Council Rejects 2 Resident Petitions, Ideas Remain Alive in Zoning Discussions

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Watertown City Hall

The City Council did not pass two citizen petitions seeking to change Watertown’s zoning rules, but Councilors said they heard the frustration expressed by the supporters and signers and said they support many of the ideas contained in the petitions.

The first petition called for reducing the floor area ratio (FAR) allowed for new buildings in the Watertown Square area, while the second called for more protections for residential neighborhoods located next to areas where large commercial or residential projects could be built.

While the Council rejected the petitions — the first not going to a vote after receiving no second, and the second unanimously voted against — City Council President Mark Sideris said he has heard the signers of the petitions concerns.

“I want to take a moment to thank the 600 people who signed the petitions because I think there is some frustration — and we noticed that this evening — with the process. I think we can always do a better job with process, and I think the Manager’s FY24 budget had proposed additional ways that we can communicate with the citizens and we approved that, ” Sideris said. “There is clearly a sense of frustration and I am not sure that any actions that we are going to take are going to satisfy those frustrations until, as somebody pointed out, that we come together and talk about things comprehensively.” 

Petition 1: Watertown Square Building Size

The Council heard from people supporting and opposing the petitions. They also heard from the City’s Planning staff, who recommended that Councilors not support the petitions.

The first petition called for reducing FAR from 4.0 to 2.2 in the Central Business District (the area west of the Watertown Square intersection along Main Street). Supporters of the petition have been concerned with the size of buildings being built or proposed to be constructed in the Watertown Square area, including the proposed six story mixed use project at 104-126 Main Street, across from the Watertown Library.

Senior Planner Larry Field said that the staff recommended that the Central Business District zoning be looked at holistically, and not just change one factor in the zoning for the area. He also noted that the request comes right before the City starts looking at zoning for the Watertown Square area. The discussion of changing the zoning for the center of town began in 2022, he noted.

“The Watertown Square planning process would be one that would cover all of the issues that are central to figuring out what could be done to transform the Square and make it a lively destination for both residents and those outside Watertown Square,” Fields said. “That means transportation, open space, and it very much means housing and zoning. The issues raised by this petition fit squarely in what was contemplated in 2022.”

The Council approved City Manager George Proakis’ Fiscal Year 2024 budget that includes $200,000 for a study of Watertown Square, Fields said, and the City is about to hire a consultant to work on the project.

The petition also asked for the city to move to formed based zoning, which looks more at forms of the buildings than using numerical requirements. Fields said that the Planning Department is interested in looking at that.

“We think that is a very appropriate thing for (the Council) to ask us to do but I will also say it is something that we have very much had in mind for a long time,” Fields said. “It is something that planners have been thinking about as something that is a step forward, and it has elements that are hard to do. So, it may not be the right thing to do, but is certainly something that should be considered.”

Petition 2: Transition Zones

While the Planning Department staff felt the first petition was too specific, they said the second one was too vague. The petition calls for protections for residential neighborhoods that sit next to industrial zones and other zones where large projects could potentially go. Part of the petition reads that the City zoning should, “protect existing residential neighborhoods from the intrusive impact of outside an incompatible development on the borders of the adjacent districts.”

Assistant Planning Director Gideon Schreiber said that Watertown’s Zoning Ordinance added language to protect the transition zones within the last several years, and the City’s budget also includes $50,000 to look at zoning citywide.

Watertown has many areas where housing was built right across the street or next to industrial properties, Schreiber said, particularly along the corridor along the Charles River. Many properties that are now office or life science buildings used to be mills and other industrial properties. While many areas where houses now stand used to be farmland.

In 2015, the City Council approved requirements for buildings built near residential areas to have setbacks (pushing buildings away from the property line) and stepbacks (moving the facade of upper floors farther back) to give some relief for immediate neighbors.

When the Planning Board looked at the transition zone petition, Schreiber said, they found the language too vague.

“The heart of the Planning Board discussion is that the language creates more confusion and is vague and is more subjective to what is in the ordinance today,” Schreiber said.

He added later: “If inserted, the new language wouldn’t change (the Planning and Zoning boards’) authority or the criteria that they have. It just adds very similar language that is less clear.”

