Why do you live here?

Commentary by Frank Schroth
After our families, there is likely little that is as important to us as our houses and by extension our neighborhoods, and our town. The reasons for why we live exactly where we live vary and, likely, those reasons have changed over time. Houses become homes, places of memory, habit, and familiarity.
Currently there is a discussion underway about housing here in Milton. Developers, planning board members, town officials, consultants, real estate agents are all to some extent involved in this  discussion. It is a part of the ongoing master plan process, and it is very important to the future of this town. Here is why.

Milton is going to change. That is a fact. Hiding from it, ignoring it, or subscribing to the futile belief that it can be resisted is not in our mutual long-term best interest. We need a plan and it needs to factor in and account for alternative forms of housing. 

A number of social trends that tell us this is so. We have an aging demographic. Young people want small units. Middle income families need housing they can afford. Existing inventories of houses may not meet current needs and life styles, and remodeling poses challenges because some houses are “non-conforming” (i.e. they were built before the zoning bylaws were put in place) And what about those gorgeous tracts of land on upper Canton Avenue? What do we think is going to happen to them? How will we feel if they are developed into heaven knows what?
There are two 40B developments that have recently received letters of eligibility and may pursue a comprehensive permit from the zoning board of appeals. There are two more in the works: one in the Hillside neighborhood and one at the Hendries site. None is a done deal, nor are they necessarily bad ideas. But we don’t have control. These developments will increase traffic, impact town services, and possibly increase the school population. They will also bring new folks with new ideas and energy. This will be good.

Some officials are not involved as much as they should be. Their absence from the master plan forums borders on the embarrassing. Sitting back and watching from the sideline whether from lack of interest or  from fear of “who knows what” is difficult to understand. Arguing that the town is built out or that current zoning is adequate is specious and ignores reality. We need to do what is in our ability to do and make an attempt to direct change where we hope it might go.

Looking forward, do you want to age in place? Move to the Cape? Or at some point have the opportunity to downsize somewhere here in Milton? Do you want your children to be able to live here in town? Should apartments and condos and mother-in-law accessory structures be part of the mix that will make some of that possible? Would you want these next door? If so, under what conditions? These are some of the questions that have come up during Planning Board sessions.

You should and can be part of the conversation on June 11th at Cunningham Hall at 7:00pm when the Master Plan Committee convenes its roundtable on the future of housing in Milton.

I remember the day twenty-five years ago that I drove down the street, looked back at the house I’d visited, and thought to myself, “I think that’s it.” And it still is. By carefully planning for our future, we can preserve and grow what we love about the Town of Milton. Doing nothing in the belief that therefore nothing will happen is not an option. Let us act to preserve and protect what we hold dear and help us realize our hopes for the future.

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