There are some big meetings this week, including the first time a City board will consider the major mixed-use project on Main Street. The School Budget will be presented by the Superintendent which currently faces a deficit of nearly $1.4 million. And, the City Council will discuss the proposed linkage fees on developments to create affordable housing.
Superintendent Dede Galdston will present her recommended FY24 School Budget to the School Committee on Monday, April 10. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. and will be at Cunniff Elementary School, 246 Warren St. and remote. See the whole agenda here.
The City Council will consider Watertown Zoning Ordinance amendments requiring an Affordable Housing Linkage Fee for new non-residential development of 30,000 square feet ore more. They will also hear a report on enhanced neighbor notification of projects. Tuesday, April 11, 7 p.m., City Hall and remote. See more here.
The Planning Board will hear the mixed use project (first floor retail /commercial, 143 apartments, & 5 townhomes) proposed at 104-126 Main St., and also hear the 6 month review of Bud’s Goods marijuana establishment and consider a request to extend closing time from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, 7 p.m., City Hall and remote.See more here.
At the City Council meeting it will be interesting to see what the plans are for enhanced neighbor notification of projects. If it weren’t for this Watertown News publication most people wouldn’t be aware of what important meetings are coming up unless one goes on the city website to get them. Most people don’t subscribe to the Boston Globe, the official paper for notifications.
It will also be interesting to see how at the Planning Board meeting they justify that at the 104 Main St. project (where the Post Office is located) the height of the originally proposed 5-story building suddenly became 6 stories. At the first meeting all or most people wanted the height reduced to 4 stories! Is anyone listening to the people? Who is making these decisions, the developers or our city leaders? Are our city leaders making concessions to developers and if so, why? Is our Post Office going to remain? No one has a clear answer for us so far.
The size of the Cannistraro project on the west end grew immensely from the first notification to the presentation at the first community meeting. How does that happen? Who agreed to what?
It is becoming more and more important for people of Watertown to attend and watch these meetings. Important decisions are being made for our city going forward. If you want to be part of this process, now is the time to participate.
This is my first time leaving a reply to one of Charlie’s excellent notices. However I think the issue of the amount of the linkage fee, that will be determined by the City Council at tomorrow night’s meeting, is important. As presented to the Council, the Planning Board is recommending that the fee per square foot of non-residential development in Watertown be $11.12 as presented in the nexus study that showed the relationship between development and available housing. I have been advocating that the fee be $15.00/square foot and have asked residents to call my colleagues on the Council to voice their support of the higher fee. If you agree with the reasons I have listed below, please call or email the members of the City Council before tomorrow night’s meeting.
Why am I supporting the $15 fee?
1) It is a compromise between the high of the nexus study and the allowable fee in the home rule petition. It is a bite more than half way between $11.12 and $18.00. Also, $15.00 still allows of an annual increase, up to the $18.00 figure, based on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) which is part of the Ordinance.
2) There is a state-wide housing crisis with ever-escalating costs of home ownership and rents. Watertown is not immune. We need all the help we can get. A back-of-the-envelope calculation on the new development on Pleasant Street and the Watertown Mall shows that the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust would receive $2,572,274 more ($9,944,599 – $7,372,226) if the fee were $15.00. Given the cost of land and construction, this difference, on only two developments, is critical to the efforts of building affordable housing. We need to leverage the non-stop commercial development in Watertown to increase our housing stock and contribute to addressing the housing crisis in the Commonwealth.
3) Watertown will not lose its competitive edge. Two of three other cities that have linkage fees – Cambridge and Boston have higher fees per square foot – $33.34 and $30.78 respectively.
4) For every article that forecasts doom and gloom for life sciences there is an article that announces yet another new approved life science project. We should also remember that it is the high tech companies – Google, Apple, Amazon, etc. – that are cutting back. I think our past (and present) experience speaks for itself. When a developer will pay whatever is asked to acquire property in Watertown, a $15.00/sq. ft. linkage fee will not deter them.
5) Life science development in Watertown has contributed to the high cost of housing, as clearly noted in the nexus study. Now is the time to ask developers to contribute to the creation of affordable housing that will help maintain the diversity of our community.