Meet Chris Olney


I have been a member of the Planning Board for four years.  I have been actively involved in rewriting major parts of Manchester’s zoning regulations. It has been a difficult process, but all the zoning changes we have proposed have been adopted at recent Town Meetings, most by overwhelming margins. 

 I was raised in Manchester and have an appreciation of this community as it has changed over the years.  I understand the complex issues that the Town needs to address including environmental sustainability and housing diversity. I am a member of the Affordable Housing Trust and we trustees are committed to providing housing for seniors looking to downsize, housing for our adult children, and housing for the Town’s first responders, teachers, and service workers.

I have a master’s degree in planning.  Between 1978 and 1983, I was the Director of the award-winning downtown revitalization project in Salem.  A key part of the plan was to make it a residential neighborhood, not just a business center and tourist attraction.  Having people living in downtown Salem has brought vitality and economic benefit to restaurants and shops.  Fortunately, Manchester is ahead of Salem; we already have a thriving population of residents in our downtown.

I also worked for a senior health care company to create some of the first assisted living units in the state, and later for companies that financed affordable housing complexes throughout the country.  I retired this past December after serving for over 20 years as Vice President of Hudson Housing Capital, a firm that provides funding for affordable housing projects across the country.  You can review my credentials on LinkedIn.

Manchester’s Master Plan urges important revisions to the Town’s Zoning Bylaw. Three important objectives are:

  1. Make zoning regulations clear and easier to implement.
  2. Allow for business development in the Limited Commercial District. 
  3. Allow more diverse housing opportunities to meet the needs of Manchester’s residents. 

I am running because although the Planning Board has taken important steps already, there is more work to be done.  In addition to greater housing diversity, we also must face the challenge of complying with the State MBTA zoning requirement to allow multifamily development near the train station.    We already have over 500 residential units in the downtown, so compliance is likely to be far easier and less disruptive to achieve than we realize.  By working together with all the components of town government as well as with residents, property owners and business owners, we can find reasonable alternatives to conform with state law and avoid costly penalties of non-compliance.  We will be better off approaching this as an opportunity, not as unfair punishment.

While some have the opinion that Manchester is fine the way it is, the fact is that change is happening all the time- and we must make a better effort to manage it.  We must be proactive, and not just sit back and complain. By working together, we can accomplish these tasks and end up with a better town.

 I ask for your support and your vote on May 16.

chris olney, state law, manchester, planning board, affordable housing trust, hudson housing capital