Interviewer: Carrie Nobel Kline
Place of Interview: Carlisle, Massachusetts Town Hall
Also Present: Michael N. Kline
Transcriptionist: Nick Martin
Michael Kline: Okay. You can give the date and location.
Carrie Nobel Kline: Okay. Well, today's the 15th of January, 2008 and I'm Carrie Kline, here with Michael Kline, about to interview John Minty. Would you introduce yourself, though?
John Minty: I'm John Minty, M-I-N-T-Y, and I'm Building Commissioner, Zone Enforcement Officer, in the Town of Concord.
CK: And, give us your date of birth just to keep the story in perspective.
JM: Way back in '53, November 30, 1953.
CK: Okay. And, will you talk about your people and where you were raised?
JM: Yeah. I was raised in Bedford, which is the town next door to Concord. And--. Although my family has a very strong Concord presence, in terms of my mother having grown up in Concord. And then, despite the fact we lived in Bedford I spent most of my life in Concord, on a daily basis, and as it turns out I end up working in Concord. So.
CK: On a daily basis?
JM: Yeah. [Laugh] We had so many extended family that were in Concord that it pretty much ended up, from grandparents to aunts and uncles, to spending a considerable amount of time in Concord almost every day.
CK: Tell us some about those people and those early experiences.
JM: Well, because of the large family, I ended up, my father, my grandfather ended up, after his retirement, farming in Concord. So, we would go over and walk around the fields picking vegetables. He and my grandmother lived on Elm Street, which the family had lived for probably over a hundred years. And so, we spent a lot of time at my grandparents' home, a lot of time working with my grandfather, going to his little farm stand. And he'd deliver vegetables constantly to us. [Laugh] As I was growing up he would come, and I would see the trunk go up, and he would have crates full of vegetables being delivered. The --. I spent most of my childhood just hanging around various places in Concord. I had a, it was actually a uncle or great uncle that owned Wilson Lumber Company. So, I would spend a lot of time hanging around the lumber yard mixing paint [Laugh] in the back corner. In fact, there's a Chinese restaurant there now, and when I sit in that corner I remember standing there mixing paint, back probably when I was eight, or, six or eight, with my uncle. So that was--. It's kind of neat.
CK: Can you include --? This is just great. Just include the names of the people as you talk about them.
JM: That's Larry Kendall, who owned the lumber yard, and all these--. The Hunt family. So, he married a Hunt and that family had eight children. So, those were all my aunts and uncles all living all around Concord. And, the result of that is that Concord was a very busy place for me growing up; visiting aunts, mowing their lawns, painting houses, their houses, [Laugh] as I got older, plowing their driveways. So, it was quite a bit of --. The connection to Concord was because of that large family that existed.
CK: And your grandparents, who are they?
JM: My grandparents, Benjamin Ingham and Grace Ingham, they lived at, on Elm Street, 48 Elm Street, and they died in the, probably when I was twelve or thirteen. And, but I remember them. I was old enough to remember what they were like, which was nice, which I wanted for my kids when, as they grew up as well. Yeah.
CK: Tell us a little bit more about them.
JM: Well he ended up working for an insurance company and he'd get on the train everyday. People have told me that they used to watch him walk to the train and walk back at the end of the day, and they could set their watches to when they passed, when he passed their homes, because he was such a meticulous, timely gentleman apparently. [Laugh] And then when he retired, what he wanted to do was basically to have nothing to do with paperwork or whatever, and he rented a piece of land and he did some farming for, throughout his retirement until he passed away. So, and he had a little piece of land down on Cambridge Turnpike in Concord, in which he had a farm stand set up. So his --. The way he wanted to retire and do what he loved was to do farming, and he ended up doing that in his retirement.
Grace, my grandmother, was a very portly woman who just loved spending her entire day in the kitchen just cooking constantly, and that's what I remember of her. Never remember her anywhere other than in the kitchen. [Laugh]
JM: Making any --. Cooking, baking. It was what she did constantly. So, and I really don't have any memory of her outside. I don't remember her in the living room, [Laugh] just in the kitchen.
CK: What were her specialties? Do you remember?
JM: Yeah. She did this thing where my grandfather would go into Haymarket Square in Boston just before Christmas and he would buy half a dozen types of nuts that they had in the market and he would bring them back. And, she had this thing where she combined all of these, and salted them, and baked them, and added spices to them, and that was, that's what I remember from, as being a very important thing to me [Laugh] when I was young, was to get hold of some of these things around Christmastime. [Laugh] She always had a --. In the kitchen they always had a large tin of doughnuts, and it was almost like it was never empty of doughnuts. And my grandfather, in the living room, had two jars of red licorice and black licorice and it, those jars were never empty either. They were always filled for the grandchildren who came over, and we'd end up having licorice with my grandfather, because I think he took it as an opportunity to be able to grab some candy as well. [Laugh] So. So that, those are kind of my memories of those early years at my grandparents' house.
CK: These were homemade doughnuts?
JM: Yeah. They were. Yeah.
JM: My --. What's kind of nice is that --.
MK: What was homemade? I'm sorry.
JM: The doughnuts that they used to have in the kitchen constantly. The --. Kind of a nice thing was that my father was an artist, and he did a lot of drawings. When he was dating my mother he would come to the house, and as they ate dinner, he would probably be pretty annoying, but he would be sketching family gatherings on napkins and scrap pieces of paper, on the back of pieces of paper. And, what's nice now is that I, I was able to take some of those and frame them. So, I actually have pictures of, that he sketched, of like Thanksgiving, 1955. And it'll show my grandfather at the end of the table and my grandmother coming out with food in her hands. And, and their --. He was --. He was a great artist and so it's, there's one where my, it was like my cousin Derek acting as Batman. There's Derek with is wings held out. Like, he had some tablecloth on his arms or something. And all this is -- is all sketched out and I framed them and have them on my wall in my living room. So, that's kind of neat. And, a lot of that furniture from that house ended up going to me when my aunt passed away. So, I actually have it in a room with the exact, with the same dining table, the same chairs, the same buffet, with this artwork on the wall which shows all of that same stuff from that living room back fifty years ago. So, it's kind of nice. Yeah.
CK: This wasn't actually his side of the family was it?
JM: No. It was --. He was --. My father grew up in Belize, British Honduras and he--. My grandfather, owned a shipping company where he shipped mahogany out of the Yucatan and Belize. Probably in the --. Around World War II, right after World War II ended, he bought some liberty, old liberty ships and would load them up with mahogany and ship them to New York and Boston. And so, my father grew up in that environment and would walk through the Yucatan with the tree siters or the surveyors and would locate trees that would be cut. And he --. So he was --. As a young boy he spent his childhood walking through the Yucatan jungles with these gentlemen marking trees and locating trees for shipping off to the States. When he turned eighteen there was the War and he, being a British citizen, he signed up for the RAF [Royal Air Force] and he went --.
