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Statement to Board of Selectman – 11/21/11

This statement was read to the Board of Selectmen at their meeting on November 21, 2011

To: Lexington Board of Selectmen
From: Janet Kern, Lexington Community Farm Coalition
November 21, 2011

The Importance of Mixed Use

As you know, the Busa Committee unanimously recommended use of the Busa property for a community farm with a majority of the committee also supporting affordable housing, integrated with the farm use.

Integrated, or “mixed-use”, development is a viable idea and one that progressive towns and cities are pursuing to save open space and to support livable and sustainable neighborhoods at the same time.

This is not to be confused with “multi-use”, which is similar to slicing a pie into independent pieces. Rather “mixed-use developments, as defined by the Mass Housing Partnership in their own CPA guide1  are “where different uses occur in the same building or on the same property.” They give an example of a mixed use project as “a building that has retail shops on the ground floor and residential units on the second floor.” But there are many other possibilities if the Selectmen would be open to them.

Therefore, we were extremely disappointed at the October 26th meeting when, despite repeated recommendations and requests for consideration and collaboration on mixed use, most members of your board and some members of the housing boards declared it a “bad idea” and questioned whether such mixed use would be “appropriate” or even legal – which the Mass Housing Partnership CPA guide confirms that it definitely is.

We believe that avoiding the work of seeking out land use decisions that embrace progressive, creative solutions is a disservice to all taxpayers and to future generations of Lexingtonians. Open land is too scarce, and too important to our future to carve it up first and realize the ramifications later.

So I’m here tonight to again ask that a mixed use concept be considered on the Busa property before final decisions are made regarding siting of affordable housing.  I realize that you have not yet made a determination about whether the remainder of the land will in fact stay in farm use, but that is all the more reason to consider all the options before heading down a narrow path

This is a unique opportunity to merge two important concerns and to develop a site that can become a showcase for sustainable, livable development that can benefit the whole community.  We implore the Board of Selectmen to suspend the current process of “making a decision on housing first” and turn its attention to encouraging a collaborative design process.

1. http://www.chapa.org/pdf/mhp_cpa_guidebook.pdf , p. 6
CPA and Affordable Housing: A guidebook on how cities and towns can use Community Preservation Act funds to support local housing efforts