Web-extra (May 24, 2018): Why Westboro?;
Some thoughts from the Street.
By Kevin Doyle, Westboro resident.
“Current zoning discussions seem cast as a battle between the future and a disappearing past and many current zoning rules may get in the way of re-defining what is in the public interest.”
Maybe our notion of zoning needs to be redefined. The current construct seems unnecessarily adversarial. Developers with a legitimate interest sometimes appear to behave in a suspicious and underhanded way. Hence Mr. Ludington’s exclaim of “why Westboro” and why is it that developers seem to receive municipal approval of all they ask even though it may not conform to zoning plans or other requirements?
But what is it that Mr. Ludington is trying to defend? What do people want in their community. What is a community? Perhaps we need a new vision of community and one that is not predicated on zones of separate, distinct community interest.
What is the public good? Communities need people and services to be viable and commercial enterprise to fuel a healthy tax base that pays for services.
Westboro of old was failing on that front. Westboro of new is getting better but there is a rub between an emerging new urban environment and its old identity. There is an aging demographic community and aging housing stock that is the shape of the current urban picture.
Is this the future? How do we reconcile transitions – because one is clearly underway. Zoning fights seem unsatisfactory – and set up a winner/loser mentality and outcome. Can we imagine beyond this construct? Do we need, for instance, to update our notion of family dwelling.
Perhaps the era of the single family home detached with large lot is the legacy of another time. Not that it is bad, but other models can co-exist on the same street. Variation is great. What is wrong with infill? What is wrong with the “two for one” regeneration of older housing stock.
Current zoning discussions seem cast as a battle between the future and a disappearing past and many current zoning rules may get in the way of re-defining what is in the public interest. Why, for example, can one side of a street sever lots and grow new housing, while the other cannot because of the invisible zoning line down the middle.
This is not to argue that developers should continue to receive without scrutiny the benefit of municipal flexibility in planning and developing. Perhaps we need to re-balance what the public interest is, and what the community interest is, and level the playing field.
Why Westboro?…well, why not. It is a great place to live and could be better.
About those missed opportunities. Well, there is the transit way and cycle paths and the linear river park very close by. When development happens, please demand that a public corridor be part of all development. That did not happen when the old Ketchum’s factory became condominiums at the corner of Richmond and Berkeley – a missed opportunity to allow the community direct access to their amenities.
If Rochester field is developed along Richmond Road, demand a public corridor so that people can access the park, the river, the bicycle paths.
When the Highland Park Bowling Club is no longer able to operate, what public good will the city demand as part of its development? How will the community of Westboro be made better through the development of this small corner lot.
A kid’s playground maybe a nice idea because as Westboro regenerates so does its population. Golden Ave is full of little ones again. Give them a safe place to play Then maybe we can call ourselves a “village.” I can always dream.