The City recently released the final draft of the Comprehensive Plan, Schreiber said, and he noted it includes a goal to review the setbacks in the transition zones between industrial zones and residential neighborhoods.

Another part of the petition calls for ensuring public input throughout the process, and to make the Zoning Ordinance more clear and easy to understand. Schreiber said the Planning staff is working on spelling out the process more clearly on the City website. Schreiber said that older versions of Watertown’s Zoning Ordinance included sketches demonstrating how some zoning requirements work.

Council Reactions

Members of the City Council acknowledged the frustration expressed by many residents, and said they too want to work on the issues raised by the petitions. They added that change can be slow in government.

Councilor Emily Izzo, who represents the Westside, where many projects have been proposed in recent years.

“It is clear that the people are frustrated by some of the developments that have been approved recently, and they have every right to be,” Izzo said. “The West End has seen first hand how frustrating it can be when projects seem to infringe on our neighborhoods, specifically with Sterritt Lumber and the proposed project at Cannistraro. Many residents have attended the meetings and a lot have felt like they haven’t been fully heard.”

She that while she supports the petitions, she wants to wait to go through the review of the zoning. She thanked the Planning Board, particularly Payson Whitney and Abigail Hammett, for suggesting that the Zoning Review include some of the items called for by the transition zone petition. She added that she thought Planning Board Chair Janet Buck had a good point that what one resident may consider a positive quality of life will likely differ from a neighbor, making that hard to measure.

Councilor Tony Palomba looked at all the names of people who signed the petitions and he saw a lot of names of supporters and friends from all over town. He thanked those people who organized and signed the petition, and said that he believes the path that led them to create a petition makes sense.

“I have said to many people: I, and my colleagues, have been dealing with the issue of development for years and I’ve always had to say to people, ‘It is private property. They can do what they want to do as long as they meet the zoning requirements,'” Palomba said. “That would lead the next logical step to be, ‘Well, then let’s change the zoning requirements.’ That’s the logical extension if you are a community person who wants to see some change.”

He added that he is glad that the City will be doing studies on Watertown Square and to review the Zoning Ordinance. But he acknowledged the petitioners’ frustration.

“These petitions do not come out of nowhere. They come out of two or three years of frustration, as Councilor Izzo pointed out,” Palomba said. “I wanted to acknowledge the frustration and I think in some ways I, myself, as a Councilor dropped the ball and did not pick up on in soon enough.”

Councilor Caroline Bays said she understands the frustration of the residents. She noted that since she was elected, she has seen how slow government moves.

“I really feel for the petitioners. I really feel for the people who are up near industrial buildings  and I understand the frustration,” Bays said. “I also feel that even though these petitions were not voted for, they were not done in vain. We heard what you had to say. We understand the frustration and because these things are going to be looked at as we move forward, this is not the last opportunity for your thoughts, your ideas and your concerns to be heard.” 

Councilor John Airasian agreed that “this issue did not just come up, it has been festering.” He added that he believes the City has been making progress addressing the issue of transition zones, though he added that it can be debated whether or not the effort was sufficient.

He thanked the petitioners, and said it was invigorating to see the back and forth comments about the petitions, Airasian said he could not support the petitions.

“I believe it is important for a city to follow the best planning procedures and practices, and to support these petitions tonight to me would be contradictory to those practices,” he said.

Councilor John Gannon said he would like to see more transparency in the development process in Watertown. He looked back at his time as City Attorney in Somerville, and said they had in depth discussions about zoning.

“It was more of an input, not just discussing zoning and development in the City of Somerville but so many other elements of life. I would like to see more of that and more frequently,” Gannon said. “The process of zoning should be seen as very open. I would like to see us as a government do more to work with neighbors, not just as individual projects come up. And I am hoping the Comprehensive Plan process will be part of that dialogue, and a two way dialogue. I think we can do better in communicating our zoning and development process.”

Lisa Feltner said she is the only Councilor who lives next to a major development, in her case near the Arsenal Street Corridor. She said she has been on the Council for eight years, and before that she was active in advocating for her neighborhood.

