A Letter to the Editor: Going, going…Gone?


To the Editor,

Is the Manchester that has been entrusted to us since the 17th century at risk of disappearing?  Ed Corley’s "Manchester-by-the Sea”, once an idyllic, self-reliant seaside village, is the target of a worrisome number of State and quasi-State programs, products, grants and regionalization initiatives making their way through our Town boards and committees.  We are being inundated with directives to MERGE and GROW.

Let’s not.

The State has big plans for the communities they consider "Greater Boston".  Yes, that is now us, and all towns served by the MBTA.  Under the rubric “Smart Growth and Regional Collaboration'”, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), a major outreach and marketing mechanism for the State Legislature has already besieged us with 40B and 40R.  A very pro-Housing Governor and State Legislature recently directed that Zoning Act changes can now take place by the vote of a simple majority, rather than 2/3.  It is no coincidence that our own Zoning by-laws (recodifications) are paving the way here for more density, e.g., Multi-Family Housing, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), Clusters.  We cannot accommodate the scale of their intent, and should resist urbanization. 

Do you know the lesson of the boiled frog?  A frog that is immersed in gradually heating water will fail to notice the creeping change in its circumstances, even as it's literally being boiled alive. 

I’ve chosen this analogy to alert us to what I see as the cumulative damage accruing from several years of initiatives undertaken by our Town Administrator (e.g., Regional Dispatch, Housing Choice Initiative) and Town Planner (e.g., 40R, Recodification).  Administration and Planning are processes which serve to integrate the many issues that come before our Town boards and committees, and keep them and us focused on priorities: tightening our Yankee belts, for instance. I do not believe the State’s priorities for us, are our priorities for ourselves.  I do not believe that, however well-intentioned, Mr. Federspiel and Ms. Brown should represent or adopt the MAPC agenda here, without the expressed approval of taxpayers, BEFORE projects are underway.  I do not dismiss the fiscal challenges or revenue needs necessary to sustain the Town’s critical infrastructure in the future, but I do want to challenge their undeclared strategy that unmitigated growth is the answer.  We deserve that transparency, so we can address it head on.

I don’t want to be that boiled frog.

Sheila Hill, Manchester

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