The Town Council agreed to hire local architect to put together a new set of design standards and guidelines in an effort to protect residential neighborhoods from new developments.
The town will work with David Gamble of Gamble Associates to will put together the new set of rules, Director of Community Development and Planning Steve Magoon said.
The work will be done in three phases, Magoon said. During the first phase Gamble will gather information and documents about design standards and guidelines on the local, regional and national levels. He will also meet with stakeholders and reach out to others to find out issues face Watertown.
In the second phase, a draft of the design standards and guidelines will be created, and Gamble will look at what changes would result and what problems might arise.
In the third phase, Gamble will prepare the final version of the design standards and guidelines and present them to the Town Council and Planning Board.
The design standards and guidelines would not be specific areas of town, but for small mixed use, industrial and commercial projects as well as large commercial, industrial mixed use and residential projects, Magoon said.
Town Councilor Aaron Dushku asked if there would be any master plans for certain areas to specify exactly what kind of developments town officials want to go on specific properties. Magoon said this study would not focus on those details.
The public will have chances to participate during the creation of the design standards. Town Councilor Tony Palomba said he wants to make sure people have a chance to comment on the final draft before it is approved. Magoon said that can happen.
Palomba also worried about new projects starting the town’s planning process before the new design standards and guidelines are approved. Magoon said the developers of one major project, proposed by Greystar on the Pirolli property at the corner of Arsenal and Irving streets, will be a guinea pig for the new standards/guidelines as it goes through the approval process.
The town will pay $63,500 for the work. Magoon spoke with a number of firms, big and small, and he said that Gamble was a good fit because he lives in town and has worked with the town on the Stragtic Frameworks for Economic Development, completed in 2011.
The larger firms would not do the same amount of work for the price range the town was willing to pay, Magoon said.
Councilor Angeline Kounelis said she voted against the Economic Development document because it included recommendations she disagreed with because they would adversely impact the East End of town, including allowing traffic to come out of the Verizon building onto Nichols Avenue. She said she will scrutinize Gamble’s work.
Having a smaller firm with someone who knows town pleased Councilor Cecilia Lenk. She feared a larger firm would send its top people to meet with the Council, but others at the firm would do the work.