“I hope that people aren’t discouraged and that your efforts are not in vain. It’s a lot of work — democracy is a lot of work — and there’s a lot of mistakes that happen and shortcomings,” Feltner said. “Also, there are limited funds, but I am very hopeful. I am seeing a lot of progress. I am seeing a lot on the horizon. We have a lot of changes that we still haven’t implemented from the (City) Charter review that are coming up. We have enhanced notification. People will be getting notices, hopefully soon, on these projects.”

Councilor Vincent Piccirilli said while he supports parts of the petitions he could not vote for them.

“I do support transition zoning, but not the language in the petition,” he said. “I really look forward to making the appropriate changes as part of the upcoming zoning review.”

Sideris thanked everyone who commented, and said he looks forward to seeing the results of the zoning and Watertown Square studies.

“I do believe the effort here will lead to some changes and I do think that we should allow the professionals that come in to help us with these things, allow them to do their work,” Sideris said, who added that people will have a chance to give input during the Zoning and Watertown Square reviews.

30 thoughts on “Council Rejects 2 Resident Petitions, Ideas Remain Alive in Zoning Discussions

  1. Our zoning code is way out of date, so this is the way we do zoning in this city:
    whenever a developer needs a change in zoning to do what they wish, they go to the Planning Dept, who helps them submit it (and highly recommends it) to the Zoning Board. The developer is almost always granted their amendment. In this way, our zoning has become a hodge-podge of very particular amendments, overlay zones, etc, to help developers get past the code.

    But notice, when citizens want a change, they are given no help from anyone (not the Planning Dept who just wishes they would go away, nor their Town Councilors who really can’t get involved—you know, public meeting rules and all). So they work hard to get many signatures and submit their wish in good faith. But jeez, it’s too vague. Oh no, it’s too specific. Just can’t vote for it, but we SO appreciate the work that went into it and the citizens who spent all that time for nothing. This has happened before. I bet if you go back, there has never been a citizen’s petition granted in the history of this town.

    Zoning has needed updating for at least 10 years. Zoning underlies everything that gets built in this town. This government has finally agreed to hire someone to evaluate our zoning. But this government doesn’t like to do the hard stuff, so they have given it a 4-5 year timeline. Will there be anything left to build then?

    • Marcia you are telling a well worn tale in the recent history of Watertown. There are always excuses for not heeding public input. Always excuses for bad outcomes. I have seen it for over 15 years now.

      Residents were told that zoning was the only way to effect the changes they wanted to see. So they present the town with zoning petitions. But the goal posts have been moved mid game and we can’t zone by petition. Then the can is kicked down the road and zoning reform won’t happen until it is practically a moot point. Brilliant.

    • Nothing about the first petitions was in good faith. The first petition was constructed after the groups first attempt to get the entire downtown designated a historical site to block the new housing failed (as it should have). For the second attempt the group took a metric “FAR” and decided to try and get it set just below the FAR of the project they were trying to stop (project was at 2.3 and the petition was for 2). The downtown part of main street is in horrible shape , and there is a massive silent majority in Watertown that want it completely transformed into a livable, walkable, commerce focused area where people can live and work. The “600 strong” group that keeps trying to shut everything down are the same people that supported 30 years of nothing getting built in Watertown before 2015 and are the reason the community has a massive housing shortage at the moment.

      I understood the intent of the second petition, to limit development sizes that are right next to residential areas. But the Planning Dept and Council were correct in the conclusion. The wording was to vague and opened up way to much grey and ability for rules to just be applied subjectively on a project by project basis.

      • 100% agree. Re: the first petition: What exactly would the petitioners propose instead of the 104 Main St. project they oppose? There is no alternative, it’s simply “no.” However, the status quo isn’t OK because Main St. in Watertown Square is a hodgepodge of different buildings… and the entire mix on that side of the street is old, tired and kinda ugly.

        Re: the 2nd petition: EXACTLY who was proposed to have veto power which could be arbitrarily exercised to stop a new development in its tracks? Apparently the petitioners assumed it would be them. No thanks.

  2. I know a number of the folks behind the petitions. I also know many who signed and many who didn’t who are sympathetic (myself included) They are all good, intelligent people who know their town and care deeply about it. They may not be land use attorneys, but their intentions were good.

    To accuse them of acting in bad faith is offensive and reflects back on the author’s own character.

