Town Center Improvement Project

The residents of Weston will be taking part in an historic vote at Special Town Meeting on November 29th that will have an impact on the safety and appearance of the Town Center for generations.

As a result of deferred maintenance and the recent utility work, the section of Boston Post Road from Soldier’s Field Park (at Concord Road) to the Old Library (at Church and School streets), needs to be repaired. Voters will have three choices for how to proceed:
  • Level Service Improvements: Resume the deferred maintenance by repairing the curbs, streets, and sidewalks, including the required improvements for handicapped accessibility and drainage upgrades;
  • The Master Plan: Reconfigure the location of the curbs and sidewalks to create more continuous and ample sidewalks, safer crosswalks, new open space, and traffic-calming strategies; or
  • The Master Plan “Plus”: All of the features of the Master Plan PLUS burying the utilities, thus removing the utility poles and overhead wires, and allowing for new trees to be planted along Boston Post Road between Colpitts Road and School Street.
level service-mp-mpp reduced.jpg

The Special Town Meeting Vote

There are three articles on the November 29th warrant for this project. None are to approve the full project cost, but rather to approve the final design and engineering fees. 
  • Article 1 - requests $394,000 for the level service improvement design and engineering fees 
  • Article 2 - if  article 1 is approved, voters will be asked to approve an additional $138,000 in design fees for the Master Plan 
  • Article 3 - if article 2 is approved, voters will then be asked to approve design fees for the Master Plan “Plus”, which is $456,000. These fees are higher because each of the utility companies (Eversource, Verizon, Comcast) need to mobilize their own design teams  

After the Vote

 Approving the design and engineering fees for the Master Plan will allow for the concepts shown below and on the "Project Views" page to be further developed with additional public input. The Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, and the Historical Commission have all voted to unanimously support the Master Plan, as well as to give residents the opportunity to vote whether to include the burying of the utilities in addition to the project. The Finance Committee took positions on the articles, as follows: unanimous vote to support Article 1; majority vote to take no position on Article 2; and unanimous vote to oppose Article 3.

After the design phase, another Town Meeting vote would be required for the construction funds. The level service improvements, which would be taken on by the Department of Public Works, is a $3.2 million project, in total; the Master Plan would be an additional $3 million ($6.1 million in total), and the Master Plan “Plus” would be an additional $5.4 million ($11.5 million in total). 

Tax Impact

How much will my tax bill go up for this project?
  Article 1 Articles 1 & 2 Articles 1, 2 & 3
Per $100,000 of assessed valuation: $77.61 $151.66 $285.57
For the median valued home of $1,156,000: $894.11 $1,747.09 $3,289.75
Median valued home, average per year over 20 years: $44.70  $87.35 $164.49
The funds to design and construct this project will be borrowed over a 20 year period. The total, 20 year impact on resident tax bills is described in the chart above. If the entire project is approved, including level service, master plan, and burying of the utility lines, the owner of a home valued at the median level will pay an average of $164.49 per year over the 20 years it takes to repay the debt service. If only Article 1 is approved, the owner of a home valued at the median level will pay an average of $44.70 per year for 20 years. And if Article 1 & 2 are approved the average annual cost would be $87.35 for 20 years.

Historical Context

The last time Weston residents invested in a major safety and beautification project for the Town Center was 1912 when Arthur Shurtleff, an important landscape architect, was hired to design the beautiful and historically significant Town Green. Catalyzed by the emerging “menace of the motorcar” and storm water issues in the low-lying area behind the old town hall, Mr. Shurtleff’s elegant solution was as much a place-making project as a technical response. (Read more about the Shurtleff plan on Utile’s blog). It’s been 104 years since that landmark achievement.

Shurtleff Plan (1912)
Arthur Shurtleff’s original plan from 1912 created the Town Common that we know today. The trees were strategically positioned in order to direct important views through the Town Common, and from the Common to the Town Center.

Safety and Beautification

Fast-forward to 2016. Boston Post Road has become a by-pass to the Route 20 by-pass, with cars speeding through the Town Center during non-rush hour times, and paralyzed at rush hour by the confounding Church Street/School Street intersection. The proposed Master Plan dramatically increases pedestrian safety with better-located and shorter crosswalks, better sight-lines, and traffic calming strategies.

At the same time, the Plan improves the pedestrian connections and views between the Town Green, Josiah Smith Tavern and the Old Library, and the commercial heart of the Town. The Master Plan would make it easier for people to park once and walk, rather than drive short distances while doing errands.

View 02 cropped
This view looking north from above Brothers Marketplace shows the improved, easier-to-navigate parking, as well as the three new open spaces: The Terrace (left foreground), Town Square (center), and Knox Park (background next to the pharmacy). Additionally, connectivity between the Town Center, Town Green, and Town Hall (visible in the far background) is improved, both physically and perceptually.

Circulation and Parking

The proposed plan does not reduce the number of parking spaces, but rather consolidates them at the most convenient and desirable locations. At the same time, the turning radii for fire trucks and service and delivery vehicles have been carefully considered. The result is a better arrangement of driveways and parking areas that will be more functional, intuitive, and attractive for customers and visitors, with a net gain of 6 parking spaces.

Parking Diagram cropped
Diagram illustrating the redistribution of parking spaces across the Town Center, with a net gain of six parking spaces. The aim of this improved design is to make parking simpler, and for visitors to park once and walk between various businesses in Town Center, rather than driving and parking multiple times per visit, as is more common today.

Improved Sidewalks

The plan is predicated on putting Boston Post Road on a “lane diet” that doesn’t reduce the number of lanes or traffic capacity, but rather maintains a constant 12 foot lane dimension through the Town Center. This allows for the widening of sidewalks precisely where the sidewalks are in need of the most attention. In addition, the real estate gained by the “lane diet” will allow for better transitions from the sloped driveways on the south side of Boston Post Road. In the future, delivery trucks won’t bottom out when exiting the Brother’s Marketplace service area.

Reclaimed Space Diagram resized
By maintaining consistent lane widths, improving sidewalk conditions, and simplifying circulation patterns, nearly one acre of land is reclaimed for pedestrians (represented in blue). The result is a more continuous and accessible Town Center, with the addition of three new open spaces.

Master Plan vs. Master Plan "Plus"

The choice of whether or not to bury the utility lines along Boston Post Road will have an effect on the character and aesthetic of the Town Center (see below). The image on top illustrates the “Master Plan,” with utilities remaining above ground. The image on the bottom illustrates the “Master Plan ‘Plus’,” with the utilities removed and buried underground. By removing the utility poles and lines, trees can be added along the south side of Boston Post Road, mirroring those on the opposite side to create a continuous alley of trees along the length of Boston Post Road, restoring some of the historic charm to the Town Center.

MP cropped

MPP cropped