Select Board Candidate Question and Answer with Zoe Lynn:

Brookline by Design sent a questionnaire posing five questions to all five candidates for Brookline Select Board on Monday, April 19, asking for responses by Thursday, April 22.  As of Saturday, April 24 we have received responses from two candidates.

 

Here are the questions posed by Brookline by Design followed by the one unified answer given by Zoe Lynn.

 

1) In October 2020, Brookline’s Planning Department reported that since 2015 we have permitted 1,132 units of new housing in Brookline, which is an increase of 4.3% in our housing stock (which does not include the Waldo-Durgin or Welltower projects).  What impacts to our Town’s infrastructure, services, schools, parks, and quality of life, in general, would you expect were there to be an additional substantial increase in housing in Brookline, such as a 10% or more total increase between 2015 and 2025?

 

2) Our commercial areas are characterized by frequent door ways, small shops, transparent store fronts and no driveways crossing the sidewalks.  The Economic Development Advisory Board has proposed redeveloping our commercial areas to allow for 4-6 story buildings with commercial on the ground floor and housing above.  How might such a redevelopment process impact our existing businesses, including our locally owned businesses? How would newer, larger, and more expensive modern buildings and residential parking change our human-scaled, walkable commercial areas?  Examples of this approach can be seen along Harvard St. in the JFK area and the 14 Green St. redevelopment proposal.

 

3) The Advisory Committee hosted Somerville’s planner Dan Bartman, to discuss how Somerville went about developing a comprehensive plan, neighborhood plans, and a new form-based zoning ordinance.  If you have not seen the presentation, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/cO9UUAZgKq0  We learned that there are many progressive zoning tools and techniques that can yield better, more predictable development outcomes that are more context sensitive and bring more benefits to the community.  What are your thoughts on whether or not Brookline should pursue a comprehensive community planning process leading to an updated zoning by-law?

 

4) We’ve come to understand the historic and deeply discriminatory practices of the past that have severely limited access to opportunities for BIPOC to gain an economic toe hold and build generational wealth, such as through home ownership or entrepreneurship.  These same individuals have often had their voices marginalized in the land use and development decision making processes in Brookline.  How might these facts be taken into account as we try to improve our planning and zoning?

 

5) One of the duties of the Select Board is to provide recommendations on how to vote on various warrant articles that come before Town Meeting.  Warrant Article 18 is proposing to extend the Lawrence Local Historic district far enough to include 2 properties formerly owned by Wheelock College at the corner of Kent and Colchester Streets.  All affected property owners are either in support or are neutral regarding the LHD extension.  What is your recommendation to Town Meeting Members on Warrant Article 18? Could you state your reasons for the recommendation?

 

Due to time constraints and the need for your group to have a response this evening, I have only briefly described what I believe we need to do as a community to start tackling our planning and zoning needs.  

(I would very much love to further describe this important process to anyone interested.  I hope you and others can join an upcoming "visioning session" that I am hosting.  Everyone is welcome, and can register here:  https://www.votezoeforbrookline.com/register-a-vision-for-brookline)

In short, we need to have a timely, community-based, integrated planning process -- which is an area of planning expertise that I am professionally trained.  Based on the scope and scale of the challenges we face as a Town, this process needs to be directed at an executive level by our Select Board, include the diversity of stakeholders that live in Brookline, and work with a committed focus to address the many challenges we are facing as a community.

A community-based planning effort should facilitate community feedback, engagement and iterative conversations that help us solve problems (and could help shape a shared community vision).  This process should also leverage the expertise we have in the community and on Town staff.  

When community-based planning is done well, it is inclusive and doesn’t prescribe policy/bylaws at the beginning but instead works to find solutions to tough challenges or planning/zoning needs through iterative conversations and planning-focused problem solving.  A community-based process can be used to identify actionable, historically-sensitive and neighborhood-based actions/solutions for our transportation, housing, economic development and other important and interrelated needs.  It should focus on both the “big picture” and on neighborhood-based solutions (i.e. the details, as it applies “on the ground”).   

 

Based on the challenges we face, this work is timely.  It also needs to be coordinated with updates/changes to our zoning bylaws (rather than uncoordinated, which in many regards is what is happening now).

The scope and scale of our planning/zoning needs requires effective executive leadership that sets direction for Town staff, works with our Town Meeting form of government, and with diverse stakeholder groups.  

The Select Board, as the elected body overseeing the executive branch of the Town, has the responsibility to set policy and priorities — critical leadership actions to get us on a path to tackling our many interrelated challenges.  Too often this unique responsibility gets lost in the details — details that lack strategic, inclusive and community-based direction.

As a quick aside, we have seen this form of leadership work for the Town… we tested this community-based process with the climate and sustainability strategy I led in 2019 (all the way from the community brainstorming, priority setting… though integrated planning with staff, and final approvals by Town Meeting). 

Thanks for bringing important issues about community planning and zoning into the conversation.  

We need a Select Board that can navigate these demands so we can start making meaningful progress on important issues (https://www.votezoeforbrookline.com/5-challenges), together.  This is one of the reasons, of many, that I decided to run.  (These are some of the skills -- and expertise -- I would bring to the Select Board.)