JM: The British Air Force. And, he was a --. He actually flew on bombing raids over Germany and ended up being a navigator. And, so he would -- he would be the person who would be looking through the site and telling the guy when to push the button, when they were at the right location over, over whatever their target was. And, after the War he ended up flying the plane back to Canada where he remembers coming through Concord. They gave him a pass to --. He can go on any train, but he has to be in New York in two weeks to get on a boat to go back after delivering his plane. And, he came down and when he got, came through Boston he realized that he could take another train and come up to Concord. He did that on his trip back to England, which was kind of fascinating that he ended up in Concord. And, this was at least a couple years before he even came back to Concord and met my mother. So, he was a boy from Belize ending up in Concord, which is pretty amazing that those kind of things happen. Yeah.
CK: And why? Why did he select Concord?
JM: Well, as it turns out he came back --. After the War he signed up for the GI Bill. And, the United States apparently had a cooperative thing with Britain in which anyone who flew for the RAF could also be on the GI Bill. So, he always wanted --. He did not want to be in the shipping business. He did not want to do mahogany. He wanted to be an artist. So he spent, I think, three or four years in Europe on the GI Bill studying art. And his, and then he ended up coming back to New Orleans and New York City. He knew Henry Miller. In fact, I have a little note from Henry Miller saying, "Yes, I will return your leather jacket the next time I see you," and whatever. According to my mother, we never got the jacket back from Henry Miller. [Laugh] A lot of the artists that he trained with and traveled through Europe are artists that are well known designers and artists. That was the group he was hanging out with. And, he came back to Concord apparently because he loved what he saw when he came on that chance visit on the train on his trip down through from Canada delivering his plane. So, a few years later he was in Boston, and someone offered him a job doing some construction in Concord to make a little bit of money, and he came out with some of his artist buddies to Concord, and he was --. He ended up --. Here we are in the building business. He was renovating a barn at Concord Academy, and my mother was a librarian in the library. And so, he ended up saying "How about an ice cream? When do you get off? How about an ice cream?" And, the rest was history and he never left Concord. So. So, that's kind of a strange connection. And, when they ended up --. They ended up going to Paris. My twin sisters were born in Italy, and where, actually because of the health care, the lack of health care, one of them died in Italy. And then after coming back, they had myself and my younger sister. So. So, my older sister Debra is actually a twin that was born in Florence, and I have a twin sister buried somewhere in Florence. Someday I need to get over there. But, so. And his, his studies in Europe, in various, under various artists --. My father was a very good artist. He taught at DeCordova for a number of years. He found he couldn't make any money at it, so he ended up writing a newspaper for the --. He got a job with Raytheon and he actually was editor of the Raytheon newspaper for twenty-something years. So. But, his love was always art. And so, he would --. Myself growing up, there was --. You used to walk in our house, through the basement, and he had the whole basement and it --. You would walk in and all you'd smell is oil paint, and his brush slapping against the canvas with the classical music blaring. [Laugh] So, that was kind of my childhood, and watching my father do art, which is a great, a great thing to learn as a child, was that creativity. So. Particularly with my own leanings toward being an engineer type, it was great to see that everyday. We'd all head off to church, because he would pretty much insist we go to church, and then he would tell us that his church was his canvas in the basement painting. That's where he found God, so that was --. That was how --. I don't know how he got away with that, but he did. [Laugh]
CK: And, your parents names?
JM: John, again, John Ross Minty. I'm John Ross Minty, Jr. My father was John Ross Minty. And, my grandfather was John Ross Minty. And, them being British there was --. They didn't approve of putting I, II, or III after the name, because that was only for British royalty. So, I got a "Jr." at the end of my name, instead of the "III" or something.
CK: And your mother's name?
JM: And, my mother is Mary Ingham Minty, and she was the Inghams that grew up on Elm Street.
CK: So, the community where you actually grew up, can you talk a little bit about that home and that community?
JM: In Bedford?
JM: It was --. Bedford is a, kind of a --. When I was there it was, throughout my childhood, it was kind of a sleepy little community. And, my graduating class was three hundred or so, which --. And, it was kind of a normal childhood. Nothing eventful, really. Always had a --. We grew up in a --. The house that we grew up in, which probably led to me doing what I do, was an old hunting lodge. And people used to come out of Boston and would come out to this estate. It was called Upper Boulder Croft. And, so this house was really a hunting lodge. It had a six-foot fireplace. You could throw six-foot logs in. And because of that, my father being an artist and basically didn't do any type of labor other than slapping a paintbrush, it gave me the freedom as a [Laugh] youngster to --. I had free reign to tear anything apart that I wanted to. And so, I would go into like the living room --. I remember one day I convinced my parents that the surround around the fireplace would look better if it was gone. So, I tore it all out. And, we would go through rooms and I would do, I'd add closets and all this kind of stuff and it was really --. I've got to give them credit. They --. As a kid of like twelve or fourteen, they were letting me do things in this house [Laugh] that I'm not sure I would let my son do today. [Laugh] So. So, that kind of --. I built decks, and renovated things, and finished off attic space. And I --. There was so much of that that I did that I'm really not sure that it was appropriate of my parents [Laugh] to let me do, but the results were good. So, it's --. It turned out well. And, that house ended up --. When I was a junior in high school we were, we drove home --. The whole family was out shopping for a prom dress for my younger sister, and as we drove up the road, the road was blocked and we pulled up to the bottom of the driveway and the house was --. Our house was totally in flames, and had, was burning down. My father was running around the yard thinking we were inside. And so, when we arrived everyone, "Oh great. They weren't. No one was inside." They actually thought I was inside because there was no way I would want to go shopping for a [Laugh] prom dress. And they were right, but there must have been some reason I was. I had to somehow go with them to do that. And then so the house ended up getting, burning up, and the result of that was that we took a little --. We went across the street to a woman who had a large estate and had a little cottage. And, we moved into the cottage and for two years we ended up --. We hired a --. My parents hired a contractor to bring, renovate the house again. And his name was Bill Wade. And, during the summer I had nothing to do when I was about seventeen. And I'd wander over there and I'd ask the guys that were tearing the house, putting all the charred stuff in dumpsters, I asked them if there was anything I could do. And, they said, "Yeah. Move that pile into the dumpster," or whatever, and I would do that. And, then Bill Wade, Sr. came by one day and said, "Who's this kid?" And, they said, "Oh, he's the owner's son." "Well, he looks a mess. Covered in soot." And so after --. Then the next day I'd come back and I'd say, "Is there anything I can do?" and they gave me more work to do. And finally Bill Wade said to me, "You know, I really ought to pay you for this." So, he ended up paying me and the result of that was that I went to work. As a junior in high school I started working for Bill Wade. He'd say, "Hey, can you come on this other job?" And so, I ended up working for him. And, the result of that was that it was kind of an amazing thing. Bill Wade --. When I ended up going to college Bill Wade said to me, "What's it costing you to go to college?" And I would, given the, whatever that year's tuition was --.
