Planning Board Debates Changes to Pleasant Street Zoning

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The Planning Board debated whether to set aside certain parts of the Pleasant Street Corridor for commercial and retail projects, or leave it open for any types of development.

Last week, the board looked at proposed changes to the Pleasant Street Corridor zoning. The special zoning area was created seven years ago to encourage redevelopment of former industrial properties on the West End of Watertown.

Most of the projects that have resulted have been large residential ones, some of which were criticized for being too tall and too close to Pleasant Street. The Town Council asked for changes to the zoning to encourage other kinds of projects. The proposed zoning changes will have to be approved by the Council and the Planning Board.

Limit What Can be Built?

As a result, three different zoning types would be allowed in the Pleasant Street Corridor – PSCD1 – allows current zoning, including residential project, PSCD2 – requires residential projects to have at least 25 percent of the gross floor area for commercial use, and PSCD3 – allows a mix of retail, commercial and light industrial, but no residential.

Planning Board member Jeffrey Brown said he does not like the idea of a large area on the west end of the Pleasant Street, on the south side of the street being limited to commercial, retail and light industrial.

“It may be like that now, but we should zone it the way we want it to be,” Brown said. “I think that’s a huge chunk of land to give up forever.”

Westside Town Councilor Ken Woodland said with all the new residential projects, the new residents need stores, services and other things in their neighborhood.

“We can compensate for that by making the area commercial,” Woodland said.

Resident Mary Ann Mulligan agreed and said some balance is needed to all the residential projects.

“It may have only been seven years, but it is time to rehash the corridor plan,” Mulligan said. “The plan had a number of goals and they have not been met. I agree we don’t want only commercial, but we can’t be blindfolded to what’s been going on.”

John McDonald from The Field Companies, which owns land near Stop & Shop, said he favors letting the market dictate what goes on the land.

“The area now is light industrial, but it is very difficult for light industrial tenants to come to the property. They are not in the area,” McDonald said. “We should look for the best use, not a forced use.”

Resident Ian Clark argued market forces does not always have the best results.

“In New York if you had let the market forces decide things you would have Central Park,” Clark said. “It would be a good place for residential projects.”

Other Zoning Changes

Some changes have been made to the proposed amendments to the Pleasant Street Corridor zoning. To prevent buildings from looming over the street, the original proposal called for stories above the second one had to be pushed back 15 feet from the building facade. A new change would allow a pitched roof with a maximum of 45 degrees above the second story, said Senior Planner Gideon Schreiber.

Also, the maximum length of any wall would be 250 feet. Previously the limit was 300 feet on the front wall.

An attempt to make a buffer with residential properties, the setback in the will be larger than if the property abutted another commercial property. If a lot is less than 100 feet wide, however, the setbacks will not apply. However, projects can only be built within 10 feet of the rear property line, and it must be enclosed parking for cars and have a vegetative buffer between properties, Schreiber said.


The Planning Board did not make a vote on the proposed changes and will take it up again at the Nov. 12 meeting. Planning Board Chairman John Hawes said the Pleasant Street zoning changes are just one of three ongoing zoning changes going on, along with the Comprehensive Plan and the design guidelines/standards being developed. Hawes wondered if the changes to the Pleasant Street Corridor should wait for the other processes to move ahead.

Community Development and Planning Director Steve Magoon said he has heard of two or three properties in the Pleasant Street Corridor where developers are interested in building new projects. He said the Comprehensive Plan must still be adopted and then zoning changes will have to be approved separately. Waiting to approve the Pleasant Street Zoning would delay developers of projects in the area.

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