I. Increased citizen involvement especially at ATM
We really need to work on this one. I have a few ideas and would love to hear your views on the issue.
II. Our New England Character
You find this term applied to our town more than I personally would have imagined. I think this is an area where serious discussion is needed. I honestly believe Mansfield is transcending the typical notion tied to the term and that we’re incorrect to even use it when describing Mansfield. Mansfield has a great history of evolving and growing incrementally well out of the bounds of “New England Character”. I do think we still need to find a way to include our past in the narrative that will be our future. I just think we need to remember that Mansfield was a solid and diverse community that embraced innovation.
III. Sensible Tax Policy
What is the best solution for this issue here in Mansfield?
IV. The GreenWays
This is the term I’m applying to the potential lines of green space that come very close to creating continuous connections in our town. Our green spaces as well as how the spaces encourage pedestrian and bicycle traffic is a key component to bringing our core to the next level.
The boogeyman that keeps every municipality awake some nights. We’re blessed with a great DPW and a history of snagging funds from the Hill. That said clarifying our vision of our needs and desires accompanied by an audit of our existing system can go a long way in assuring our progress.
VI. Debt Now & When
I am not a fan of long-term debt exclusions. I opposed the debt exclusion that passed for the new DPW/Public Safety construction. Ironically I would have voted YES on a Proposition 2.5 override. Long term exclusions are too much of a burden which ultimately only pay for a portion of what the tax payer is on the hook for. Thirty years are equal to the life of a typical mortgage. I dread the idea that the much-needed facilities experience the financial straits of other projects such as Washington DC’s Metro. Debt to build it but no funding to maintain it. Long term debt too often gives people the illusion of wealth. We can’t fall into that trap.
Debt in general is an area of concern and I believe we should always be vigilant about entering into it. acquiring some debt is almost inevitable especially in a municipal setting. That said getting out of debt is as good for a town as it is for an individual.
VII. Economic Development
This is perhaps the hottest issue facing the town and has been for some time. Future economic development is the foundation upon which many other issues rest. Mansfield has reached a tipping point where new development and the needed tax revenues derived from it will almost exclusively come from zoning changes and infill.
The unique challenges tied to this reality is perhaps one of the reasons the town has experienced lukewarm responses. Right about here folks who have watched some of the larger scale residential/mixed use properties sprout up are perhaps thinking me crazy. Before you commit me let’s look specifically inside the Cabot Industrial Park and then step back and take general stock of the quality of our recent development. Don’t take my word for it match up what you see with the IDC Survey.
Two talking points come up in the conversations I have with people with knowledge of commercial entities and their perceptions of Mansfield. #1. Just like our residential payers business types see an unappealing trend regards taxation. #2. The gauntlet companies need to run through various boards & commissions is cumbersome at best.
The former is an issue that universally needs to be addressed. The latter has been discussed by the current Board who have spoken on the importance of streamlining the process through the various boards and committees.
VIII. Community Cohesion
Mansfield has a great mix of people and a positive sense of community best seen through groupings such as the schools,athletics and places of worship. Still the community has scored “sense of purpose” critically in surveys and our community does have definite geographic barriers. (Rt. 140 for example and the general East/West divide)
One example of our diversity I like to share happened a few years ago. I was at Memorial Park with my daughter who was trying out her tennis skills. I looked out across the park from the courts and saw folks playing frisbee,baseball and just enjoying the space. One other group stood out though,some gentlemen playing cricket. There was a mix of ages and races on display that day and it brought a smile to my face that this was a picture of my town.
Another example of great community would be the Friends of Memorial Park who worked so hard to bring improvements to the playground area. Outstanding!
This mix is the starting point from which we can all unite and find solutions to our common concerns.
IX. The Train Station & TOD District
The train station is such an important part of this community. It truly cannot be said enough that the station is an economic driver unrivaled in town.
Transit Oriented Development and the fact that we’ve designated the surrounding area as a TOD Zone are examples of New Urbanism coming to a suburban community. (In Mansfield’s case it’s more like Mature Suburb/Established Suburbs & Cape Cod Town source: MAPC.org)
Recent development in the TOD is visually appealing and promises to bring positives to the community. That said we cannot escape the negatives.
The parking situation: I won’t ding the town on the fallout from the MBTA’s construction project. The work is necessary and unfortunately has impacted parking negatively with a loss of 120+ spots. The Selectmen acted in manner I can agree with and support. (See letter from BOS here.) Parking will continue to be an issue at the station as well as the surrounding TOD zone and will still present challenges after the T work. Looking ahead starting now is the right thing to do.
The Traffic: There are whispers of things to come regard the congestion 106 experiences daily. Our current development trends only exasperate the problem and likely play a part in dampening enthusiasm to enter the area whether for commerce or enjoyment. It is absolutely crucial Mansfield solves for x=106!
The Siege of Draper,Howe,River & Allen Streets: My talks with residents in this area paint a picture of understandable angst and concern. The Town’s efforts have been inadequate and I can say from first hand experience the area represents a public safety issue during the commuting hours. The negatives both the residents and commuters are experiencing now will surely be increased during the snow months when the streets will be narrowed and slippery. This neighborhood deserves a community wide response which will not only benefit the residents but will help improve the commuting/parking experience.
That no matter how good things are it’s really not true TOD: Say what you want about the MBTA Commuter Rail but one thing I will say is that it isn’t true transit. All our recent developments in the area still depend on answering the call of the car. Mansfield is very much a car centric community. TOD is sound science but it will take more than labels to make it a true reality in Mansfield.