Please provide a brief biographical background on yourself. What should voters know about you?
Born: Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Education: Harvard College; Southborough resident for 31 years. Occupation: principal of the landscape architecture firm, Michael Weishan and Associates; former host of “The Victory Garden” on PBS; contributor to numerous national TV shows as well as NPR. Author of three books on landscape design: The New Traditional Garden (1999); From a Victorian Garden (2004); and The Victory Garden Companion (2006), as well as two books on the history of Southborough, Lost Southborough (2019) and Tales of Old Southborough (2021). President, Southborough Historical Society.
Why are you running?
The Planning Board is the guardian of the quality of life in our town, and to be effective, it requires people with design and planning expertise who know how to get projects done efficiently and effectively.
If elected, I would bring both those qualities to the table. I have run a nationally known landscape architecture firm for over 35 years, during which time we have designed everything from single family homes to public memorials and commercial developments. I work daily with engineers, architects, builders and developers. I speak their language, which means that I know how to work together to produce beneficial outcomes—as well as how not to be fooled by schemes that seek to enrich individuals at public expense. I understand the technicalities of urban planning, and I am completely at home with complicated plan sets and design concepts. In short, I can do this job.
What are the three biggest issues facing the Southborough Planning Board?
The Cordaville Road Project, The Multi-Family Zoning Requirement, Current Stalled Initiatives
If elected, how would you address these issues?
Most voters don’t know that the Town is envisioning a multi-million-dollar plan to widen RT. 85 (Cordaville Road) from Mt Vickery to Southville Road, which calls for cutting down every large tree on the west side of the road and taking 6’ or more from residents’ front yards. As currently envisioned, this would be a disaster for the south side of town, and this plan needs to be shelved or at the very least, highly modified.
Also largely under the radar is the multi-family zoning requirement for MBTA communities, a new state mandate that allows multi-family homes by right near commuter rail stations. This is one of those programs that could either result in a thriving new residential area in Southville, or completely destroy the quality of life there.
Finally, the Planning Board has launched two great initiatives regarding shade trees and scenic road protection that have failed with the voters. Given my experience, I can help modify the language of these initiatives to win broader support among the electorate.