JM: And then, and he would say, "Okay and what, when can you --? When are you off? When's your winter break?" And he would do the math and come up with an amount he was going to pay me based on what my cost was to go to college. So, other than some money that my parents, very little money my parents had that they had set aside for college, which was something like four or five thousand dollars then, all the rest of it came from Bill Wade agreeing. Every year we'd have that discussion. "What's --. How much is your college this year? How much --. How many hours can you work?" And, I would come home for the winter break, the Christmas break, and I would be driving in one day, and I'd be working the next morning for Bill Wade somewhere doing construction jobs. I --. One of my first jobs actually, which was kind of fascinating, was putting an addition on the Colonial Inn when I was eighteen years old. And that addition, every time I go in there for dinner or I inspect it, it's kind of nice because I can actually see the --. I remember at eighteen years old being up in the attic removing these boards from the 1700s and bringing them down and putting them on the walls. And, he had an old finish carpenter, Clyde Hitchcock, that was in his --. He must have been his sixties and seventies at that point. And Clyde and I got along great. So, Clyde asked that I would help him. So, I ended up doing all of the finish work throughout the Colonial Inn with Clyde Hitchcock for like two years, we worked on that project. And, he would always ask me to help him and, and so that was kind of nice being able to do that, working in the center of Concord on that project. And, like I said, I go in there now and I look at the finish work to see how good a job I did [Laugh] when I was eighteen years old.
CK: You were taking 18th Century boards and putting them on the wall, you said?
JM: Yeah. They wanted the --. In the Village, if you go into the Colonial Inn there's a Village Forge, which is supposed to be this very old-looking tavern. And, the reason --. The way we made it look old was to pull all these old flooring boards that were eighteen inches wide, two feet wide, that were up on, in the floor of the attic, and we brought them down and put them on the wall as wainscoting, and it's very effective. When I'm sitting there having a drink I look around and like it really does. You'd never know that these were the old attic floor for 150 years, or whatever, [Laugh] up in the upper parts of the Colonial Inn.
CK: This is great. I mean, you're just an ideal person to think about, what was Concord like physically in your youth.
CK: Were there --. Were there modern homes and what were the goals? Have there been goals in terms of architecture, and (Minty: Well . . . .) changes to the build environment, or trying to preserve a certain look? What's your sense of that?
JM: Well I've been Building Commissioner, Building Inspector, for twenty-three years. So, when I first started it was vacant lots having new homes built on them and then a lot of people building additions and renovating their homes. Today, there has been a substantial change in the way Concord is changing. Because what we see now is what we call "teardowns."
JM: Teardowns. Where someone will come in and there'll be a small cape or a ranch, split level, on a nice lot in a good neighborhood and they'll pay a tremendous amount of money, $700,000 to --. There's a teardown in Concord right now where someone paid almost $2 million for a house, which they then immediately tear down and build a mansion in its place. So, we do, I would say probably this past year, out of twenty-four new homes I think twenty of those were teardowns. So, very few vacant lots that are being built on. The substantial majority of homes being built in Concord today are teardowns, so-called, and every house that's replaced is replaced with a modern mansion.
JM: Mansions. Yeah. They're all being replaced with homes that are $2 million to $5 million. So you --. As you can imagine, if you're in a neighborhood in which this is happening a lot to, the whole feeling of a streetscape changes over five years or ten years as each house comes up for sale and is torn down and a big modern box replaces it. Now, with that said, there are some streets in Concord, Monument Street which my farm is on, Lowell Road, Garfield Road, there are some streets in Concord that the homes that are being built are beautiful architectural structures. They are highly designed structures which have --. These are structures that have tunnels between garages and houses, and then another tunnel between the house and the indoor swimming pool, tunnels between the main house to a carriage house. There's a home up on, off Monument Street, which has a million-dollar swimming pool and the bottom of the pool is designed, by a Soho artist, in fiber optic lighting so that it reflects the sky above. So there's a computer program that flashes the lights, so that as you look in the pool it looks like the evening sky. I mean some truly beautiful architecture when you get up in the very, very expensive mansions, which I, which is nice because I get to see all that. I get to look at the plans, which are done by really great artists, great --. Every wall, every square foot in the house has a plan showing how it's being developed, beautiful architecture, beautiful siting of these structures on the lots. And it's --. That's one of the nicest part of my job is look, is being able to see these plans and be able to see them over --. These structures take two or three years to build. And, be able to see them go up and be able to walk through them in the end and see what's being built. This is Fidelity Investment money. There is Charlene Engelhard, which is Engelhard Silver fortune. Her father they call "Goldfinger," Ian Fleming, Goldfinger. These are substantial wealth building in Concord. And, some of the newer players are like Kevin Garnett, a new Celtics basketball player, just bought a home up on Monument Street. So, it's that kind of --. We've found with Fidelity that one moved in five years ago and now all the vice presidents, one by one, are all coming out and doing the same, tearing down property. Boston Scientific, a gentleman just bought two lots in a row, and he's turning one house into a carriage house and building a large estate up on a hill right off behind the North Bridge in Concord. So those, what you find is because of that there is a strong movement against mansionization.
CK: Against what?
JM: "Mansionization" is what they call it. They want to --. They want to prohibit people from doing what is happening because it's substantially changing the streetscapes of Rosewood in Concord, with the feeling of the town.
CK: Of what, did you say?
JM: The streetscape and the feeling of what you get when you go down a road. If you grew up in Concord and you've been here all your life you recognize like Monument Street as a winding country road with farms, and it's now become a winding road with mansions along its length. And, I don't see that as something that's going to change unless the money dries up somehow. So that's kind of what we've been seeing. And then there's --. Every year there's --. People have proposed zoning bylaws that would try to slow that down, slow the change down and prohibit teardowns. And, as part of that I, a few years ago, I decided that one of the ways I could help with that, to slow it down a little, was to make a determination --. It's basically my determination as Zoning Enforcement Officer whether or not to issue a building permit to these people. And one of the options I took was to require anyone who wishes to do a teardown of an existing structure on a lot that doesn't meet zoning, I send them to the Board of Appeals. And that's been an important thing because then it gives everyone the ability to show up at a hearing, to speak for it or against it, particularly against it.
JM: Anyone. Anyone in town can show up and the direct abiders are notified so that they are aware directly that there's a hearing on, that "This house is coming down. Please show up. Speak your mind. Look at the plans. Voice your opinion." And, I think that's been somewhat, I think that's been very effective. We've now, I've done that for the last three years.
CK: In question, questionable zoning circumstances? Is that what you said? When you're --?
JM: It's when there's a nonconforming lot, which a substantial majority of these are. Because they --. People want to live in the centers, in Concord center. And so, there'll be that last little cape right down a side road from the library or something, and they'll want to tear it down and build this monster home on this small lot. And really, when you think about it it's the nonconforming lots that, because there is such dense development, is where you really should be holding a hearing and having it reviewed. So, I think that was a positive step that I started doing. It was 2003 I started doing that.
JM: And, it's valuable because people get this voice, their opinion about what's going to be happening to their neighborhood, and/or particularly the lot across the street or lot next door to them, or whatever. And, I think it's been very effective. They then set conditions on the permit, such as plantings, and location of driveway, and the height of the structure, and the footprint of the structure, and where the house is going to sit on the lot. So, the Board actually has creatively --. There's been some creative approval. So, where they can actually satisfy the neighbors and the person ends up still building their little mansion [Laugh] so they can move to Concord.