    Believe me there are more than 600 people in town who have serious reservations about how development has been done in Watertown. When the author can produce 600 people who feel as he does, then I will take him more seriously. The Silent Majority ruse was invented by Richard Nixon. Enough said.

    There are many errors in fact in this comment. For one:

    “. . .30 years of nothing getting built in Watertown before 2015. . .” Well, Repton Place and Repton Circle were built in 2007 and 2008 and represent better than 300 units of housing if I am correct. There are a least a half dozen others pre-2015.

    It is easy to spout off on line, but one really should learn something about the history and character of a community first. And meet folks who aren’t in your peer group.

    • Here is where I looked up building permit trends. , And of course “nothing” was not meant literally.

      I was here when the Repton buildings were constructed , I have been here for almost 20 years. While those 300 units definitely helped they were built on the literal outskirts of town. (You can throw a rock from the parking lot and hit Waltham ) If we want new people coming to Watertown to lay down roots we have to have places in the heart of town for them to live and do that. With access to public transit, shops, library, and parks. The Main Street developments will provide that.

      • Missed the part it was readily available open space . It’s about getting Main St. right , You know Trees, not hopefully buildings right up to the sidewalk nor 5 or 10′ back. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy more open space with the family, or settle for the ultimate insult of something being called an open space with art work when in reality it’s nothing more than a sidewalk, I feel we can do better and make it better for the ones coming behind us rather than accepting low end and being grateful

      • Well Riverbend, Riverbank and Charlesbank were also built prior to 2015 as well as a number of others. The Reptons were built near Waltham because the land was available. And I believe that between Repton Circle, Repton Place and Watertown Mews, there are more than 300 apartments.

        If you didn’t mean “nothing” literally, then I would not use it as an argument.

        Once again, for the umpteenth time, no one is saying that there should be no development in Watertown Square, but rather that those developments should be planned carefully, be of high quality, and be harmonious with the areas around them. No one is arguing against housing and density near transit–we just want good density.

        Now since I mentioned transit, we all need to discuss how to bring our transit service up to par with transit oriented development. This is important and severely lacking presently.

        Watertown Square is blighted by traffic. That too must be addressed if you want to attract folks who will stay and set down roots. Currently, the Square is not a pedestrian friendly place, and certainly not kid friendly. We must address that issue or nothing will succeed.

  3. That’s pretty funny, some comments. 30 years holding up the Town/City developments by a group of people , not true in the least bit. 600 signatures shows a lot of residents are not happy about current building for the future, didn’t hear anyone state that they were against building in the square as you suggest. We live in a democracy where everyone has a say, like it or not. Meeting on Monday night about Acton St/Rosedale Rd, you’re more than welcome to attend to state your views as others have

  4. While I didn’t sign the FAR petition, I supported it because I feel that buildings with lower FAR values are more likely to provide the types of public amenities that will make the Central Business district a dynamic, livable, walkable destination while preserving some of the features that make Watertown preferable to nearby communities. The Square *should * be revitalized, but the existing zoning doesn’t encourage those qualities, esp. given the nearby river. I’d encourage anyone interested to reread the comments for previous articles covering the FAR petion, including those on 4/24 and 4/26.

    As for the transitional zoning petition, I know it wasn’t aimed at stopping or slowing development, but rather ensuring that the transitions between residential and nonresidential are less abrupt and more sympathetic to neighboring areas (as expressed in the Comprehensive Plan). A driving force was clearly Broder’s proposal for the Cannistraro property, seen through the lens of the recent approval of the redevelopment of the Sterritt Lumber site. Again, the comments on many previous articles are helpful, but I’ll specifically suggest Sterritt (8/23/2022) and Cannistraro (11/30/2022).

    The text of the amendments are readily accessible; there was no “veto power” proposed (despite the accusation of a previous commenter). Rather the Planning Board or Zoning Board (as SPGA) were to be empowered with slightly more discretion to shape a proposal prior to approval – specifically when that project abuts a residential district across the street.

    I find the argument that “‘quality of life’ is subjective” (as used to dismiss the petition) to be spurious when that exact phrase is used many times in the latest draft of the Comprehensive Plan.

