Town Seeks Input on Rules for Building in Watertown’s Residential Areas

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Charlie Breitrose

Homes in a neighborhood off Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown.

Homes in a neighborhood off Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown.

Charlie Breitrose

Homes in a neighborhood off Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown.

The building boom in Watertown is not limited to the main arteries through town. Homes are being torn down and replaced with new residential projects, so town officials want to look at making rules and guidelines for new construction in neighborhoods.

One of the goals that came from the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan is to protect Watertown’s residential neighborhoods. Some residents have complained that redeveloped properties have changed their street or neighborhood for the worse.

As a way to control the redevelopment of neighborhoods, the Town Council has proposed creating Residential Design Guidelines.

“Establishing a set of Design Guidelines for the residential areas will ensure that Watertown develops in a manner that respects the rich diversity of its architecture and the cherished neighborhoods in which it resides,” said the announcement from the Watertown Planning Department.

The Guidelines will clarify expectations about what is permitted, and why it is permitted, in an effort to maintain the existing neighborhood character and “promote a more harmonious relationship between the existing neighborhood fabric and new construction.” according to the announcement.

“Ensuring that setbacks and other dimensional regulations are met for proposed tear-downs and developing guidelines to maintain existing neighborhood character are recommendations of the Watertown Comprehensive Plan.”

The guidelines and standards standards will be similar to the ones recently adopted for Watertown’s main commercial corridors and business districts.

Part of the process of creating the Residential Design Guidelines will be a set of community listening session where people can hear about the process and give input. Three meetings will be held in different parts of town:

  • Public Meeting No. 1 Tuesday, Oct. 20 6:30-8 p.m. – Coolidge School Auditorium, 319 Arlington St.
  • Public Meeting No. 2 Monday, Oct. 26 6:30-8 p.m. – Lower Hearing Room Town Hall, 149 Main St.
  • Public Meeting No. 3 Thursday, Oct. 29 6:30-8 p.m. – Police Station, 552 Main St.

The agenda for each meeting will be identical:

  1. Components of a strong neighborhood
  2. Watertown style inventory: What makes a good building, what makes a bad one?
  3. Interactive Dialogue (small-group format) – residential development pressures
  4. Report-back and Wrap up

A fourth meeting has also been scheduled on Thurs., Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Watertown Middle School Auditorium. At this Community Forum there will be a discussion the common language of Watertown’s neighborhoods, officials will provide a perspective on key elements contributing to community character and the group will “identify effective tools to encourage, preserve, and support neighborhoods and the community’s shared vision for the future,” the announcement said.

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