The City of Watertown released the draft Comprehensive Plan update in late February and held an open house on March 9. Those who did not have a chance to comment on the plan then can still do so by filling out an online survey.
The deadline to fill out the survey is Friday, March, 24. The survey also covers the draft Open Space and Recreation Plan.
“Your participation will help the City better understand your interests and incorporate your ideas in the plans and their implementation,” the City’s announcement said.
You can take the survey and read the draft plans on here.
The original Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2015, led to the redevelopment of properties along Arsenal and Pleasant streets. The update shifts the focus of development to strengthening the local business districts, including Watertown and Coolidge squares, and to overhaul the downtown area around Watertown Square.
The plan has several action items and the plan includes recommended steps to achieve the goals:
Comprehensive Plan Action Items
1. Be a leader on municipal sustainability and managing climate change impacts.
2. Enhance the character and quality of life in Watertown’s neighborhoods, squares, and along the corridors that connect them to help build community.
3. Cultivate a mix of diverse businesses that strengthens our community by providing jobs, services, and support for city infrastructure.
4. Promote safe, efficient multimodal transportation options that provide access to homes, jobs, amenities, and services.
5. Facilitate a range of housing types and affordability.
6. Ensure high-quality parks, recreation, and open spaces that meet the needs of residents and the environment, and encourage active and passive use.
7. Support community wellness through inclusive programs and events, diverse arts and culture, enhanced natural and historic resources, and livelier public and private spaces.
8. Proactively maintain and improve infrastructure and services.
Open Space & Recreation
The draft Open Space & Recreation plan includes a list of goals and objectives to accomplish in order to meet the goals, as well as a seven year action
Goal 1. Create a network of high-quality parks, recreation, and open spaces that is accessible to all Watertown residents. plan.
Goal 2. Maintain and enhance existing recreation facilities and programs and create new opportunities to meet evolving community interests and needs.
Goal 3. Protect and enhance natural resources to retain their important functions and values and help Watertown adapt to the impacts of natural hazards and climate change.
Goal 4. Maintain partnerships and public awareness in support Watertown’s open space and recreational resources.
The deadline for submitting your comments on the Comprehensive Plan draft is March 24, less than a week away. It is IMPORTANT for as many people as possible to submit your opinions and thoughts on the direction of Watertown going forward. The last time we had this opportunity was in 2015 and perhaps we should have looked more closely at that plan.
Many people are not happy with the 60 plus biolabs/life science businesses that are currently in Watertown. They are massive buildings as you can witness on Galen St. and three more are in the works for the west end: at the Sterritt Lumber Site on Waltham St., the Russo’s location on Pleasant St. and another proposed one at the Cannistraro Plumbing site on Acton/Rosedale and Pleasant Streets. Those who would like to address their concerns for this biolab development at the Cannistraro site, please attend the meeting Monday night, March 20, at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.
It is the opinion of many people that our CURRENT ZONING REGULATIONS need to be addressed NOW so that we can perhaps amend them so that super high buildings can’t continue to replace any of the smaller businesses with lower heights if developers make an offer that can’t be refused.
As mentioned above the Comprehensive Plan point # 3, (which is on page 3 of the plan), says: CULTIVATE A MIX OF DIVERSE BUSINESSES THAT STRENGTHENS OUR COMMUNITY by providing jobs, services, and support for city infrastructure. It does not seem that the city is encouraging a diversity of businesses and jobs. Do you see any businesses being built that aren’t biolabs/life science ones?
Page 36 in the draft plan says: provide good jobs at a range of skills and salary levels, a mix of business types and sizes needed. Let’s encourage this type of development.
Page 38 says: a broader array of business retention and attraction strategies are also needed to support economic vitality. Are we putting all of our eggs in one basket with the biolab/life science emphasis?
Page 33 talks about the new MBTA increased housing zone around Watertown Sq. that MA officials are pushing and Watertown officials seem to be readily accepting without considering other options. Shouldn’t they be looking at the numbers in the existing housing that might already meet the requirements without increasing the density in that area? Other cities have come up with alternatives to preserve the character and quality of life of their cities.
Page 32 says there is a need for considerations for building heights, setbacks, design character and other factors that should guide substantial renovations and new construction. If you look at many of the developments to date, that has not happened. The PROPOSED Main St. development in the Post Office block looks too modern, is too high, and doesn’t provide much green space. (BTW the city meeting to discuss this site plan is on April 26 and you can participate.)
With the money that the big developers have, they seem to be able to walk in and build by right with the current zoning laws. Do we want to be an elitist city that only has jobs for those with science degrees? What happens if this industry goes bust with the rocky economy and high interest rates or overdevelopment of them? Will we have a lot of empty buildings if they fail? Is our Planning and Development Dept. group encouraging other types of businesses to come here that don’t need to be so dense and might provide different types of jobs so that people who live here can work here?
Maybe we should PUT A HALT to all building permits and plans right now until we get a better handle on our vision and desires and see where the economy is going.
If you look closely at the plan you will see that there are three transformative areas highlighted for further development: The Pleasant St. Corridor encompassing Pleasant St. and Waltham St., Watertown Sq. and the Arsenal St. Corridor. If we don’t give input on our vision for these areas, they are targeted to be the key areas of growth in Watertown. If the zoning remains as is, you might want to imagine the density and traffic increasing even more in those areas and the looks of the overwhelming heights and the closeness to the sidewalks of the buildings.
PLEASE fill in the Comprehensive Plan Survey ASAP and get your thoughts on record. If we don’t get ahead of these developments now, we won’t be able to stop or amend them. This may be the LAST CHANCE for many years to protect us from being another Cambridge, which most people don’t seem to want. Go into the link above or go onto Watertown-ma.gov and search for the Comprehensive Plan Survey. It will only take a few minutes of your time to make a difference in all of our lives going forward.