    Most of the signers on the petitions aren’t heavily engaged and they certainly haven’t been standing in the way of anything. I believe many signed because they are dismayed with the haphazard quality of recent developments and the apparent lack of controls which have allowed those projects to progress. “Build baby build” and “let the chips fall where they may” aren’t cogent strategies for land management.

  5. There are a number of assumptions in Mr. York’s comments. He presumes that the people who wanted some historic preservation were all the same people involved in the FAR petition. That is not summarily true. All residents have different points of view on different projects throughout the city, but one mustn’t lump all people into one group to make uninformed statements about intentions.

    I don’t believe the people who wanted to preserve some history in our downtown area were out to stop all development. They wanted to maintain some of the characteristics that existed in Watertown’s past. If the two goals could be met, that seems to be a plus for a city as old as Watertown.

    The group of over 600 people is not trying to shut everything down. They want thoughtful growth that doesn’t turn Main St. into a cavernous tunnel like Pleasant St. and want to protect neighborhoods from being ruined by corporations that want to build huge businesses that max out an area and aren’t really considerate of the neighbors.

    Another assumption, Mr. York, is that saying that the group of 600 plus involves the SAME people who perhaps were against a lot of building in the last 30 years couldn’t be further from the truth. Blaming the SAME people during that time for shutting down construction of residential buildings is way off base. There were a lot of people, I believe, who back then didn’t want huge developments and many signers of the petition may not have even been living here then.

    As Watertown has changed over the years, there are times when the growth of businesses were deemed important by a lot of residents as that was needed to increase the business tax base so residents did not shoulder the entire burden of taxes to support out town/city needs.

    Other cities are in the same situation now. They focused on business development and now they are scrambling to catch up on housing. Many of them are much larger than Watertown and can more easily accommodate those needs. Now that workers at businesses aren’t going back to work in offices, those cities are pursuing changing some of those offices to residential units. The Mayor of Boston is researching this possibility now.

    In fact that exact situation occurred in Watertown many years ago. There was a building on Pleasant St. that a lot of residents refer to as the Lofts (across from one of the Cannistraro office buildings) that was developed as an office/lab building. They couldn’t get any companies in there so after a couple of years it was converted into loft-type condos.

    There will always be shifts in construction based on the needs of the time. People who care about our city and get involved in trying to considerately shape it should not be attacked for their opinions. No one is attacking the people who want the oversized buildings next to neighborhoods or on Main St. People are just asking for thoughtful growth that doesn’t have potentially irreversible negative effects in areas that may be able to reach compromises to have better outcomes. Public input is needed and should be considered in decision-making.

    Our Planning Department staff are the people who have knowledge many of us don’t have regarding all the ins and outs of existing zoning rules, but they need to remain flexible to the needs of the citizens, not always the developers. If they can take some of the important parts of the two petitions and incorporate them into the Comprehensive Plan and the Watertown Sq. project, it seems that could be a win, win for everyone.

    • No, Pleasant St. is not a “cavernous tunnel,” it looks fine to me. This highlights the conflict – what the petitioners seem to want is NOT what I and others want. In saying “the Planning Dept. should remain flexible to the needs of the citizens,” which citizens exactly are you referring to? Your word choice implies that you claim to speak for everyone.

      And yes, your citizen group is ATTACKING others with different opinions with personal insults, as visible right here in the Watertown News. Yes they are.

      • Once again the “Gentrification is Good” crowd are trying to convince us that 6 is the functional equivalent of 600. Even those among us who haven’t been to college know that is not true.

        This is rich. The person who has called others uneducated and backward and has implied that those who can’t afford expensive apartments lack the gumption to go to college and get an education is now complaining that others are being insulting. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Unbelievable.

        • I’ve spoken up for those who DID make the choices and put in the work to earn the income to pay market rental rates, because so many have expressed thinly veiled hostility and resentment toward them in city meetings and here. I suppose it’s the “anti-elitist” point of view. I’ve never called anyone uneducated or backward.

          • Actually you did say that those who saw real estate as being governed by forces more complex than supply and demand “uneducated”. And you have consistently implied that folks who simply ask hard questions about development are backward, once saying, I believe that they prefer to live in the 1950’s.

            You have consistently misrepresented the viewpoints of those who desire smart development, casting them as being against progress.

