Weekly Blogs

Week 7: Reflections on our IQP Experience

(April 22-26)

Now that the term has come to an end, it’s time to look back and reflect on everything that we have gone through. In the past seven weeks our team has put in at least 40 hours of work per week in order to complete all of our research. Our group spent most of our time in our office at the Worcester Community Project Center, but did travel at least once per week to go into the Statehouse in Boston. Spending all of these hours together, we have learned a lot about zoning and its impacts on society and also some valuable information about ourselves as well. We learned to work together as a team and to divide our work among ourselves to accomplish more. We learned about each of our strengths and weaknesses and used our differences to create the best possible work from our team.

Resulting from our project came a few recommendations to legislators such as key elements to include within the bill, but there is still effort needed in regards to Zoning Reform in Massachusetts. We spent a lot of time researching what would be the most beneficial for use in Massachusetts, but a lot more education of the public is needed to explain zoning and the effects of zoning on the community. We would advise a future project to focus more on educating the public and promoting zoning for public health.

To conclude, this Interactive Qualifying Project has been an amazing and eye-opening experience for all of us and we are so fortunate to have been able to have the opportunity to partake in this project. From this great experience we learned how to interact with legislators and other zoning experts while doing real work in the zoning field. All in all this was a great experience and even though this term is over we plan on still being involved. We will be presenting on Senator Harriette Chandler’s TV talk show Beacon Hill Chat in the near future as well as presenting at the Public Health Caucus meeting at the Statehouse next week in Boston. The most important thing we realized from our project was how important it is to be involved in the workings of your city. After speaking with interviewees such as Tim McGourthy and Dr. Michael Hirsh, we learned how important it is for the general public to attend public forums for experts to gain a good understanding of what the public’s wants and needs are.

We would all like to thank Senator Chandler, her office, and everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to talk to us and give us their expert zoning opinions. This has been an awesome experience and we would also love to thank our project advisers, Professors Corey Dehner and Dominic Golding for all of their time and hard work ranging from the countless revisions of our papers and for all of the assistance we received throughout the term. We could not have done this without you!

All in good health,

Your zoning reform in Massachusetts team.

Week 5: Crunch Time

(April 8-12)

Hey all,

Once again this week was chock full of events. We had three interviews this week with Senator Harriette Chandler, Dr. Michael Hirsh, and Tim McGourthy. In the interview with Senator Chandler we showed her the information we had already gathered and discussed more about this Worcester Model we will be creating. The other two interviews with Dr. Michael Hirsh and Tim McGourthy were both set up to gain more information with the opinions of these experts on the needs of Worcester. We learned many great ideas the Worcester Department of Public Health was trying to accomplish but was unable to due to lack of funding. We are currently trying to incorporate some of these ideas into our model. We will update you all again next week on our future progress!

Week 4: Oh, We’re Halfway There

(April 1-5)

Hey guys,

This week was all about trying to finalize where we see this project going. We set up two more interviews with Dr. Michael Hirsh, the Public Health Commissioner of Worcester and Tim McGourthy, the Economic Developer of Worcester. We will be talking to them in the next two weeks to gather more information, primarily about the model we will be creating for Massachusetts. We narrowed our model ideas to the top three: transforming an abandoned building into a mixed-use development; creating a green area where there is currently an abandoned lot; and opening an after school center for underprivileged youth in Worcester. We will be talking to Tim McGourthy more in depth about the logistics for the model, and to make sure any buildings we choose are not brownfields, former industrial or commercial sites that left the site contaminated. This past week we went to the Statehouse on Tuesday in addition to our weekly Friday visit. We met with Senator Chandler to present our preliminary project findings and seek her feedback on our Worcester model ideas. On Tuesday we were  privileged to sit in on a Massachusetts transportation press conference and a public health caucus. The focus of both meetings was transportation needs of the state, as there is currently a substantial transit bill before the Massachusetts legislature.

Article about the Transportation Press Conference


Week 3: Interview Mania

(March 25-29)

Good afternoon!

