Listening is one of the most powerful tools a leader can possess. It helps build trust and fosters loyalty. Listening tells others that they are important and that their ideas and thoughts are valued. Listening requires being open and flexible. Deaf leadership has consequences such as missing out on great ideas and insights, struggling to make change and loss of respect. Is this what is happening in Shrewsbury?
When so many members of the community are voicing their concern over the “Beal Deal” and the effect it will have on Shrewsbury’s Town Center, who’s listening? The development of 55 one and two bedroom apartments and 8000 square feet of commercial space will forever change the historic function and feel of the Town Center. Residents have been expressing their concerns and if town leadership is true to themselves and the people they serve they will listen and act.
Historically, town centers served as a gathering location for townspeople to congregate, pick up supplies from local merchants, attend school, worship, graze livestock and begin to establish a community. It was the hub of social interaction. Shrewsbury Town Center does not need to be another commercial business district but should be developed to serve a walkable community and maintain the historical use and purpose of a Town Center. This would meet the Town Strategic Plan of “purposeful land planning and outcomes that promote livability.” There is no disgrace in changing one’s mind, especially when it serves the community needs and wants.
Because of the size of this project, the incompatibility with the existing conditions, the removal of open space and not resolving existing needs, I suggest that town officials go back to the drawing board and listen to what the residents are requesting by proposing a more creative use for this location which would serve community wants and needs more responsibly and respectfully. That’s leadership.