Sideris Calls for All Developers in Town to Come Talk About Their Plans

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Town Council President Mark Sideris wants to get developers of all projects planned for Watertown to come and tell residents what they have planned for their property.

Tuesday night the Town Council declined to approve a moratorium on developments on Arsenal Street, but decided to fast-track creating design standards and design guidelines for all developments in town.

Sideris said he ran the idea past Director of Community Development and Planning Steve Magoon, who advised against having a developer summit.

“I am not going to listen to him,” Sideris said. “All people with projects in the East End, the West End and the rest of town will come and talk about what they want to bring forward. Those that don’t come forward, we will know they don’t want to work with the community.”

Sideris said he would reveal the names of the developers that do not attend the event. He is not sure when or where the developer event will take place, but said he wants to have it “as soon as possible.”

Some Councilors worried about projects coming forward before the new standards and guidelines are approved. Three voted for a 2 month moratorium on Arsenal Street, but the proposal failed (see more details here).

Magoon said that there are no new projects that can come forward before the August Planning Board meeting because deadlines to file the projects has passed. One project that has already made it through the process is the proposed hotel on the former Charles River Saab site. The Zoning Board will hear that case Wednesday, July 23.

Councilors said they have mostly had success working with developers of major projects. Ken Woodland, who represents the Westside of town, said the Alta at the Estates project on Waltham Street, underwent a lot of changes.

“The project that they came with and the project that we got were not at all the same,” Woodland said.

Councilor Aaron Dusku noted, however, that there is nothing in the current zoning that requires developers to make changes based on the concerns brought up by residents during community meetings about a project.

“We saw with 202 Arsenal Street that they had public meetings where they listened to residents but they don’t really have the obligation to do anything,” Dushku said. “Developers didn’t do anything to turn things on their head. Some members of the Planning Board even called the changes ‘token.’ (before approving the project).”

The new design standards and guidelines would not be as powerful as zoning rules, said Town Attorney Mark Reich, but they would be put in as conditions for approval of a special permit by the Planning and Zoning boards.

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