I delivered the following comments to our Town Council on August 14, 2018.:
I am here to talk about Biotech in Watertown. Last week, August 8th, I attended a Planning Board hearing regarding Arsenal Yards. At the hearing, the developer requested approval for façade modifications, changes to the ‘river green’ layout, and a change of use to Building A’s second floor from a commercial office/retail use to a combination of office and R&D use
(https://www.ci.watertown.ma.us/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/4027). Since I could find no staff report, I checked a promo piece for Arsenal Yards, and found that, without receiving approval from the Planning Board, they are already promoting 100,000 square feet of creative office and “lab space” (www.arsenalyards.com/office/). During the meeting, the Planning Board was focused on proposed changes to the windows, entrances, the roof, and the ventilation system.
New developments in Watertown would have to put up a solar energy system if the zoning amendment heard by a Town Council subcommittee is adopted by the full Town Council. Watertown would become the first community in Massachusetts to require solar energy systems on new developments, Ed Lewis, the Town’s Energy Manager, told the Economic Development and Planning Committee Tuesday night. Other communities and the state has come up with proposed ordinances, but none has enacted them, Lewis said. Town Councilor Vincent Piccirilli said it is nice to be leading the way. “I’m excited to be the first in the state to require solar on buildings,” Piccirilli said.
Developers of the former massage school on Morse Street went back to the drawing board and came back with a new design for an apartment building that pleased that Planning Board. Wednesday night, the Planning Board voted to recommend to the Zoning Board (which will make the final decision on the project) that it approves the latest design. The project will need a special permit to switch from a commercial to a residential use. The first proposal sought to make 45 apartments in the complex at 101-103 Morse Street, just off Watertown Street. The Zoning Board told developers it was too dense, so the designers came back with a 40-unit apartment building in June 2017.
I think the thing that bothers me most about this, and many other developments going on around the Boston area, is the fact that none of what I see takes into account the existing residents. There is no thought about who already lives here, and how what they develop will affect the area. There is no thought of including any of the character, the history of the location, buildings, etc., which is very important to the knowledge of how our county was formed. No thought of the people who have made this area what it is … no thought of all of the cultures, especially in East Watertown, that already reside here.
As the new Town Council term begins, Watertown Council President Mark Sideris looked toward the next two years and said that some of the major focus will be on traffic, development and communication with the public, as well as the upcoming school building projects. Newly elected Town Councilors, School Committee members and Library Trustees were sworn in by Town Clerk John Flynn on Tuesday night at the Mosesian Center for the Arts. After his swearing in, Sideris addressed the audience in the theater at the Arts Center. Development has been a big issue for several years, and Sideris said he would like to take a new approach at looking at new projects in town, from those completed, to those under construction and projects just getting started. “I will be working with the Community Development and Planning Department to coordinate a field trip to visit the sites that have been developed,” Sideris said.
Developers presented a plan for a new condominium building with space for retail businesses on the bottom that would go on what has been a weed-filled vacant lot near the Watertown Square intersection. The presentation was made Tuesday night at a Community Meeting for the project at 33 Mt. Auburn St., at the corner with Taylor Street. It would have 15 condos and about 1,960 sq. ft.
A community meeting will be held to discuss plans for a development at 33 Mt. Auburn Street. The property is currently a vacant lot, between the intersection with Taylor Street and the 7-Eleven. Developers 33 Mount Auburn LLC propose to build a mixed-use project with 15 residential units and 1,924 square feet of commercial space at 33 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown. Meeting Date: Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Town Hall, 149 Main Street, Second Floor, Council Chamber
For more information, contact: Janovsky/Hurley Architects, Inc. – Steve Hurley and Suela Muco at 781-489-6540.
Residents are most concerned about traffic/transportation and development, a poll conducted by Watertown News at Saturdays Faire on the Square found.
People were asked “What concerns you most in Watertown Today,” and participants could check one or more of these five issues, and could write in their own issue:
Or, add their own write-in issue
A total of 28 ballots were cast at Saturday’s Faire on the Square, and the top issue, with 19 votes, was Traffic/Transportation. A close second was Development, which received 16 tallies. Next was Schools, with 11 votes. Heroin/Opioid use in Watertown received 9 votes, and Property taxes got 8 votes. Four people wrote in their own issues: Open Space/Recreation, Public Events, Gentrification and the Elderly.