Meet the 2022 Wellesley candidates for Planning Board

The Town of Wellesley depends on the active participation of its citizens in governance of the Town. Wellesley has 11 Boards and Committees on the ballot at the Annual Town election each year in March. The 2022 election will be held on Tuesday, March 1.

There are two candidates running for one open five-year term on the Planning Board. The Planning Board is a six-member elected Board. The role of the Board is to make short- and long-term decisions related to land use in the Town of Wellesley through the judicious use of municipal planning and project review. The Planning Board is responsible for the maintenance and update of the Town’s Zoning Bylaws and Zoning Map, divisions of land, and the review of large-scale projects with Town-wide impacts.

The Planning Board candidates are Marc Charney and Catherine Johnson.

The Swellesley Report invited the candidates to answer a few questions about their priorities for the Town of Wellesley.

Candidate interviews appear in this post in the order in which their names appear on the ballot.


Marc Charney, candidate for Planning Board

Marc Charney, candidate for Planning Board
Marc Charney, candidate for Planning Board

TSR: Please introduce yourself to The Swellesley Report‘s readers.

Marc Charney: My name is Marc Charney and I am running for the Planning Board.  I currently live in Wellesley with my wife Jenny and three children who attend Wellesley Public Schools. Over 20 years ago I had an opportunity to purchase a two-family home on Washington Street abutting the Hunnewell field complex. This was my introduction to Wellesley and I have loved it ever since. Being able to access the Brook Path, the tennis courts, and walking to Star Market were all things that made me feel like I was back home—I grew up in Coolidge Corner in Brookline, MA. It was the walkability and access the open spaces that I enjoyed so much then and now.

TSR: If elected, what do you hope to accomplish in your tenure as a Planning Board member?

Marc Charney: If elected, my hope is to re-evaluate the planning process to expedite decision making and increase the productivity of the board. A large focus of mine will be to implement systems which work toward achieving our recently adopted climate goals for 2050 through electrification, solar, heat pumps, and land management. I look forward to bringing my perspective to the board as a local business owner and cooperating with other branches of town government.

TSR: What is the most pressing housing issue in Wellesley?

Marc Charney: The most pressing housing issue Wellesley currently faces is a lack of diverse housing options for our residents. We need to prioritize projects that provide a place for our seniors, young people, and new families to call home. As a Planning Board member, I would work to offer viable solutions of appropriate size and cost that will both meet the current needs while carefully considering preservation of our green spaces,  proximity to public transportation, and community accessibility.

TSR: Is there anything else you’d like to say that the above questions did not cover?

Marc Charney: My time serving our community on Wellesley’s Historical Commission and the Sustainable Zoning Working Group has taught me the value of varying perspectives within our town. Preservation and intelligent growth can go hand-in-hand if we work toward that goal. I am committed to creating a better plan.

With respect to an upcoming issue in the March Town meeting—Article 38: Article 38 is an initiative that needs to pass. It is a key step in furthering our sustainability goals. Planning Board needs to play a bigger role in making this happen. In the short term, changes to our bylaws should be made a priority. In the long term, Planning Board goals should include focusing on promoting policies that encourage, and in some cases mandate, large scale projects that include sustainable building technologies (i.e. solar systems, all electric heating and air conditioning infrastructure as well as the use of electric heat pumps).

TSR: How should voters reach you if they want more information?

Marc Charney: I am happy to answer questions or have an open dialogue. I can be reached at marc@charneyrealestate.com


Catherine Johnson, candidate for Planning Board

Catherine Johnson, Wellesley candidate for Planning Board
Catherine Johnson, candidate for Planning Board

TSR: Please introduce yourself to The Swellesley Report‘s readers.

Catherine Johnson: I am Catherine Johnson and I am running for re-election to Wellesley’s Planning Board. I have been on the Board since 2013, served as Chair since 2018, and have been a Town Meeting Member since 2011. My graduate education in design at Yale School of Art & Architecture and then my career in design, publishing, and real estate prepared me well to serve Wellesley on the Board. I am a 30-year resident of the Town that educated my two sons and makes me feel proud when I call Wellesley home. I live in Precinct E with my brown, four-legged rescue dog, Cinnamon Latte.

 TSR: If elected, what do you hope to accomplish in your tenure as a Planning Board member?

Catherine Johnson: If elected, I will continue to focus on two complicated issues: Housing that is affordable for our “missing middle” and Sustainable Mobility. They are the elephants for discussion.

First: Housing. We’ve dealt with 40Bs and we have an abundance of Large House Reviews. So how does Wellesley create smaller starter homes, downsizing possibilities for seniors, and what pundits call workforce housing? If you follow real estate—and everyone does—this is a problem everywhere. The solution will include revisions to our Zoning Bylaw: tighten some regulations while loosening others. It will include carrots and sticks to incentivize smart growth. But mainly, it will take listening to what you want and developing goals and strategies based on your vision of Wellesley.

Second: Sustainable Mobility. This is a term that needs definition. As Chair of Planning, I sit on Wellesley’s town-wide Mobility Committee. We are working to get people out of their vehicles and onto their feet. Our focus is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save the planet. We need to elevate pedestrian and bicycle traffic, make better use of our wonderful trail system, make more of an effort to rely on EVs for school buses and Town department fleets as well as our own cars. Please, watch this space.

TSR: What is the most pressing housing issue in Wellesley?

Catherine Johnson: Even though these two issues are intertwined, housing has raised its voice significantly. We don’t have moderately priced stock and, with only 10.5 square miles of land that is considered “built out” and surprisingly little open space, we have to tear down existing houses to create new. That isn’t always a bad thing, but where and what do we rebuild? Do we diversify our housing? Do we increase our density? If we are currently demolishing an older house every 5 or 6 days (think once a week), what is the plan for rebuilding in a smart and sustainable way? That may be all you want to hear for now. This, however, is a 24/7/365 conversation we all need to have. But if there is one more thought I can impart to push us to a solution, it is that the essence of Planning is Land Use Management. We can control what we are. Wellesley was developed from farmland as a planned “railroad suburb” of Boston. It mattered where we established our villages, located our schools, developed our housing. It was done well and that produced the character we admire. I totally respect what we were and are. And, always an optimist, I welcome the challenge of helping us grow into the future with wisdom and—excuse the pun—with a Swellesley swagger. I believe we can solve any problem collaboratively and I will work hard for you.

TSR: How should voters reach you if they want more information?

Catherine Johnson: If anyone wants or needs to reach me, I live at 22 Standish Road 02481. I have a listed landline and a cell phone, mostly in my hand. I have several emails: cljohnson@wellesleyma.gov and catherineljohnson@gmail.com. Remember to use the middle initial.

Reach out to me on any issue. We can talk, walk, or chew on things over coffee. I hope we can learn from each other and serve the Town together. Thank you and, humbly, I ask for your vote to re-elect me on March 1.