that can successfully pull off what looks like a game of municipal chess. At some point municipal offices that have been “temporarily” located at the Town Hall Annex will be vacated, and the annex closed.
But where will those offices go? Cost-benefit analysis for any of a number of possible alternatives needs doing.
The Board of Education is thinking along similar lines. With enrollments due to drop in the lowest grades, what will be done with the extra classroom space at Hurlbutt? Theirs is an open process. I’ll bet that they have a good handle on their costs. But their constituency cares most about the quality of education, more so than about the fiscal bottom line.
All I can think of is that there are going to be a lot of Building Committee meetings to attend in my future!
Here’s my idea. If, as some anticipate, the Board of Education decides at its next meeting that it wants to enter into an agreement to lease North House at Hurlbutt to the town of Weston for municipal uses, we put on our thinking caps.
How do we proceed from there? My initial suggestion is that we create a map of the central part of town at a planning scale. One inch equaling 200 feet or so.
If, for example, a “Central Part of Town Map” comprising sections of the various assessor’s sheets is pieced together, the assembled base map could be rolled up into a size that could be tucked under your arm.
Members of the various Boards and Commissions interested in the problem, and other volunteers, could then work out alternative proposals from the comfort of home!
Which buildings to include? Use the Kaestle Boos report to evaluate all significant public structures in town. This report is voluminous. For the issue at hand, we should concentrate on the town hall-library-schools complex and environs.
On the terrific town website can be placed the specifics of how many of these structures there are and their usable square footage. Locate them on a map using existing aerial photography.
More specifically, the map should show the ground level building outlines, or “footprints,” and indicate numbers of stories, locations of entrances/exits, and access and parking areas that are available.
Once we have this map, the next step would be to purchase a large role of yellow tracing paper and some markers, and let the planning begin!
NOTE: “About Town” is also a television program. It appears on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on Cablevision Channel 88 (Public Access). Or see it at aboutweston.com. This week’s guest is Dr. Floyd Lapp, executive director of SWRPA.