On Wednesday, October 7, the League of Women Voters of Brookline (LWVB)
will host a public meeting in Brookline Town Hall featuring Anthony Flint, a
fellow and director of public affairs at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (and
Brookline resident), who will speak on current strategies for land use planning.
Citizen education and voter services are at the core of the LWVB mission. The
LWVB has committed to make “land use” a priority for activity in the coming
year. The Brookline League will be hosting informational meetings, convening
panels of experts, and working in many ways to inform Brookline residents about
proposed projects that can impact quality of life, open space, affordable housing,
neighborhood preservation, traffic and transportation, and more.
Brookline is a fully built-out community, with very limited land available.
Currently there are many pressures for development or redevelopment, both public
and private. Reflecting these pressures, the town has a number of land use studies
either in progress or scheduled over the next 12-18 months:
- a review of possible sites for a 9th elementary school and for high school expansion;
- a housing production plan for affordable housing;
- a reconsideration of the Centre Street parking lot;
- a review of possible sites for expansion of the Coolidge Corner Library;
- a review of long-term uses for Town-owned facilities;
- a review of the status of large private land holdings;
- a review of possible eminent domain actions; and
- a study by MIT graduate students of the eastern section of Rt. 9/Boylston Street
The MIT study area is already being impacted by a hotel under construction,
having Devotion students in the previously empty Old Lincoln School, and the
approved redevelopment at Brookline Place, scheduled to begin this month.
Coolidge Corner will soon be feeling the impact of the renovation and expansion
of Devotion School. South Brookline is feeling pressure from the proposed
Brookline League of Women Voters
construction of nearly 200 housing units at Hancock Village under 40B, the state
comprehensive permit statute.
There is an immense demand for residential units in the Boston metro area, and
40B allows a developer to bypass local zoning in return for providing at least 20%
of affordable units. Brookline is seeing a significant increase in proposals for
multi-unit housing by private developers invoking 40B because the Town does not
meet the requirement that 10% of total units must be affordable by state-defined
income eligibility. The 10% target is difficult to achieve in a built-out community.
In fact, Brookline has actively supported affordable housing through inclusionary
zoning, local initiatives such as the mixed income housing at St. Aidan’s and on
Fisher Hill, and, by creating an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that supports local
projects such as Pine Street Inn’s enhanced lodging house units and the Housing
Authority’s new units on Dummer Street.
Brookline has a long history of being in the forefront on planned land use and
development. The Lindens, with two landscaped parks in Brookline Village, is the
first planned subdivision (1843) in the United States. The pioneering Frederick
Law Olmsted firm of landscape designers and urban planners, located in Brookline
from the 1880’s until 1948, influenced development decisions, as did the early
introduction of streetcar lines in the 1880’s. The Town formed the first Planning
Board (chaired by Frederick Olmsted. Jr.), campaigned for the Massachusetts
Constitutional Amendment establishing municipal zoning in 1922, and adopted the
first Zoning By-law in the state. The Town has published five Comprehensive
Plans since 1959, a Preservation Master Plan (1983), Parks and Open Space Plans
in 2000, 2005 & 2010, and many intermediate studies.
More recently, the LWVB initiated Future Search in 1998, a participatory process
that led to the creation of the Brookline Neighborhood Alliance and kicked-off the
Town’s last Comprehensive Plan, 2005-2015. Given all the studies and proposals
in the pipeline, it seems timely for the LWVB to initiate a process of thoughtful
public discussion on how Brookline is managing the tools currently available for
land use planning.
Get involved. Join us at the community discussions and educational forums that
will be scheduled in the months ahead. And come to our Opening Meeting on
October 7th, 6:30 PM at Brookline Town Hall, 6th Floor. It will also be broadcast
live by Brookline Interactive Group.
Betsy DeWitt, Upland Road, and Janice Kahn, Craftsland Road, are members of
the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of Brookline