brings a vision

My vision is for Needham to continue being a welcoming, inclusive, and growing community with infrastructure that can facilitate world-class education, safe streets, and environmental protection. Below are the large-scale priorities that are important to me, including a framework for implementation.


Policy: Increase the supply and variety of housing to make Needham more accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds

Background: Needham is a very desirable and in-demand place to live, with excellent schools and a welcoming community. Unfortunately, housing supply has not kept pace with demand. Small homes are becoming rare in town as they are demolished and replaced by homes much larger. People who grew up in town often find themselves unable to raise their own families here, and people looking to downsize often find that there are few options available. 

Implementation: As a member of the Housing Needham (HONE) Advisory Group, I am working to ensure that Needham implements multi-family residential zoning in compliance with the MBTA Communities Law that leads to development of more housing. I also want to explore zoning recommendations outside of the MBTA Communities framework to incentivize the construction of smaller (and more affordable) houses by relaxing lot area minimums in certain circumstances and locations. For example, by crafting regulations carefully, two smaller homes can contribute to housing diversity and accessibility, while also having a greater aggregate value (to the builder and to the Town) than one larger home.

HONE's work is still ongoing, and its final public workshop will be held on March 28th at Town Hall. I am eager to integrate all public comments that HONE receives before, during, or soon after that meeting into my thinking. As of right now, I am leaning towards favoring the "base"  scenario (now referred to as the "Base Compliance Plan") that satisfies compliance with the law, and I have a harder time justifying the alternate scenario (now referred to as the "Neighborhood Housing Plan") that is also being considered. Compliance with the MBTA Communities Law is only one tool to increase the supply and variety of housing in Needham, and I look forward to also implementing other tools (such as incentivizing construction of smaller homes) that do not fit within the narrow framework of the MBTA Communities Law.

YouTube: Listen to Josh's perspective on favoring the proposed "Base Compliance Scenario" for implementing the MBTA Communities Law in Needham 

Stormwater & Environment

Policy: Improve drainage infrastructure to reduce the impact of frequent flooding, while also improving water quality and protecting our environment

Background: Needham has been heavily impacted by flooding this past year, and the reasons are related to a changing and warming climate and to insufficient drainage capacity. Needham needs to upgrade its drainage system to accommodate more frequent rainstorms and larger buildings that leave less surface area for water to filter naturally into the ground.  Needham is also surrounded by the Charles River on three sides and must continue to ensure that stormwater flowing into the Charles River is clean.

Implementation: Earmark funds for drainage upgrades (estimated at $1000 per foot of pipe), replace excess paved (i.e. impermeable) surfaces with green space to enable natural ground filtration of stormwater, and continue to fund Needham’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program to remediate and clean the water flowing into the Charles River.

YouTube: Listen to Josh advocate for improved Stormwater infrastructure

School Buildings

Policy: Rebuild aging Pollard and Mitchell schools in a cost-effective and timely manner

Background: Mitchell is 75 years old and needs to be rebuilt. Pollard relies on modular classrooms that have exceeded their useful life and needs substantial renovation. Needham has an opportunity to receive partial reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for the Pollard project. Both school projects need to be funded in a timely and cost-effective manner, while also prioritizing preventative maintenance.

Implementation: Pursue funding from the MSBA for reimbursement of school building costs, prioritize funding for preventative building maintenance, and ensure that building projects are financed in accordance with the Town’s longstanding debt service policies so as not to increase property taxes unreasonably. 

Street Safety

Policy: To improve walking and biking accessibility while reducing motor vehicle collisions

Background: Public roads are the primary way that people get around town, and they are becoming increasingly congested with cars and other forms of transportation. Sadly, this trend has been accompanied by fatal collisions between motor vehicles and pedestrians. To maximize street safety -- particularly as the Town is contemplating additional housing and residents who will share the streets -- main roads should always have usable sidewalks and bike lanes, with crosswalks in safe and accessible locations. There are some stretches of main roads in Needham that have no usable sidewalks. The current Select Board policy is to prioritize the reconstruction and repair of existing sidewalks before embarking on new sidewalk construction.

Implementation: Treat the construction of new sidewalks consistent with the construction of new roads or buildings, where new construction can happen alongside repair of existing infrastructure.


Policy: Promote transparency in government operations and engagement with residents

Background: Typically, actions by the Town are taken following public discussion by appointed or elected boards, or by Town Meeting vote. There are naturally instances where some discussions must take place in Executive Session, but minutes of such sessions are required by state law to be released as soon as their non-disclosure is no longer required.

Implementation: I will continue my current practice of being responsive to residents' questions and concerns, and I will continue to raise public awareness of proposals or discussions impacting the Town. As a member of the Select Board, I will ensure that executive session minutes are regularly reviewed to determine whether their continued non-disclosure is warranted.

© 2024 Joshua Levy, Candidate for Select Board