I see a lot of people coming into Concord from the city, who are now, have put off having kids. They're now having kids. They both have two well-paying jobs. They know that Concord public schools are excellent schools. Or, they're sending their kids to Middlesex School, Concord Academy, Fen School, Nashoba Brooks School. All these private schools in Concord are a tremendous magnet to people that want to end up living in a community that's a nice community, that's well managed, and be able to drive five minutes to one of the, some of the best private schools in the country. So that's what draws this wealth to Concord. And, you'll see these people actually live in these homes for four or five years, and then kids are off into college and then they end up selling their home and they're moving. So they --. We see a lot of that.
CK: So, they've permanently affected the build environment (Minty: Uhm-hmm.) and then they move on?
JM: And they move on.
CK: So there are no stipulations that would say that cape next to the library downtown needs to stay, or a certain size home needs to replace it?
JM: That's correct. There's always people trying to find just the right zoning bylaw that would do that, and there's been nothing very successful in terms of what state law would allow the town to approve for zoning that would heavily restrict a teardown. And, it's not just a Concord problem. It's Lexington, and it's all the towns that are experiencing this. It started out in California. We started hearing about California teardowns, what they used to call "California teardowns." And then we started, about ten years ago, started to see the same process beginning in Concord.
CK: When? When do you trace it to?
JM: About a decade ago. Uhm-hmm. It became a substantial proportion of the new homes that I started issuing.
CK: What did that feel like for you? You were well in place in your position.
JM: Uhm-hmm. I personally --. I don't necessarily have a problem with that, because, if I look at Concord history --. I look at my own farm up on Monument Street. The family lore up there is that, well my aunt's house used to be a chicken coop that was up the road, and in 1890 they hauled it down on rollers on a, after a snow storm where they packed it. So they were constantly moving structures all over the place. [Laugh] And, if you look at Concord's downtown history and you read the, the current journals on Concord history you'll see, "Well, this was the Monroe house. It used to be at the library site and it was hauled down using oxen to, around the corner." [Laugh] My own aunt's house on Elm Street was --. Twin daughters. Their father was a builder and he built these twin homes, and within about forty years the mirror-image home was just slid around the corner using oxen. So we see that. If you look back on the history of Concord it wasn't happening as quickly as the change is occurring now. I mean, we definitely are at a period of time when change is happening quickly. And I we --. But I'm sure back in 1840, when a house was being hauled around the center of Concord to a new lot, I'm sure there were people just as upset saying that "It's a terrible thing happening to Concord, if we're, you know, [Laugh] building, finally building on that vacant lot down near the river," or something, you know. I'm sure it was, because, I mean, that's human nature. And I do see a fascinating aspect of human nature where I will see people --. That's because I've been here for so long. I will see people so adamant against an addition or a new house going up. And the advantage of being here so long is I then see them come to my office five years later and propose to do the exact same thing that they opposed from a neighbor. So, it's kind of amazing, actually. I see it all the time. I see people that propose zoning bylaws that we adopt and then they come in for permits and I'll say, "You can't. You have to go to Historic Districts," or "You need to go to the Board of Appeals," and they will be amazed that they have to do that. And, they were the people that wrote the bylaw that I am now enforcing. And, it seems so amazing to me that their memory is so short. [Laugh] That or they didn't get that by adopting this bylaw it applied to them. I'm not quite sure what goes on there, but I see that all the time. [Laugh] It's amazing to me.
JM: Yeah. [Laugh]
CK: I mean I guess, when you talked about the movement of homes those weren't necessarily different styles or one more grandiose. Or were you dealing with that back then?
JM: No, there really --. There was not the --. When I first started there was not the amount of money being put into structures. The people with the money were not --. They were average Concord residents building the sunroom they always wanted for their retirement, or replacing their back deck, or finishing off their basement. But now, it's just --. The builders I talk to, who are building the very expensive mansions, tell me that money is not even part of the equation. They're --. These people do not --. There's never a discussion of money. The discussion is, "How soon can you do it?" When a change has to be made, "How soon can the change be made?" And at no point is there ever, "And how much is that going to cost me?" It's a level of wealth in which the money is very, is a very small part of their lives. The cost of doing the structures are not really considered. And, that's kind of --. That I can't quite imagine for myself, but it's, apparently that is the case for a lot of these very large homes that are going up right now. I think these are people that are making millions of dollars a year as salaries. I know Kevin Garnett gets $20 million a year for a salary. And so, there is no limit to, whatever they wish is they get. And so, the key for most of these builders is that they have to be there, listen carefully, do exactly what they want in the time that they want it done in, and then everything is fine. And really, and just keep submitting bills and the bills get paid.
CK: Except for you. [JM: Laugh] You're kind of a stumbling block for it?
JM: Right. But, I have developed a good relationship with most of the attorneys, the land-use attorneys that deal with these issues. So, I do spend a great deal of time solving problems before someone shows up at the counter looking for a permit. So, it's taken place well before the lot's even purchased. Well before the house is purchased, I spend hours with attorneys discussing what the issues will be on the lot. So, there is no mystery to them when their client finally signs and purchases the property.
CK: So, ten years ago your daily work really changed pretty significantly.
JM: Yeah. We --. I've never seen it this busy in all the years I've been in Concord. We are --. When I first started, they hired me to work on the Brad Nine (?) [45:01], which was years ago, in '85. And in '85 the reason they hired me was because building permits had jumped to over 300 hundred permits a year. Last year we issued 795 permits, and I have --. Lori Livoli is my assistant and Ray Matte is another full-time assistant. Excellent staff. And we, so we end up handling a great more construction. We'll go out on a morning and do twelve to twenty building inspections. That's the level of construction right now in Concord. And what the means is change. So, everywhere you look in Concord there are dump, trash dumpsters in the yards. There are orange building cards in the yards. You can't go down a street in Concord that there's not two or three of these dumpsters in yards. So, that level of change really does, I think, make people anxious, make people wonder what's going on in their lives, and the change is happening so fast. So, that's a very important thing, and I can understand that, because it is happening all throughout our community.
CK: Twelve to twenty-four structures a day.
JM: Yeah. Just, well yeah. Electrical, plumbing, and building inspections. So, I'll send out five inspectors to do inspections. And, we issue permits in the afternoon. We do inspections in the morning. And, this past summer we probably issued six permits a day for new houses, additions, renovations, a lot of commercial work. Last year we brought in $700,000 more in fees than it cost us to run our department. So we, that's --. Because of the level of construction we have actually, we've never seen this type of these fees coming in, the value of construction being so high. We've just never seen this level of construction, in all the years that I've been here. Concord's never experienced it. We've never issued this many permits, never brought in this amount of money. Construction value sets new records practically every year.
CK: What does that mean "construction value?"
JM: So, we set a value on where let's say you're going to build a $2 million home. So, that is the value of construction that we add to all the other permits during that year. And we come up with a number of $68 million or $90 million, and, of all that work that's being done in Concord. And the --. And that, from 2006 to 2007, that jumped. It pretty much jumps five percent and then another six percent, then another eight percent.
