During last week’s candidate forum, the District B hopefuls had a variety of takes on how – and whether – the town should protect Watertown’s neighborhoods. They also talked about helping the seniors and the less fortunate in town.
District B Councilor Cecilia Lenk said she wants to protect the town’s residential neighborhoods from having smaller homes torn down and replaced with bigger multi-unit developments. This could be done with design guidelines for neighborhoods, like what was recently passed for commercial areas of Watertown.
“I recently put forward a motion to the Council, and it was sent to the Economic Development Committee, to have a discussion of the needs of neighborhoods,” Lenk said. “There will be a series of meetings about how to maintain the neighborhoods we have now.”
Kevin MacDonald said he would not want any strict rules for how homes can be built.
“I am not in favor of design guidelines – anything outside of building one- and two-family homes,” MacDonald said.
He also wants to make sure that developers of bigger buildings have to go through the same “hoops” that he did when he wanted to put in a deck at his home.
Patty van Dinter said she knows first hand how hot Watertown is for development. She said she was approached by three developers wanting to buy her house.
“I don’t want to sell to someone who will put something that will block people’s view or buy more properties and put up a big building,” van Dinter said.
She added that residents need to know about proposed redevelopments, and the notice should be sent out far ahead of time and on a prominent spot on the front page of the Town’s website.
Feltner has worked with the Concerned Citizens Group for many years, and development is a big focus for the organization. She would like to see design guidelines for neighborhoods passed.
“I am very concerned about the character of neighborhoods,” Feltner said. “Property is not just a cash cow. We should not just be building buildings. We need to build community.”
Helping Seniors and Less Fortunate Residents
The candidates were asked about whether they think helping lower socioeconomic residents of Watertown should be a priority.
Feltner said she would like to see the town fully-fund the Social Services Resource specialist position, but said funds could also come from grants or foundations. Right now the position is partially funded by the town, but outside funding pays for half of the cost.
The social services resource position is a good thing to have, van Dinter said, however she does not think the town – and therefore taxpayers – should pay the whole cost. People can volunteer and help older neighbors stay in their home by assisting them shovel snow and do yard work, as she does in her neighborhood.
MacDonald said he would support adding affordable housing, but he wants to see a specific kind. He believes if people can have homes with a yard they will take care of them, unlike the complexes built in prior eras.
Making sure people can stay in the community is a priority for Lenk, who said she supported increasing the affordable housing requirement for developers from 10 to 12.5 percent of units in a complex. She also wants to make sure that seniors and low-income residents can afford to pay taxes and other expenses that have been increasing.