Each week, the Abington News is asking the three candidates for the Planning Board board a question to help voters better understand them as candidates. Election Day is Saturday, April 30.
Because the Editor of Abington News is also a member of the Planning Board, questions for this series were crafted by Jeff Welch, a former member of the Abington Zoning Board of Appeals and past Plymouth County Commissioner. Candidate responses are published as submitted, in the order they were received, and were not edited.
Week 1’s question can be found here.
Week 2’s question can be found here.
This week’s question: Is there a planning/zoning policy or practice in another community that Abington should adopt or implement? What barriers to implementation might need to be overcome?
There have been development and redevelopment projects in neighboring and nearby communities that have attempted to achieve some of the goals that Abington’s Master Plan and Zoning By-Laws have envisioned: Mixed use development that contributes to our economic growth, for example. The projects have experienced varying degrees of success that speaks to the difficulty of their planning and execution.
Union Point’s multi-use development has to date been largely unsuccessful and remains a work in progress. Further north and west, the development company that is now leading the Union Point efforts showed what could be possible at the University Station project. But the starting points for these projects and the amount of capital investment that they have required make them poor examples of how Abington might achieve its goals.
One example of an ongoing redevelopment project of an existing district might be the work that’s being done in Weymouth Landing. Perhaps a better example, however, is the vision that Weymouth has for the Jackson Square business district. Zoning changes that are now in process are intended to eventually revitalize an existing commercial and residential area while remaining sensitive to environmental concerns (e.g. Herring Run Brook) and maintaining the “village feel” of the district. This is consistent with what resident feedback has been during discussions of revitalizing Abington and North Abington centers.
One essential way that the Abington Planning Board would facilitate a project like the one now under consideration for Jackson Square would be to establish zoning that would be supportive of the desired outcome. Abington’s creation of the Central Business District zone was a good step in that direction. If that zoning does not ultimately produce the desired result, however, the by-law should be revisited to see if modifications could improve the chances of attracting development support. Time will tell if Weymouth’s proposed zoning by-law change in support of the Jackson Square revitalization works as intended but it bears watching.
The other thing that the Abington Planning Board could do in support of development/redevelopment projects is to work with regional and State representatives to identify sources of financing, cost mitigation and/or infrastructure improvements that would make projects like these attractive to developers. Many surrounding communities are attempting to attract the same kind of development/redevelopment projects as Abington and the development community will migrate to the towns that make these projects more attractive to them.
Several neighboring communities have undergone projects seeking to renovate old buildings, stores & other properties in their town for a mixed-use development.
For example, Hanover is redeveloping the old mall into which will be a mixed use development combining housing units, retail space, restaurants and open space. The project is expected to generate a significant amount of revenue for the Town during construction and, once complete, will continue generating revenue. Another example is the shipyard in Hingham. This was transformed into a mixed use development with a combination of housing, retail stores & restaurants, among many other features.
I would like to see a similar type of mixed use development in Abington. Even though there aren’t any properties currently as large as there was in Hanover or Hingham, there are a number of smaller locations available that could be explored, such as North School or the old New England Art building. This type of development would provide housing, attract small businesses and also generate revenue for the Town.
I think to help facilitate such a project, the main thing would be to determine the most advantageous location. If it can be done somewhere that would have the least impact on residents of the Town in general, but especially those nearby, I believe many people would be in favor of a mixed use development.