By Linda Scott
Question: If a dozen equals twelve and a peck equals two dry gallons, what does a “some” equal?
When referring to the 600 plus citizens who signed the two citizen’s petitions calling for zoning changes (zoning relief, if you will), this group is many times referred to as “some people.”
It sure didn’t feel like “some” as we went door to door and stood outside in good and bad weather speaking with fellow citizens about their thoughts on Watertown’s current development.
It also didn’t feel like “some” to Councilor Palomba who said at the July 11th City Council meeting: “Those names really demonstrate a breadth across the city…” and included names of people “who do not live in areas adjacent to development.”
As Joe Levendusky said, 600 people is a lot of people that are showing dissatisfaction. To quote Joe when referring to the numbers who want change, “I subscribe to the tip of the iceberg.” Now let’s quote Councilor Gardner, who is the only councilor who chose not to say a word at the July 11th City Council meeting, but had plenty to say in her newsletter:
“The Council acknowledged that the petitions signal that some residents have serious concerns about the scale of buildings when they abut single and two-family housing or are in the Central Business District. I also often hear concerns about the need for more housing (especially workforce and affordable housing), greater density to create that housing, and development that supports transportation by means other than single use vehicles.”
There’s that “some” word again … and that “housing” word thrown in for good measure, both implying that the 600 voters who signed the petitions are an insignificant number and that their calling for zoning changes somehow is at odds with providing housing for our citizens.
As astute citizen, Marcia Ciro, commented in Watertown News:
“Our zoning code is way out of date, so this is the way we do zoning in this city: whenever a developer needs a change in zoning to do what they wish, they go to the Planning Dept, who helps them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?”
May I add to Marcia’s comments? Didn’t developers actually write their own zoning code for Arsenal Yards? Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “a business friendly community.” Let me tell you about a beautiful piece of property in Watertown’s west end. It’s big (multiple acres). It’s on the Charles River, with easy access to bike and walking paths and with multiple choices of walkable transportation available.
And because of the outdated zoning, what was it destined to become? A bio lab. Not just any bio lab. A 200,000 square foot bio lab. We need another one of those, right? This one will be right up there with the big boys … the 224,000 square foot 66 Galen St.s lab. Lights on, giant outdoor fans blowing, and traffic from their 525 car garage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, given that this big piece of Watertown property is destined to be yet another bio lab, there’s nothing left to do, right? Wrong!
If we don’t support the folks in this small West Watertown community and neighborhoods in similar situations all over the City, Broder and companies like it will run roughshod over their neighborhoods.
There was a developer meeting in March that 150 concerned residents attended. It didn’t go well for Broder and their plans then.
Because of this, they’ve scheduled another set of developer meetings next week. (Monday, July 17th 6:00 p.m. at the Broder site (60 Acton Street) for a walk through and Tuesday July 18th at 6:00 p.m. on Zoom. (https://bit.ly/broder-community-mtg2). See more info on the meeting and links to the most recent plans by clicking here.
Rumor is the plan hasn’t changed much, just the expectation that waiting till the middle of summer and giving people minimal notice will mean that residents won’t come … Just “some” people will attend … no need to pay attention to them.
I plan to be at these meetings. I don’t live in that tiny neighborhood, but I sure can empathize with being pushed around and ignored by powerful, rich people.
Come. Bring a snack and your thoughts. We all have something to contribute. We are all Watertown!!
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