MK: I'm sorry. What jumps?
JM: The value of construction, the number of projects being built and the value of construction. We have just gone through a period of incredible growth and --. But we, it's been just the last couple of months that we've finally seen the general malaise in the economy start to be affected in permits in Concord. And, but having had the job for so many years, Concord is not like every other community. We tend to, when there's like, called a "recession", when there's a recession we're down very slightly. And when the economy improves then we head upward again. We very --. There's very little downside when there's a recession. We've gone through two or three of these in the twenty-three years I've been in Concord. And recessions do not affect Concord construction as they do Burlington, Bedford, Acton. And, I think it's because that the --. There's a great deal of money. I don't know whether people sell stock short in a recession and they're making money, and then they make money, and their stocks go up when it's good. I don't know. I think there's a --. They end up not being affected as everyone around us, really. It's an amazing town, actually, in that way. But, we are down slightly right now on permits, and it's because of the, what the economy is right in this day in January 2008. The --. With that said, we have never had more construction planned for the year ahead in Concord's history. We have 550 new housing units that are now going through approval with the Planning Board and the Board of Appeals, so that the year ahead of us, we have two large 100,000 square foot commercial buildings on Baker Ave. We have 350 units of housing going up on the Acton line, another 150 up off Forest Ridge Road. So we, and I heard one just, a new one the other day is another twenty-four units. So, we really are almost at, it must be 575 units right now in the planning process to be built next summer, next fall. And again, we will --. If that happens --. Concord has never seen that type of activity in the past.
CK: How does that compare with preceding years?
JM: Well, probably the most --. We might have twenty, twenty-five new homes, single family homes, and when there's --. There was a 40B project, which is an affordable housing unit; there's forty units that went in that. That was three years ago. This will be one building permit for 350 units. One building permit for 150 units. So these are substantial projects, which will be under a state law called 40B Development, which basically throws your zoning bylaw out the window.
CK: Your what?
JM: Zoning bylaw gets tossed out the window and the 40B project means that they come into the Town of Concord. They look at how many units are affordable units. And that formula has been set up by the state, what is an affordable unit. And if the town does not have ten percent of their housing that is affordable, then you're subject to anyone coming into your community and proposing an affordable housing project under this statute 40B. And Concord now is at about five percent of the housing. They need ten. And so, until we gain that last five percent, anyone can come into Concord and propose to build these developments. The 350-unit proposal that is at the Planning Board and Board of Appeals right now will entirely take care of that last five percent. But if it doesn't get built, then there's all these other --. There's the 150-unit project. There's a twenty-unit project just [53:05] Road that's ready to be built, and the developer says April 1st they're going to break ground. So there's a number of projects all in line to be built. And my guess would be that within two years Concord will now have met the affordable housing criteria, so that anyone that comes in from there on we can then go back to our zoning bylaw and say, "This is the zoning bylaw. This is the requirement you have to meet." So if you imagine throwing the bylaw out, it means that you can go into a residential neighborhood where every house has to be no more than thirty-five foot in height, and you can build a six-story building with forty units in it. That's what 40B projects can be, and we have those that have been built that make up the five percent already. And, as you can imagine, talk about change, that really makes a lot of people upset when someone comes into the neighborhood and wants to build a cluster of 350 units of housing.
CK: What do people say, these people who are upset?
JM: They --.
CK: Who are they? What are their organizations, and what are the arguments?
JM: Well, usually neighbors will form a group and will hire attorneys to represent them. They'll go and speak at the hearings. In Concord, we have a process where everyone gets heard. So we will have --. A 40B project can go on for six months, eight months, every month a new hearing on this, and discuss traffic, and septic systems, and water quality, and noise issues, and lighting issues. And everything gets discussed, and it does take a long time to go through that process. But the overall result of the 40B project is that if the Town of Concord were to outright and deny it the state court overturns it. So the best thing you can do is to negotiate with the developer and come up with all the safeguards that you try --. So if someone says, "Oh, that building's too close to my house, and the light off of it will adversely affect my home and my living," if you can get the developer to shift the home back thirty or forty feet, or the building, or the roadway, or the turn in the road, so the lights don't flash in their house, reduce the lighting in the parking lots or whatever, that's the sort of thing the Board tries to do. Because we have learned that you can't deny the project. You can try to change the project to fit in to the neighborhood that it's being fit into. But if you deny it then it gets granted, and it gets granted by the State in the original form. So you, so all the things that you've negotiated get thrown out the window and never get built into the project. So Concord --. Concord is a --. Our Board of Appeals and our Planning Board, tremendously creative people, tremendous intelligent people, lawyers, landscape architects, architects. It's --. We have really good boards in Concord, and you do constantly have to remind the public that when you have a hundred people show up at a hearing --. The chairman is always saying, "Now, you understand this is a 40B project? If we deny this, we do not meet the ten percent requirement. The State will overturn this decision."
CK: Ten percent of?
JM: Of low, of affordable housing, of housing stock. So, if you have five thousand homes in Concord, ten percent of those need to be, meet the affordability quotient that the State has set.
CK: But, that's always changing, because all the --. There's so many new housing units being proposed.
JM: Not only that but when you build 350 units of affordable housing you've just added another 350 to the equation that you have to provide ten percent of. [Laugh] So, you're kind of chasing it. But, that's why --. So when I told you the 350 were coming at us but there's another group of 150 and another of twenty, well the way that we look at it is that even if the 350 get built and that satisfies the equation, then the next time the number gets crunched, Concord's going to need to make up the difference. So that, until we get that project built and another project built to make up those numbers then we have not really caught up. We're almost caught up. So, but that --. I would say that if the economy comes back over the next year and two or three of these projects get built out, Concord will have satisfied that requirement and we will then be able to rely again upon our zoning bylaw to limit lot coverage, and structure height, and number of units on a lot, which Concord has done. Concord's zoning bylaw, first adopted in February of 1928, has done a tremendous job of creating the town that we have, the look of the town and the feel of a town that we have today. It's been a great zoning bylaw. It was a well-written zoning bylaw right since 1928.
CK: Why did they do that then?
JM: Why did they?
CK: Yeah, 1928. Why would they even be thinking that way?
JM: In 1928 my guess would be that there was a new state law that was passed that allowed communities the ability to regulate local zoning, and Concord went right ahead and did that. Concord is a very progressive town. We tend to be out ahead of most of the other towns around. We have our own light plant. We tend to, we tend to get into things that we are well ahead of every other town around. And, we tend to have developed very careful, well thought out zoning really early on. And if you think about it, there are towns surrounding here which, that are just strip malls, and those towns had very little zoning until like the '50s, '60s, and at that point the horse was out of the stable. [Laugh] I mean, Concord had strict zoning back to '28. So, and the value of that is reflected in the centers of our town, you know. We had a Historic Districts in Concord. We wrote our own and then the State Legislature said, "Oh, that's a nice thing that towns should have." So that our Historic Districts is a special legislature, legislation that went through the State Legislature to allow Concord to have Historic Districts. Three or four years after that the State adopted a standard which allowed towns to create Historic Districts.
