Last week, Town Councilor Lisa Feltner decided to invoke a rule that delays the vote of the Town Council until the next meeting. The issue being considered was the rezoning of some parcels along Galen Street requested by a developer. Below you can read her letter explaining her decision.
Feltner also announced that she has booked space at the Watertown Library on Wednesday night to meet with residents, and hear their concerns about the proposal. The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 5, in the Raya Stern Trustees Room on the second floor of the Library, located at 123 Main St., Watertown.
Why I Tabled the Town Council Vote to Change Zoning on Galen Street
The request from Boston Development Group to change four parcels, from Limited Business (LB) to Industrial-2 (I-2), is not a bad idea except that the good ideas are not written into the zoning language.
I support making plans for this approximate 5 acre area, which sits next to the MBTA bus yard between Water and Galen, as a whole. However, we don’t have a neighborhood plan or sub-area plan or Watertown Square plan or “new gateway” or “South Square” plan -yet. Regardless, we don’t have the zoning for it – yet. I don’t support moving forward with a change in zoning before securing benefits for a vision and plans to mitigate known impacts, while also engaging residents.
Before the January 28th Town Council meeting, I thought through the zoning change request again. What are the benefits? General assumptions and good intentions were shared in context with the concept plan along with references to the Comprehensive Plan. What are the impacts? They were generally ignored.
For example, creating a four-way signal on Galen with Aldrich Rd. and Water St. could address some traffic conflicts. What about the impacts on Morse St., Hunt St., Aldrich at Watertown and Fifth Ave., Nonantum Rd., Watertown Square, and beyond? How do we ensure we’re getting true mixed-use or a certain amount of retail or restaurant space, or improved transit options? It’s not written into the zoning change. In fact, I-2 zoning does not allow primarily mixed-use or residences; it encourages office, R&D, self-storage, marijuana among others. For all the loud concern about affordable housing, transportation, community and recreational spaces – we don’t really know what we’ll end up getting here. I support creative zoning and planning. This isn’t it. Instead of leading the charge, we continue to react, so I can’t blame “the developers.” I like this development team, but that’s not the point.
The public is not actively engaged in planning and doesn’t know about the impacts, and residents want connections across Watertown Square. Neither Planning Board nor Town Council received baseline information about the consequences of their votes regarding traffic, parking, heights, streetscape, noise – because “This is just a concept and you’re not voting on a project; you’re voting on a zoning change.”
I’m looking forward to improving our zoning and our process. At least give me something I know will sufficiently benefit District B and Watertown without kicking the impacts down the road, something more than hopeful good intentions, things we can rely on, regardless of who owns the property or how the market changes. I owe it to the people.
District B Town Councillor