After Long Process, Watertown’s Comprehensive Plan Nears Completion

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The Town Council, and the Planning Board gathered with residents at the Watertown Middle School this week to put the final touches on the town’s long anticipated Comprehensive Plan.

The Council and the Board presented the plan during a joint conference Wednesday, May 6. The comprehensive plan outlines the town’s goals through 2025, and is the town’s first since 1988, according to the town comprehensive plan website. The plan calls to “reinforce Watertown Square as a town center” transform Arsenal Corridor into a “dynamic mixed-use-corridor.”

The town original aimed to have the plan completed in 2013, but the process took longer than expected, Steve Magoon, Director of Planning and Development said. The Planning Board and the Town Council will vote on the proposed plan at upcoming meetings.

While it took longer that expected, Magoon said he believes the plan represents the wide variety of thoughts and ideas expressed from the community throughout the process.

I think we can appreciate the diversity of Watertown as a community,” Magoon said. “And as such appreciate the diverse opinions and diverse perspectives that are represented by a comprehensive plan.”

Magoon stressed that while the plan will be voted on, it could still be updated to reflect any future changes in the town’s goals between now and 2025.

“There are things that we anticipated that won’t turn out the way that we thought they would for a variety of reasons,” Magoon said. “And because of that it is important to revisit plans on a periodic basis to make sure that we readjust our focus and the approach that we decide to take as it relates to the various issues that face the town.”

Along with residents, the Town also hired Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB), a civil engineering consulting firm, to help put the plan together. Ralph Willmer Senior Planner and Project Manager for VHB, said the comprehensive plan looked at everything from public health, to infrastructure, housing, and transportation, and that it was important to ensure that the plan was something the town could actually implement.

“We wanted the recommendations to be realistic so that the town could actually achieve them,” Willmer said.  “It’s going to take a lot of work. Some of the stuff could be done very quickly with little money, with little effort. Some of the things could be much more long term.”

While many residents said they were happy with the plan, some did express concerns. Dennis J. Duff, of Spruce Street, said he did not like language about increasing housing density in Watertown.

“As I’ve stated at many other meetings, and maybe people didn’t hear, or didn’t want to accept it, but Massachusetts is the third most dense state in the continental United States,” Duff said. “Watertown’s probably in the top 10. So when I see single-family lots and two family lots in the 4 and 5,000 square foot range, I think that’s preposterous. I think they should be a minimum of 7,000 to 7,500 [square feet].

Density creates less green space, more cars, more pollution, excreta,” Duff said.

Elodia Thomas, of Marion Road, said was concerned with how the plan would be implemented over the next ten years, as members of the Town Council, Planning Board, and staff throughout the town change.

“My biggest issues is communication,” Thomas said. “How can we set up a really good communication system so that we can see where we are with out goals as they’re being implemented, where hiccups are?

“For me it’s everything from simplifying how to find stuff on our website with regard to development, but also to have a more conversation tone about what’s going on in town,” Thomas said.

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