brings a record

Below are questions posed by residents, accompanied by responses and supporting material. In many cases, I have discussed the topic during a public meeting, and a YouTube link to the recording is provided.

If you would like to submit a question to be answered here or privately, please email 

Climate Change

What actions should the Select Board take to address climate change?

The Select Board must create policies to address energy consumption of town buildings and vehicles in order to achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions. Priorities include Energy Conservation (limit energy use while buildings are closed to the public and limit idling of town vehicles), Energy Efficiency (install energy efficient equipment wherever possible), and Renewable Energy Sources (phase out fossil fuel use and negotiate Community Energy Aggregation for green and inexpensive electricity). 

I was the only member of the Finance Committee to support adoption of the opt-in Stretch Energy Code.

YouTube: opt-in Stretch Energy Code

Muzi Rezoning

Where did you  stand on the re-zoning of the Muzi property? 

Any proposed zoning amendment is associated with both benefits and drawbacks to the Town and its residents. When Town Meeting was asked to consider the proposed rezoning (now the Highway Commercial-1 district), I felt that there was not enough information pertaining to either the benefits or drawbacks to endorse the underlying proposal, nor the amendments offered on the floor of Town Meeting. With the re-zoned land now vacant, it is important to consider alternate zoning that can incentivize development.

YouTube: Muzi Rezoning

Foster Property

Where did you stand on the $2.5 million land purchase of the Foster estate? 

When the Town has purchased land in the past (such as at the expanded site of the new Public Safety building or at the site of the Sunita Williams School) it has always had a signed Purchase & Sale agreement and an independent appraisal to support the purchase price before seeking a funding appropriation. Moreover, the acquisition of a portion of the Foster estate was conditioned on a development agreement for construction on a different portion of the estate. Through no fault of the Town, none of these executed documents were available before seeking a funding appropriation at the already-scheduled Special Town Meeting in October.

The Select Board is charged with calling Special Town Meetings, and due to the unforeseen delay, I felt strongly that the Select Board should call a Special Town Meeting at a later date when, at a minimum, a signed Purchase & Sale agreement would available. This would not have imposed delays upon the developer, and it would have protected the interests of the Town in the complicated transaction.

YouTube: Foster Property Acquisition

Emery Grover

Where did you stand on the vote to fund the Emery Grover renovations?

I was fully in support of funding upgrades at Hillside as temporary space for school administration, as the Emery Grover building was no longer a suitable environment for employees. I disagreed with the decision to prioritize funding for Emery Grover renovations before a financing plan had been put in place for the needed renovations at Mitchell and Pollard. I believe the Town and taxpayers are best served by planning for all anticipated building projects before appropriating funds for any one project.

In addition to use for school administration, the Emery Grover Feasibility study published in June 2020 examined the building’s use for housing, as it lies in the “Apartments A-1” district. It identified 18 units that could be developed within the existing Emery Grover building. After accounting for the substantial costs of the Mitchell and Pollard projects, the Town would have been in a position to decide whether to renovate Emery Grover for school administration or to rededicate the building to support the growing demand for housing in Needham.

YouTube: Emery Grover 

Local Business

What are three things you would like to improve that would encourage more shopping and dining in Needham?

In the long term, mixed-use development is a reliable way to increase vibrancy of downtown areas. Zoning in Needham Center already allows for such development, but it has not been taken advantage of as much as envisioned. As a member of the Housing Needham Advisory Group, I am working to make sure that there are fewer barriers to such development in our town centers.

On a seasonal basis, Needham can help to promote local shopping and dining with additional community events centered around music, art, food, or local businesses. In particular, community events on the commons in Needham Center and Needham Heights can provide entertainment for residents and foot traffic for local businesses.

A more out-of-the-box idea to promote local business is the use of a local currency. There are several examples of local currencies, such as the BerkShares used in Western Massachusetts, which have helped to keep money within the local economy. Needham would allocate a sum of money that would be distributed to residents in the form of a local currency, which could be spent at local businesses that in turn could redeem them for US dollars at the Treasurer’s office. Needham would promote the spending and acceptance of the local currency, and it could become a local symbol of economic vitality.

YouTube: Local Currencies

Quiet Zones (Train Horns)

What is your view of the Quiet Needham initiative?

The Quiet Needham initiative seeks to install infrastructure at rail crossings in town, allowing train operators the option of not having to sound the horn as the train approaches. My primary concern at rail crossings is for the safety of pedestrians, motorists, and train passengers. With capital investment to implement supplemental safety measures, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) may approve a Quiet Zone in Needham that would no longer require the train horn to sound at crossings while also ensuring the safety of pedestrians, motorists, and train passengers.

The current proposal is to begin implementing Quiet Zones at four of the six crossings in Needham (excluding Great Plain Ave and Hersey for now). The excluded crossings are where more work is needed to ensure safety and where some technical details are still standing in the way. I support this plan, and I look forward to finding ways to safely expand the Quiet Zone to include the other two stations in the future.

Meanwhile, the Town should re-engage the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to confirm that they would respect a Quiet Zone in Needham. In the past, the MBTA has opposed Quiet Zones. Since they own the tracks and trains, it is important that Needham and the MBTA are aligned and in close communication.

FRA Quiet Zones

MBTA Quiet Zones Letter to Needham

© 2024 Joshua Levy, Candidate for Select Board