Northborough Candidate Statement – Planning Board – Kerri Martinek (Incumbent)

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Northborough Candidate Statement – Planning Board – Kerri Martinek (Incumbent)
Kerri Martinek

Why are you running? 

I’m running for re-election to the Planning Board because I love this town and I want it to be a place where people want to raise their families, start a business, or age in place and enjoy retirement. Since 2018, I’ve taken the time to research issues, study impact, listen to the residents of all ages, attend trainings on planning best practices, collaborate with regional planning experts and more. I’d like to build on this experience and knowledge to continue to move Northborough forward in the right direction. We are at a critical point with our Downtown Revitalization Plan and I think I have the right blend of knowledge, passion, historical experience/content, and love for Northborough to continue this pursuit and execute on our plans.

What are the three biggest issues facing the Northborough Planning Board in order of importance?

The three biggest issues facing the Planning Board:

1. Updating our bylaws – as we head into significant downtown planning, we need bylaws that support the vision. We also need to modernize our bylaws to account for how much zoning and the world around us have changed since the last major overhaul in 2009.

2. Industrial zoning – although certain forces have slowed down the progression of warehouses and distribution uses in our town, we still need a better resolution for what belongs in our industrial zones, and how we can better soften the transition in areas where residential abuts industrial.

3. Regional collaboration – it’s a small world when it comes down to it, and certainly a small region. We’re all facing similar challenges and often connected by the same roads, waterways, and systems. We’d be stronger if we could collaborate more with our neighboring towns to tackle some of the broader challenges, including issues like trucking and distribution. Beyond challenges, this includes applying for more regional state grants!

Revitalizing downtown has been a recent topic in town. If you could model downtown Northborough after another community in Massachusetts, which would you pick and why? 

I really like Hudson as a model for downtown revitalization. I think they’ve done a great job in three areas – strategic plan for their downtown, economic development, and execution. They seemed to also really take into consideration the voices of both residents and local businesses throughout the entire process and it shows. The town is vibrant and a place that others want to go for dining, shopping, and living.

What I think differentiates them is that they were able to execute their plan in the right order of events. They also addressed their flow of traffic and have the on-street parking that Northborough lacks. It would be difficult to look like Hudson in the end, but I think we could take some of the lessons learned in strategy and successful execution in order to accelerate some of our own downtown efforts.

What would be the biggest hurdle(s) to overcome to make your vision for downtown a reality?

There are a several hurdles that impede some of Northborough’s efforts. Number one for me is a dedicated resource to Economic Development. We continue to see the most successful towns have a dedicated staff member or committee overseeing these efforts. We saw how important that role was during COVID, and how the lack of having that role impacted Northborough’s businesses. We desperately need a way for our businesses to communicate and connect with the town, other businesses, and residents. We also need an avenue for proactively recruiting new businesses in addition to supporting the ones that we have.

Another hurdle, is route 20 and the inability to have complete control over the major street that runs through our downtown. On-street parking would be a game changer. The ability to widen sidewalks, invest in streetscapes, lighting, move electric wires underground, etc. We are just so limited in what we can do. That said, other towns located on route 20 have figured out how to do it. We should be able to make it work too!

The Downtown Revitalization Plan calls for three scenarios, which contain ideas for housing in downtown. How should the Planning Board respond to this plan and its suggestions?

Much of where the Planning Board has the ability to influence the success of Downtown Revitalization comes in the form of creating and presenting amendments to our zoning. Several zoning changes are required in ordered to make the current Downtown Revitalization plan a reality.

At the last Annual Town Meeting, the Planning Board has already presented and passed several bylaw amendments to support these plans. First, by complying with the MBTA multi-family zoning requirement, Northborough is now eligible for several significant state grants that could help accelerate revitalization in our downtown. This could prove especially beneficial for any Blake Street developments. Next, including the Harvey property in the multi-family overlay, would allow for that vision of a riverwalk area should the lot ever be up for development.

The groundwater bylaw amendments helped to address major impediments to the downtown revitalization efforts identified in the plan, including the change to eliminate the mandatory increase in minimum lot size.

What is your relevant experience to serve on the Planning Board?

I’ve been on the Planning Board for the last 6 years, serving as the Chair for the last 5. I am well versed in our Zoning Bylaws and Master Plan. I also have spent a great deal of time taking advantage of the training offered by The Citizen Planner Training Collaborative (CPTC) a planning agency that provides local Massachusetts planning and zoning officials with the guidance and tools they need to be effective. I’ve trained in the areas of Site Plans, Special Permits and Variances, Zoning, Bylaw Amendments, Public Hearings, Overlays, Mitigation, and more.

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