CK: When was that?
JM: So, that was in the early '60s, or maybe 1960. So we adopted our own. And again it's been very, very effective. It protected all of the centers of town, the viewscapes up to Barrett's Mill Farm, and out to the North Bridge, and down Lexington Road, as you enter the town on Lexington Road. It protected all those historic viewscapes that we, that we wanted to protect, and it's done it nicely actually.
CK: Why did they decide that they better do that in the early '60s?
JM: I think they saw the change happening back in the '60s and people said, "Hey, we need to --." Again, in the same manner that I now send people that are doing teardowns, I think there was a group of people, that was before my time, but people that said, "At least if we can get these people in front of a Board, of a knowledgeable board, who know historical structures, architects, landscape architects, and have them review some of these projects, then we will be able to protect that streetscape." And, that has truly been what has happened. Historic Districts is a terrific tool to do that, in Concord. And, I really think the --. I gave a talk in front of the Concord Business Partnership last week and they said, "What is driving all of this development in Concord?" And, I said, "It's because you've done such a terrific job of creating this town over the years. The townspeople of Concord has made it a great place to live, a fantastic place to educate your children, and the management within the town is superb. Your zoning bylaw and the Historic Districts are as tight as can be. I mean, why? There's your answer. It's a beautiful town and everyone wants to live here. And so, that's why the property values have gone up. That's why so much construction's going on. That's why people want to be here, because Concord residents, for so many years, have done such a great job of making it a fantastic town to live in, to grow up in, to educate your kids. There's no mystery about it really, you know." [Laugh] And so, I don't think that was the answer they expected. They wanted some, something having to do with money and, yeah, I don't know. [Laugh] But that's truly what it is. People want to live in Concord and educate their children in one of the five private schools in Concord or our fantastic public school system. So.
CK: So, how does this progressive town deal with the issues of servicing all the new residents?
JM: Concord is --. In the same manner that we --. So, when I said "the great town management," the town is always ahead of --. We do master planning. We always have. We predict what development will be ahead. We expand. We have our own water treatment plants. We're expanding our plants. We have a fund where if I issue a building permit for a house in which a new bedroom is added, there's $1,700 or $1,800 that's added to this future fund for expansion of our water treatment plants. We developed our own well sites. We're lucky enough to have this --. We have the Concord River that runs through town, the Sudbury River and Assebet River.
CK: And what?
JM: And the Assebet River. And these, these rivers --.
MK: Spell it.
JM: Assebet. A-S-S-E-B-E-T.
MK: And these rivers?
JM: Are all through Concord. And underneath that is this aquifer of a --. Before the glaciers came through Concord years ago there was an old riverbed that runs right through Concord. And we're able to have developed wells for Concord which take water from this old aquifer, which used to be an old riverbed. And so we have great drinking water from our own wells. We --. Like I said, we have our treatment plant that was developed really early. I would guess the '40s. It then was expanded when I first came on in the mid '80s. It's now under another expansion. So we --. That great management, that planning the, has, we are --. We keep ahead of the curve in terms of --. I have to say the only thing that we've not been able to keep up with is, and it's a problem everywhere, is traffic. I mean, there's more people, more cars, and there's really --. I don't, I'm not sure of any way around that. Because to get to Concord we have a --. We do have a train that comes through Concord, so you can go into Boston on the train. But really it's tough to get around the traffic issue in Concord. I would say that's, that a real problem that needs to --. I'm not sure how it's going to be addressed, unless people give up their cars.
CK: Incentives somehow?
CK: Are there other options for getting around?
JM: I'm not sure. If people travel through Concord to get to some other destination, we have Route 2 that cuts through Concord. Some mornings it's tough. I live in West Concord. I work in Concord. It's tough to get across Route 2 some mornings because of the traffic. So that's a real problem for Concord. And, but it's a real problem for the country, for a lot of areas that are being developed in many parts of the country.
CK: Is there public transportation?
JM: There are certain levels of public transportation, the train, there is Concord Bus System for the elderly, and that's it.
CK: I've heard the term "green building."
CK: Am I --. Is that the correct term?
CK: Can you say that and talk a little bit about --? Does that play a role? What are we talking about?
JM: It will be.
MK: What are you talking about? I'm sorry.
JM: Green construction. It's the term we're now dealing --. We have a new Willard School that has been designed, and I've reviewed the plans. The Town Meeting voted for the money to build it. It's a so-called "green" structure. There's various levels of --. And "green" means --. What does it mean? It means very well insulated, uses very little energy or less energy than a standard structure would use. You insulate it to a higher level of insulation. You try to creatively use all the resources, electricity, oil or gas heating. The structure, if it's still on the drawing board, is to collect the water off the roof to flush toilets and urinals within the building, to put it in, whatever's left, put it in storage chambers and water the playing fields with water from the roof. So it's these types of things that will be part of this so-called "green" school. And, one of the advantages of that is that the State has now, is now willing to pay for structures that are green before they pay for all other types of schools. So we've also placed ourself in a position where we are eligible for a certain level of funding, and at least, and even be on the list for the funding, because the building's status is a so-called "green" building. The --. I haven't done it justice. There are --. As you can imagine, there's very energy-efficient lighting. There's use of natural light in classrooms so you don't even have to switch on lights in classrooms, because of skylights and windows; and the siting of the classrooms toward the south and east and west; and natural heat gain from natural windows towards the south; and distributing, through heating and air conditioning systems, distributing heat gained in one area to other areas that are to the northern side of the building. All that is part of the, the green, so-called "green" construction. And you'll --. This new school will have that. The --. We have never --. The last two elementary schools that --.
MK: What school is it? Does this school have a name?
JM: It'd be --. Yeah. It'd be Willard School. It's on Powder Mill Road in Concord, corner of [Plainfield/playing field]. And the other two elementary schools that were just built did not have any of these elements built in. They had a higher level of whatever the building code required for insulation, and they met the code requirement. But what we --. Because of this interest in basically making this country a little more self-sufficient, in the future I see the building code changing to reflect a higher level, basically adopting these types of green requirements into the state building codes so that every structure will have some of these elements. Some are good elements. Some are not good elements. I mean, there's some crazy ideas that if you act too quickly on it you don't have the benefit of knowing that it just doesn't work. One of the things you have to do with water that comes off of your roof is that you then have to put it through either oxygenation or treat it with chlorine in order, before you introduce it into bathrooms. And sometimes, when you start to look at what is it really, what does it mean, and what are the costs of that, it may cost you more to do something like that than actually to just use the water out of the faucet. So they're working through those right now with this particular school, and we're hoping to adopt as many of these so-called "green" construction techniques as we possibly can and do the ones that'll be effective for Concord. And we'll have a reasonable payback period of time.