            I don’t subscribe to an “anti-elitist” philosophy as I don’t believe that you represent an elite. We are all Americans who are equal under law, at least in theory.

            A huge factor in this and other problems is that for many very hardworking essential workers, this economy is not working. They work harder and harder yet can’t make ends meet. Real estate inflation is perhaps the biggest contributor. We need to examine the causes. Other market economies do a better job at providing for all layers of society.

            Just because someone didn’t go to college doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve decent housing reasonably near to where they work. It is unlikely that we can expect government to meet the demand for affordable housing.

            BTW, going to college is not simply a CHOICE. Many don’t have the opportunity. I consider myself lucky. And I know that there are many who see to their own education on a daily basis. They are self educated.

            Inequality is ripping the fabric of American society to shreds.

    • One thing that really sticks in my mind is, The Watertown Savings Bank building on Main St. A beautifully built building with Craftsmanship that does not exist today. There has also been talk about changing how traffic approaches the Square in a rather round-a-bout way. And by some miracle that the “T” gets it’s act together, don’t hold your breath, in reality we don’t need their ideas or laws for the Square, seeing how it going to be handled in house by the City. And hopefully we’re going to have a better product, than listening to who knows who from the “T” or the State, unless your looking for the free money again for some more bad ideas. Thanks Joan for your post, always a nice easy read of fact based information.

  6. Right now our main st/ Watertown square area has a massage spa that advertises illicit sex online, a near abandon HR block , an abandon empty lot by the Verizon store, an Armenian Museum that is missing half the letters in the sign, and half a dozen closed up store fronts.

    If this group was trying to build to attract families to stay in Watertown, addressing those issues would have been a much better use of time, instead of arguing about 5 stories vs 4 or what the set backs need to be.

    And the fact that the responders to my comment go after me personally calling my character into question or twisting my words to fit their narrative is just petty bully tactics .

    • It was you who accused the petitioners of acting in bad faith. As far as twisting your words–no need. The argument made above referencing 2015 was not well thought out. That is simple fact. Don’t blame other folks. No one is bullying you. Don’t misrepresent.

      • Because they did act in bad faith, especially the first group that tried the historic designation for downtown. They were upset that the person that just took over the diner was losing her lease (she signed on for month to month not realizing the unintended consequences of that) so a group got together to try an derail the entire project. It was a complete abuse of the process. And the 2015 argument is sound if you actually look at the permit trends for Watertown pre 2015 especially when compared to the growth the surrounding area during the same time.

        • No sir. You are disparaging your neighbors unnecessarily. Particularly since you don’t know any of these people and so can’t really judge their motives.

          Your 2015 argument takes one source to look at a complicated issue. Few things in life are simple.

          Stop smearing your neighbors. It’s not a good look.

        • Cherry picking one metric typically does not lead to a thorough analysis of a complex situation. Rather it tends to confirm one’s inherent biases.

          • You mean like crafting a petition to halve the FAR of the central business district without understand all the implications that go along with doing that.

            Its almost like the people that crafted the petition did not do a thorough analysis of a complex situation and just ended up wasting a lot of their own and other peoples time.

  7. No trying involved, we are staying as we have for years, never mind in my case generations. I can ask , without as you say bullying, what choice did you make to move here? Why would you tear down as you say the place you love to raise your family? We are coming up with ideas to improve not end up as some giant wind tunnel or downtown Boston, if that’s o k. Maybe you like an urban environment, then again maybe others don’t it’s called choices and a voice in the process. Your comments, your character is revealed by them is on you, not on anyone else. Please refrain

    • I moved to Watertown for what it could be, not what it was at the time. The first 10 years Watertown didn’t do much, a few buildings on the outskirts of town (Repton etc…) had average school rankings, a dying mall (I would have to drive out to dedham or natick) and a few good restaurants.

      Around 2015 others started to see the potential and began re-developing. Turned the brick yard into new housing (I was against the Walmart that they tried to put there), more restaurants started popping up (We need to redo our liquor license process to make this easier and less costly for family owned places) and the mall got turned into something now massive amounts of people use on a daily basis. The schools buildings are finally getting redone though about 25 years overdue.

