A Letter to the Editor: "Don’t Drink the Kool Aid"


To the Editor: 

Last week, households in Manchester received a lengthy description of yet another poorly conceived development project for Upper School Street, "40R Smart Growth”, euphemistically labeled your “New Neighborhood”.  No thank you. 

In the shadow of an already alarming, distracting, virus-restricted, time-consuming 40B Affordable Housing response to Shingle Hill, 40R is an off-the-shelf M.A.P.C. (Metropolitan Area Planning Council) concept now (openly) brought to you by the "Town Planner", with little or no input from our Planning Board, i.e., the group we elected to oversee Land Use in our community.  Regrettably, like 40B, and early in conjunction with 40B, Town administrators quietly embraced and promoted 40R as a State-packaged solution to their long unaddressed housing problems, with the potential bonus of generating tax revenue through commercial development.  But, is now the time to require our attention to or support of a second extensive, expensive, controversial construction project?  I think not. 

The description in your flyer of what has occurred to date is pure hyperbole.  Recently, at risk of Open Meeting Law violations, records of minimal under-the-radar meetings with “Boards, Committees, Focus Groups, Team Consultants, and Land-owners” magically appeared as nameless summaries scattered randomly throughout the Town website.  Glossy website photos depict urbanization choices not at all in keeping with the character or culture of our Town.  A boilerplate survey was taken by 225 residents, hardly a representative sample.  It yielded little consensus on the wish list of topics, has little validity statistically, and if acted on, would realize little of the revenue the project is touted to provide.  There has been no site analysis data made available to confirm the environmental or economic viability of the acreage.  Our housing needs as a community are very specific, limited in scope, and, like 40B, not addressed by this project.  We'd likely need to tax $100mil-$500mil in new development to make the revenue concept viable, minus the cost of services.   

To be at all credible, 40R requires the same rigorous feasibility studies as 40B, and well before any LCD zoning changes can be made by the Planning Board or voted on at a Town Meeting this Spring.  On January 12th, the Town Planner is using the aegis of the Planning Board as a prop to showcase this “shiny object” despite the objection of two of its members.  As contracted, M.A.P.C. has been paid to further promote the concept.  Will the Town Planner provide any concrete 'proof of concept’ data?  The forum is designed to produce the illusion that this project is appropriate for Manchester (it is not), has a solid basis in fact (it does not), and has widespread consensus (it has not). 

Again, no thank you. 

Sheila P. Hill, Manchester 

shingle hill, planning board, town planner