Election Candidate: Meet Laura Tenny


Dear Manchester Residents,

Hello, my name is Laura Tenny and I’m pleased to be seeking a seat on the Manchester Town Planning Board.  I am a licensed landscape architect and Senior Campus Planner at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  I bring over 25 years of experience in stewardship of the physical environment for higher education institutions, where I have managed campus planning, design, and construction projects while leading complex teams of multi-disciplinary consultants in architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, and associated disciplines. 

My family and I moved to Manchester in 2016, seeking an excellent regional school district for my daughter to attend middle- and high school, and because we were enchanted with Manchester – its beautiful coastline with public beaches and parks, the walkable historic downtown, large tracts of conserved land with hiking trails up the street, and the commuter rail to Boston an easy walk from our door.  All these traits make Manchester an incredibly special place with a character worth preserving.

Strong land use planning will protect Manchester’s special character while guiding modest, sustainable growth.  If elected to the Planning Board, I will follow the Guiding Principles stated in the 2017 – 2027 MBTS Master Plan, notably: preserving the town’s character and natural resources while responsibly balancing growth where it is beneficial, appropriate, and strengthens the local economy; embracing inclusivity and diversity by promoting housing for all ages and stages of life; encouraging sustainable choices for transit and mobility; and increasing resiliency to climate change.

We are so fortunate that sprawl is virtually non-existent in our town!  The historic settlement patterns can provide us cues to promote careful, incremental development while bolstering the local economy with smart, transit-oriented growth.  We can promote renewal and redevelopment that is pedestrian-first, mixed use, and brings a bit more density to support a vibrant downtown local business community, but maintains beloved views and green spaces.   The creation of Design Guidelines would be one way to ensure appropriate and contextual scale, massing, and setbacks.

A clear need identified in the Master Plan is more diversity in housing types to serve a range of income and accommodate families at different stages of life, including single households, young families, and others seeking affordable housing options.   More senior housing is needed, that honors our elders and allows us all to age in a familiar place where we can walk to the library, shops, and services.

I believe we should continue to pursue a program of Complete Streets that provides safe bicycle routes and shared streets for all types of users.  Every person on foot or bike is one less person in a car contributing to congestion and emissions.  Zoning regulations should create parking maximums rather than minimums.

Sustainability and climate resiliency deserve our strong focus in a coastal environment.  Our zoning law should encourage the growth and maintenance of a healthy town tree canopy to protect us from heat island effect as our climate warms and to reduce stormwater runoff.  As we fix aging water and sewer pipes, water quality and conservation must be primary goals.  We can treat water not as a waste product but instead use Low-Impact Development (LID) and landscape-based green infrastructure to slow and reduce water before it enters the storm drains, thereby building infrastructure capacity and avoiding the costs of building larger and more pipes.  Water quality is critical to our environmental and economic health, in a region dependent on attracting visitors and residents to our clean ocean waters, and in keeping fisheries healthy.

In my role as Senior Campus Planner at MIT I work every day on topics that have long-term stewardship, design excellence, and sustainability at the top of mind.  My past campus projects have ranged widely, from management of a Stormwater and Landscape Ecology Campus Plan to ground-up modular construction of a 125-child early education center.  In my work I frequently perform site plan design review for large capital projects.  I recently served as the MIT representative to the City of Cambridge Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force in a year-long study to analyze tree canopy loss and how to mitigate it.  Prior to my time at MIT, I managed renovation, addition, and building systems projects, landscape projects, and planning and design studies for Wellesley College and Harvard University.

If elected to the Planning Board I will bring both my skills and my values: I believe strongly in civic engagement, integrity, and mutual respect. Thank you for your consideration and I hope to win your support.

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