Marlborough Candidate Statement – Ward 7 – Harmony Larson


Marlborough Candidate Statement – Ward 7 – Harmony Larson
Harmony Larson

Tell us about yourself

My husband and I have lived in Marlborough since 2009 and we have three kids currently enrolled in Marlborough Public Schools. I’m a member of the Marlborough Cultural Council and my professional background includes leadership positions in marketing, internal communications and employee engagement, with most of my career spent in the architecture and development industry. I believe good communication and collaboration are essential for solving just about any problem. I also believe the City of Marlborough should be much more transparent and do more to invite new voices and perspectives into the conversations that are shaping the future of our City. I have lots of ideas, questions and energy, and I’m committed to being accessible, responsive, open-minded and proactive as the next Ward 7 City Councilor. We’re ready for a changing of the guard and I’m excited to be a part of that refresh at City Hall.

What are the biggest issues facing the city?

Top of mind for many residents in Ward 7 is the pace of growth and the impact of that growth on our schools, roads, City services and public safety. We need to be more forward-looking and make sure we are equipped to handle growth before adding large numbers of housing units which bring more students into the schools and vehicles onto the roads. The City needs to do a better job of anticipating and getting ahead of the trickle down effects of population growth. We also need to start doing more than the legal minimum when it comes to transparency about City business. We need to provide equitable and convenient ways for residents to find information and provide feedback about proposed developments and construction projects.

As a city councilor, how would you approach issues regarding traffic, public safety and speeding?

We can utilize subject matter experts to deal with current traffic issues and should require traffic impact studies from potential developers (if we don’t already). We can also start adding physical road features to reduce speeding in certain areas such as speed humps, rumble strips and visual markers. In areas where speeding is pervasive and presents a higher risk to public safety, police enforcement or automatic sensors are options. Finally, I may be in a minority here but I’m a fan of rotaries which slow speeds down but also tend to result in less back-up traffic at busy intersections. They also create opportunities for attractive landscaping, signage and public art.

Do you think the city is on the right track in relation to residential and commercial development?

I believe we need an updated vision for what the right size and right mix is for Marlborough when it comes to residential and commercial development. I support hiring a City Planner to lead us on that journey and help hold the line. In addition, the City needs to be much more proactive in engaging with the public as we shape the future of our community. Finally, the City and/or MEDC could consider capital investments to purchase strategically located properties so we can have more control over growth. Also, projects like the West Side Fire Station and the expansion or replacement of Richer School could be handled more quickly and at a lower cost to taxpayers if we had more City-owned property available.

A series of zoning changes were vetoed by Mayor Arthur Vigeant earlier this year. Now, there are proposed changes in the Village District’s zoning. How would these changes improve the district?

I understand that the recently proposed changes in the Village District’s zoning are in response to the Exchange Place project at the former Rowe Funeral Home property. Those changes relate mainly to building height, onsite parking requirements and stipulations around affordable housing. I think this is a valuable exercise to help the City get closer to codifying a vision for what it wants and what it doesn’t want. However, the lack of proactive engagement with the public around zoning during the most recent zoning conversations is an issue. Residents DO care about what happens in Marlborough but we don’t all have the time to dig through various meeting minutes and long meeting recordings or attend every public meeting. The City Council needs to be more transparent and proactive in the way we organize and share this information, and collect and respond to feedback and questions from residents.

Currently, there are several vacancies on Main Street, in addition to the vacant lot next to Welly’s. As a councilor, how would you support downtown revitalization?

The big challenge with Main Street is absentee landlords who don’t have enough skin in the game when it comes to revitalizing downtown. We need to identify some kind of leverage to motivate owners to modernize those buildings and offer better lease terms in order to attract a new mix of businesses that will bring more energy and life to Main Street. Perhaps if the City and/or MEDC start to purchase some properties in and around downtown, we can create some healthy competition and eventually raise the standards for downtown commercial space and for smaller scale, village style mixed-use.

What skills and experience do you have to prepare you to be a member of the city council?

My professional background includes many years in the architecture and development industry. I’ve worked for lots of small businesses, a few larger ones and even for the National Park Service, so I’m comfortable building relationships with diverse stakeholders. I am the Secretary of the Marlborough Cultural Council and parent of three MPS students. I’ll be a strong advocate for our schools and proponent for more investment to support our creative economy. I have a track record of successfully navigating gray areas, raising my hand for the big challenges and forging strong partnerships to get things done. I’ve been told that I have a very high “Say:Do ratio” and I take a lot of pride in that: I do what I say I will do.

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