JM: We'll have a reasonable payback period of time. So if you --. I just did a proposal to change out all the lighting in my building to a higher-efficient lighting system, and the payback period for that will be 4.8 years. So you have to look at, "Okay, is it --? It's going to cost us $6,000, and we'll be able to pay it off. It'll --. We'll be getting money back in 4.8 years. And, does that make sense?" And you have to then decide, "Does that make sense for the town to do that?" And you're basing it on the cost of electricity today, and you know that in four years the cost of electricity will be much higher. So and so all I --. So as we do this in town buildings you will, we'll be able to make energy savings. And the ultimate goal of the Town Manager's office, the ultimate goal is if we can save $5,000 in heating costs in my building, that gives us $5,000 we can then take and spend for the next improvement, seals on doors and windows, replace windows and doors, add more insulation in the attic. Whatever it might be. Better heating and air conditioning controls. So we're --. That's the goal of the town now, is to, not only just do it with our school and make it green, but the Town Manager actually has a committee in which we're now looking at every town building otherwise and doing retrofit projects to make them, as best we can, adopt to a higher insulation, better more efficient lighting, being able to switch out half the lights in each room instead of using --. So if you come in and you switch the light and every light comes on, we want to give people the option of switching on half that level of lighting, which as you can imagine saves half the cost of the electricity in that room. And the room we're in here today, we don't need lights. And so we'd like to give people that option in every town building to do that. It's a pretty simple thing to save half your energy. And if that happens through all the town buildings that's a substantial amount of money. If it happens throughout the country by changing building codes, as you can imagine that would save a tremendous amount of energy. So those kind of things I'm looking forward to, seeing changes in the building codes, as well as the construction of the town buildings.
CK: Can you effect those changes?
JM: We --. Again, Concord is well managed. We now have a, almost a million dollars, I hear, to, that's been set aside for taking our buildings in town and doing creative energy-saving things within the buildings, whether it be saving water, saving electricity, or insulating the shells of buildings so they we don't have as much heat loss or cooling loss. We --. That --. We have the money. It's in an account, and it's up to the building managers and such as myself in my building, to --. We have an energy audit that's been done for every building. We have the results of the energy audit. It's like a formula for me to follow that I know which has the best payoff. So I can do the following and you'll get this type of return. And, I'm now working through that for my own building and proposing that we spend certain amounts of money to start to carry out those improvements. So it's, it is well thought out. It's funded and it's in the process. So.
CK: Your own building is?
JM: Yeah, I'm down in the old — I'm at 141 Keyes Road, which is an old power plant that the Concord Light Plant built in the late 1800s, and we renovated it. I moved over there. We converted it from this old power plant to my offices. It's been fourteen years ago. So, I'm in this great old brick, big arch-window building that used to be a power plant that used to offload coal from railroad cars. And they'd dump it into the basement, and they'd fill the boilers, and we'd make our own electricity. It ran for very few years, like five years, and we, in Concord, realized the Concord Light Plant realized that they could buy electricity less expensively from Boston Edison. So after five years of this plant running we stopped making power and we started buying power through the Boston Edison grid, and we've never gone back. [Laugh] But that, that great old brick structure is what is now my office. And I was lucky enough to have been handed the project by the Town Manager saying, "Here. Work with the architect and design your own office." And that was --. And so the first meeting the architect said to me, "So where do you want your office?" And, the very first thing he said, and so from there on, it was nice. I was able to actually work with the architect and pick out --. I picked out the nicest corner of the building to be my office, which was kind of great. So, and I've been there --. Like I said, about fourteen years we've been in that building.
JM: But in just fourteen years, there have been changes in thinking, and changes in construction quality, and changes in insulating systems, and change in lighting systems. So that in just fourteen years, there are entirely new ways to insulate buildings, entirely new ways to light buildings, a different way people think about using lighting in their office spaces. And we are going to be a --. In just fourteen years we now have to basically, remodel our building to bring in some of those so-called "green" aspects of construction, which is a very short period of time when you look at structures in Concord that are two-hundred-year-old homes, three-hundred-year-old homes that you're --. It's fourteen years, and already there's this amount of change in the construction field that you would have to renovate and change the whole lighting systems, and so forth. And I anticipate that's ahead of us in this country. If we don't want to keep going overseas for oil and become more dependant on that, we really, that's what you'll be seeing. And, as I said, and the building code, it'll be changing dramatically, because it really has to. We have no other option than to do that, I would think.
CK: Yeah. And you mentioned water and problems with having to add chlorine to roof water?
JM: Uhm-hmm. Uhm-hmm.
CK: I mean, don't they have --. Do they call it "gray water" where you're --?
JM: Yeah, it's gray water. That's what they call it.
CK: What is that?
JM: So it's --. Well gray water, gray water might be --. The Board of Health would call gray water something that has been used, like for washing clothes, or taking a shower, or something, but it's not like toilet water. That's --. They would consider anything that's water that's reusable "gray water." And off the roof I'm not sure. I don't know if they call that gray water. But it's --. Because if you introduce it just in the building for --. We'll certainly use it out in the fields.
[END pt. 1- 01:19:56]
[BEGIN pt. 2]
JM: But, it's --. Because, if you introduce it just in the building for --. We'll certainly use it out in the fields. It needs no treatment. But if you use it in bathrooms, I guess if you don't treat it with chlorine, you end up with green toilets or something or other, I guess, if you use it, because of the organics that are in it, that then it'll get on the porcelain fixtures, or whatever. So, it has to be treated somewhat.
CK: But none of these possibilities have really entered the realm of private construction yet, I guess?
JM: I have --. In the last month, I've talked to three different homeowners who wish to build, renovate their homes to so-called "green" homes. Two people want to put down energy-saving well systems, where they put down a well two or three hundred feet in the ground, and they pump the water out of the well, and then they run it through their homes to provide air conditioning. Or, they use it as a heat pump in the winter, with electricity, to provide heating from the well source. So, again, just this past year attitude has changed tremendously. Whoever --. If I'm here ten years from now, that'll --. Green construction will be a substantial part of all permitting that I issue, whether --. And, I believe it'll be because the building code will require it. It'll become a standard. But, I think attitude-wise you'll see the citizens of Concord will have no choice than to reduce the amount they spend on heating and cooling, and electricity for lighting. I think we will see that. And that's what I will face in the last decade of my job in Concord, I would think. Yeah.
CK: Well, this has been great. Let's take a little pause. [Recording paused.] So start--.
MK: Okay, what are we talking about?
