Council, Planning Board Worry Comprehensive Plan is Too Specific

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As they started to delve into the draft of the 200-plus pages of the Watertown Comprehensive Plan, members of the Planning Board and Town Council said some of it has too many details that could lock the town into something that does not make sense.

The group, made up of the Planning Board and the Council’s Economic Development and Planning subcommittee, looked at the vision statement and the Land Use portion of the plan on July 14.

Some of the things that worried them was that some of the goals had specific numbers for how to change zoning or building requirements.

Planning Board Chairman John Hawes said he is not comfortable the statement in the Arsenal Street Corridor section saying that residential projects with frontages right on the street should be allowed, as well as the statement that the setback should be reduced from the current 25 feet.

“I think that needs more discussion,” Hawes said. “With zoning we should eliminate specific numbers, or they will come back to haunt us.”

The requirement to have only two-story buildings on Arsenal Street would be dull, said Planning Board member Jeffrey Brown.

Town Councilor Vincent Piccirilli said he worries about the rules for step backs – where face of the stories above the pushed back a certain number of feet from the facade of the bottom floors. The town has looked at this strategy to avoid the big blocky buildings that have been built on Pleasant Street.

“The statement that no more than two stories could get us in trouble. It would prohibit a 2-1/2 story building,” Piccirilli said. “We need to leave ourselves more flexibility. If it was five stories may be it should be step back after the second, but if it is a three story building, maybe not.”

Town Councilor Susan Falkoff said she wants to make sure projects do not go right up against the Charles River, and residents said they would like the same rule to apply to the back of projects that butt up against a residential neighborhood.

Another detail in the plan that bothered Hawes was a sentence saying that all home should have entrances on the front of the building. He said that statement does not belong in a master plan, and that issue and others should be decided when changes to the zoning rules are made.

The discussion of the Comprehensive Plan continues on Monday, July 21 at 7 p.m. when the group will look at the Transportation and Housing sections of the plan. Another meeting will be held on Monday, Aug. 18.

The entire plan can be viewed on the Town of Watertown website by going here:

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