This week has been especially busy for us. We have kept researching but have been primarily focused on interviewing. After our interview last Friday, Eric Hove gave us a few more names of people to contact. With these names and also through our own research we set up two more interviews for the upcoming week: Neil Lindberg, a land use lawyer from Utah and Andre Leroux, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance. These interviews were helpful… Neil explained the legal processes of how land use acts were passed, specifically focusing on the Land Use, Development, and Management Act that was passed in Utah in 2005. We also got to chat with Andre on Friday in which we learned more Massachusetts zoning information. Because he is so involved with Massachusetts public transportation efforts, we got to learn more about that and learned ways to encourage Smart Growth in communities. We have also sent the Worcester Chief Planner, Abigail McCabe, our interview questions, as she requested, and are looking forward to seeing her answers in the upcoming week. Throughout the week we have been working hard on writing interview questions for these interviews and the ones we will be conducting next week. We have also created a survey which we plan to ask the Worcester residents in the next week or so to determine their feelings toward their “quality of life” in Worcester. We have started to create possible plans to show to Senator Chandler next week for potential zoning reform models in the city of Worcester. Our model ideas include  turning abandoned buildings in Worcester into grocery/mixed use developments and possible walking/bike paths throughout certain communities.

Week 2: Settling In

(March 18-22)

Hey there,

This week has been a hard one for our eyes. We have been cooped up in the office staring for hours on end at our computer screen compiling tons of research for our project. We have put Massachusetts research on hold and have been focusing primarily on the other states. Tom has already been in contact with Providence, Rhode Island and had phone interview with the statewide planner of Rhode Island to discuss their zoning reform laws. Tyler and I have been e-mailing Houston, Texas and Provo, Utah to attempt to set up a phone interview with them as well, but so far no luck. Despite not being able to contact them, we have still gained a lot of information from research.  Tim Daley has been actively searching to set up interviews for us, and successfully got us one with Eric Hove, a planner of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), on Friday at the Statehouse. Eric was able to answer questions to tell us his opinions on the current zoning laws in Massachusetts and also how a statewide zoning act would effect the state of Massachusetts. He also gave us insight on certain things that would good for us to focus on during our Interactive Qualifying Project such as:

  • Language used in the bills (Making it easier for non-legislators to understand)
  • Educating the general public on what zoning is
  • Informing the public on how zoning is beneficial to the community

Eric was also extremely helpful and gave us names of people to contact from organizations such as the Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), and the Zoning Reform Working Group. We will be contacting these people early next week to try and set up an interview as soon as possible.

On the social side of this week, we had a presentations on Wednesday about how our project is going so far and got to hear about how other team’s projects are going. All of the teams gained a new whiteboard which is helping us organize our thoughts and letting us create a to-do list for us all to see. We traveled into work one morning on the Worcester Consortium Bus, which was quite the experience… We got to see a lot of Worcester that we never usually see and a lot of the other Worcester colleges. We also had the chance to visit the Worcester Public Library, which just happens to be right next door to the Project Center, and is where our team spent the morning on Thursday to get more research done.

Week 2 Photos:

Our View from Inside the Consortium Bus

Entering the Worcester Public Library 

Week 1: Introduction

(March 11-15)

Hey Everyone,

Week 1 has been filled with getting introduced to our new surroundings, research and organization, and meeting Tim Daley in person. During this week, our team became familiar with the Worcester Community Project Center and also the Statehouse in Boston, MA. We were able to contact Tim Daley, our main contact from Senator Chandler’s office, on Monday via conference call to discuss our main objectives for the project. It was agreed to narrow our outside research down to four states, and to research not only ones that have successfully passed state zoning reform laws, but also those who have not been successful. The four states we agreed to focus on were Rhode Island, Texas, California and Utah. We divided the four states among the four of us to research and we will all focus on researching Massachusetts information. We have started researching previous Massachusetts bills that have been denied and also current bills that have been proposed and are under review. We created a GoogleDoc spreadsheet to keep track of what bills we have found. Recording information such as keywords found in the bill, bill number, sponsor, and summary will help us reference this information later in the term and to keep track of the bills that are under review. This week, we also created a timeline for the next seven weeks to stay on track and rewrote an outline for our background chapter before starting to write parts of it. We created a list of questions/concerns to talk to Tim Daley about on Friday at the Statehouse. On Friday we went to the Statehouse and were able to meet Tim Daley in person. He gave us a tour of the Statehouse and then let us use his office to work on our research. He introduced us to Laura Paladino who we have also been in contact with. She works in Senator Chandler’s office as well and is the Director of Constituent Services and Operations. Our webpages were all created this week and will continue to be edited throughout the term.

Week 1 Photos:

Outside of the Statehouse 

Tyler and Ryan Working in Tim Daley’s Office