Michelle Gillespie looks back on Northborough Planning Board career

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Michelle Gillespie has served for 18 years on the Northborough Planning Board. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH – After 18 years and hundreds of meetings, Michelle Gillespie has retired from the Northborough Planning Board.

This decision, she recently told the Community Advocate, comes as she wants to dedicate more time to her real estate business. Plus, her kids are older, and Gillespie wants to travel.

“I just feel like I’ve done my 18 years, and I like the results,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed it.”

Gillespie reflects on Planning Board career

Gillespie had served on several committees throughout town before running for the Planning Board in 2004.

She served on PTOs and volunteered with her church. She had been the president of the Northborough Garden Club.

At the time, some people recommended that Gillespie consider running for the Board of Selectmen.

“I wasn’t really familiar with that,” she said. “But I always found land use interesting.”

So Gillespie decided to run for the Northborough Planning Board.

Over her career on the Planning Board, Gillespie has since seen various changes and projects come to Northborough.

When she first started on the board, Gillespie said growth was happening, but there were a lot of questions about the next steps and where Northborough would be in 10 years.

There wasn’t a roadmap besides an old master plan, she said.

She recalled some of the subsequent work, including a community development plan (which Gillespie described as a mini-master plan), major rezoning that was approved by Town Meeting and the town’s more recent master plan, which is currently working its way through the Master Plan Implementation Committee.

Gillespie said she enjoyed work stemming from the master plan and enjoyed seeing properties be developed into “something that is thriving now.”

“Whether it’s a small business owner or a mid-sized business owner, they’re successful,” she said.

She recalled projects that have come into Northborough over the years, such as CVS.

“That’s when we realized at that point we didn’t have design standards,” Gillespie recalled.

The Design Review Committee, she said, undertook efforts led by former member Tom Reardon to create such design standards in town.

Gillespie, who was a member and chair of the Design Review Committee for years, said she enjoyed serving on the committee.

“We were often the first face that a business owner would see,” Gillespie said. “The message was always welcoming, even though you might say to someone, ‘Your design is not really what we’re looking for.’ It was very welcoming, very inclusive, very positive.”

Gillespie says goodbye

Now done with her final term on the Planning Board, Gillespie said she would like to remain active in the community.

“I’ve always been active within Northborough since I moved here,” she said.

As part of that, she’s already a key figure in local organizations, including a seat at the helm of the committee organizing annual Applefest events as its chair. Gillespie also helped found the local organization Boros Cares 4 Troops.

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