JM: Well, you know, a few years ago Renee Garrelick, who is a local Concord history buff --. She's now passed. And, she and I spent some time discussing the old powder mill in Concord, which was a series of some land and a series of buildings up in West Concord on the Acton/Maynard/Sudbury Line, in which --. Since the early 1800s they were making gunpowder, and so they called it --. It was the--. The road that went up to this site was Old Powder Mill Road. And, on Old Powder Mill Road they hauled in the alder and birch. There were certain types of wood that made great charcoal for making gunpowder, and they hauled it in on this road. Well, as it turns out my great, great grandfather, Benjamin Ingham, came over from England, and he took a job. He lived in West Concord, and he took a job up the road in the powder mills. And his job was to work, either making charcoal or mixing the ingredients. And they would --. They had these bunkers built into the side of the hill, so that --. I guess, the powder exploded all the time. And so they made the roofs of these little shed buildings so that the roofs were on hinges, so that when they did explode the roof would blow off on the hinge, fold back against the hill, and the embers would blow out across the Assebet River, so that it would actually --. The hot embers could be controlled, because the explosion would always force the explosion out into the water in the river so there would be less of a problem for fire in the area. And, to --. About five years ago I moved into a new place up in West Concord, and my mother said, "Well, it's fascinating, because your new home here is, sits right on the powder mill where your great-great grandfather died in an explosion mixing powder at the mill in 1898," or something. And so I --. And I had never known that. And so then, after I moved in I started taking a walk with my son in and around the Assebet River up there, and through the woods. And all the old remnants of the powder mill are all there, including the old bunkers built into the side of the hill where they mixed the explosives. And so it's kind of interesting that here I am right back on the same piece of land where my great-grandfather died in an explosion. And, Renee and I were, talked back and forth about --. She had photographs that she found in the Maynard Library showing the guys standing next to the horse-drawn carts of lumber, and charcoal, and shows them standing next to the mixing buildings. And so she and I were back and forth, because she was talking about a new book dealing with the powder mills. And, Henry David Thoreau mentioned, in one of his writings, about in the 1860s, I think it was, going up, hearing a tremendous explosion that the center --. That his house shook down on Concord Center. And then, when he went up he saw pieces of body lying up in the trees from the explosion, and he had never seen such a terrible sight in his life. And now that was probably about thirty years before my grandfather was involved in the same thing. So you can imagine, for that length of --. For a hundred years they were doing this and people were dying mixing this material on this site. And, when he died my --. That was my great-grand — great-great grandfather. When he died, my grandfather was something like a child of three years old. So, he never knew his father that died in the explosion. And so that was kind of neat that it had come full-circle all those years, to be ending up living right there at the same sight where my great-great-grandfather had died in this explosion.
JM: Yeah. And so that's --. Again, that's kind of an important part of my feeling about Concord and my love for Concord.
JM: The --. Otherwise, there's a lot --. I had a --. My mother's sister, Alice Ingham, was Town Clerk for thirty years. My--.
CK: Say that again.
JM: My aunt, who is Alice Ingham, which was Town Clerk in Concord for thirty years. My --. I had another aunt, Maud Hunt, who was Town Accountant for thirty years, in Concord. George Hunt, my grandfather, was Selectman for like five terms in Concord, and he ran the train station in Concord. He was the train stationmaster in Concord Center for his whole life, for like fifty years. So, all of these --. So, there was all these connections that --. My grandmother Grace was Town Treasurer for a lot of years until she got married. So. So, I guess there's a long history of my family doing, [Laugh] working for the Town of Concord, which I was lucky enough to be able --. When I told my aunts and uncles that I was going to Concord, and I was going to be Building Inspector, it was, "Oh, the next one now working for the Town of Concord." And it --. Somehow I'm still here after twenty-three years. So.
CK: And then I --. I was wondering when you --. A thought that came to me, as you were talking about all these proposed units, is how the feeling of community is affected and whether this progressive town has found ways to let newcomers know what it means to live here and be a community member.
JM: And that is a --. That's a problem. It's --. There --. Not only have --. Part of the change has occurred. I think there's less of the groups that used to bring people together as to feel part of a community seem to be less important in peoples' lives than they were years ago in Concord. So, if I look at all my relatives, they were members of --. Like George --. George William Hunt was whatever degree Mason. He was --. That was his whole life. He was he was a Mason. And so --. And, church affiliation. He sang in the West Concord Union Church as a soloist. And so, there were organizations that existed in 1800s and 1900s where people were members of, and it was their social groups. And, even when you think about Town Meeting, there would be --. No one would miss Town Meeting. That Town Meeting was a big social event. And nowadays, if you're lucky, you have twenty percent of the voting population show up for a Town Meeting. So, the institutions or the groups that people used to be members of, and affiliate themselves with, and create friendships in, that create a sense of community, I think they just don't exist in the same way they used to in Concord. Where, maybe it's TV, maybe it's the Internet, video games. They say that all that stuff has affected even kids playing sports. Just our lives have substantially changed. And I don't think there's a sense of --. There's not people joining groups like that. The League of Women Voters, and the Newcomers Club, and all these--. Knights of Columbus and the --. There is just not the --. My --. I had one uncle who started the Rod and Gun Club in Concord and another one the Musketaquid Club. And . . . .
JM: Musketaquid. [Laugh]
CK: Which was? [Laugh]
JM: Which was a sportsman's club. And so these clubs were a major part of these peoples' identity. There was a club that met just to fire canons in Concord. So, the town owned these canons. And this club was formed, and every celebration they would haul the canons out and they would train these people to fire the canons. And my father-in-law, Ray Lawrence, was a member of that group, and he would fire the canons. But those types of organizations that formed, that got people together and stuff, I really don't think that it affects the same population, the same numbers in the population that used to be in as members of these clubs back in the early 1900s. I just don't. People I know, the people I--. I just don't. I know, personally--. I'm not members of these clubs, which I think were a very important part of these peoples' lives in Concord for a lot of years.
CK: And here you are someone who's really quite an expert on building structure? What ideas? Anything come to mind?
MK: You've got five minutes to whatever.
CK: Yeah. What ideas do you have, if any, to build community with newcomers and old-timers?
JM: Yeah. The --. What actually seems to be happening is, if you think of this 350-unit development that's about to be built, they actually are creating their own community within that development. So, we'll end up with 350 units of housing in which they will have their own meeting room, their own swimming facilities, their own tennis court. So, within this community will be their own little center for picking up their mail in the mail building, and being able to use the community center for playing cards or whatever. And, so in a sense it's kind of --. When a project like that comes on, it'll create a little community within the community that we've never seen before in Concord. So that's kind of unusual. In terms of trying to keep a feeling of community, the Planning Board has done a pretty good job of --. Through their studies --. They have just finished a new thing called the Village Overlay Study, in which they've basically got a group of people together saying, "What do you love about the centers of Concord?" "The train depot area and West Concord?" "What do you love about it?" and "What do you think is missing?" and "What would you like it to look like in ten years?" And those --. That study has resulted in some proposed bylaw changes. And what people have said is they want to have more restaurants. They want to have housing. So, streetscape businesses with residential units in the same centers of town, near the train stations. We have train stops in both centers. So that, they've actually --. Through that kind of thought process and master planning, they're now going to be introducing zoning bylaws which will allow major changes to our zoning bylaw for the center, which will result in allowing uses that everyone has agreed would be great to have, or to allow more to take place. "What do you like best about Concord Center?" "Well, I love Helen's little dining thing in the center." And, "How come all we have is banks wanting to come in?"
CK: And what --. What would --?
WOMAN: I'm looking to put something in a box. [Door closes.]
JM: So, the hope would be that by changing the bylaw in this Town Meeting and the future Town Meetings we'll be able to allow these centers of towns to be more residential, have people live closer to where they work, have people closer living to where they can shop, and have people living close to mass transit.
[END pt. 2 — 17:13]