      Both of these petitions got zero votes of support. Just take a step back and think about how terrible they had to be for the Council to feel comfortable enough to unanimously reject them without any real fear of consequences. (Also not one of those 600 people decided to actually run for Town Council) Just because people spent a lot of time on them doesn’t make them good by any conceivable measure. Lots of people waste time on terrible ideas.

      • This is a democracy. Your wants and desires don’t necessarily take precedence over those of other people. There are many folks who care deeply about this town and have solid reasons to be concerned about how development is handled (or mishandled). You seem to think you have a right to shout them down.

        The Council are all running unopposed. There are no possible consequences this time around.

        • Well hello kettle, I would like you to meet pot.

          And yes, if someone presents a terrible idea I am going to call it a terrible idea. I am not going to give them a participation ribbon because they worked really hard on the terrible idea.

          And when they try to a get a terrible idea turned into a law or to change existing laws, I am going to be very loud with my criticism. That is literally the founding principle of our democracy.

          You wrote an entire essay supporting Nicole Gardner for her run to Town Council. Why could you not convince her to support these petitions ? Or Izzo and Airasian, they are life long Watertown residents , why do you think they didn’t support the petitions that you say would preserve Watertown ?

          • Oh good grief. . .always trying to turn complicated issues into simple complaints. The point is not whether the petitions were worded properly enough to become zoning, but whether the the points were heard. I think that they were.

            But if you want to believe that there is an ill intentioned cabal of naysayers, NIMBY’s and ne’er do wells who are scheming to deprive you of the Watertown that you want to see, that is your right. But, based on many neighbors and friends I have spoken with over several years, you are in the minority. Six hundred signatures is only to tip of the iceberg.

            Peace. . .out.

  8. This discussion is depressing. I attended the Planning board meeting when these petitions were presented, and I have been sifting through the comments in response to this and earlier letters in Watertownmanews.

    I am disheartened by the nature of criticism of the petition writers and signatories. The “anti” voices, oppose the petition writers and signers but I have not heard any clear argument of what these critics stand for and what they would do differently. Seems that some are critizing and taking the “anti” position and are resorting to insults and name calling just to be difficult.

    A number of letter writers and speakers at the meeting have claimed that the petitioners do not speak for everyone. Well, of course not. That’s the nature of our city and our differences and diversity are part of what makes Watertown a great place to live. That being said, among my large circle of long-time friends, neighbors, new friends and casual acquaintances in Watertown, I have heard over and over that people are fed up with the rate, size and nature of recent developments. Within these same circles, I’m not hearing rave reviews of any of the new construction in the area. Arsenal Yards is an improvement over the old Arsenal Mall, but there are many shortcomings and issues brought up by citizens that were dismissed by the developers. I am saddened to think of one friend for many years who currently rents out a lovely single family in Watertown, while living elsewhere for a few years. This person stated that their family is now hesitant to move back to Watertown because it is now so built up and overcrowded.

    The people I have been talking to are not anti-development, but they express the same concerns that others in these conversations have stated: citizens voices are not heard, the city planners only listen to developers and there is no transparency in the process. No one is saying that the town needs to look exactly the same as it did 10 or 15 years ago and clearly, there is a need for better housing, affordable housing and housing with accessible transit nearby, but new developments need to be thoughtfully planned, well designed and suited to the surrounding area.

    We can do better and with hard work and thoughtful government, we can.

    • All the folks who say that “citizens’ voices are not being heard” are mis-speaking. What’s really happening is that those hearing them are not doing as they ask. If the loudest voices would instead take a more collaborative tone (such as Marilyn’s excellent question at last night’s Broder meeting), then we could find middle ground. I don’t see any recent developments here that are “bad.” In fact, they seem to be thoughtfully planned, well-designed, and suited to the surrounding area.

      • I agree with Sarah, it has been at least > 10 years of trying to reach middle ground which rarely happens from my experiences in the past 20+ years. Plenty of pragmatic folks that tried to mitigate some reasonable changes were not heard or discounted for the most part unfortunately. I’m an optimistic pragmatist though I get where Sarah is coming from. Hopefully Kathi and others can have the developers listen to all of us not their echo chamber:< FYI I'm for smart development which IMO means development that takes into consideration their(private firm) investment and the investment in our community.

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