OP-ED: What I Learned Speaking to Watertown Residents; MBTA Law Deadline

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By Linda Scott
Watertown Resident

Part Three: “If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.” Mark Twain

This simultaneously cynical and humorous quote by Mark Twain would just about summarize the feelings of the many disaffected voters in Watertown at this time.

As I walked Watertown streets with informational flyers, knocking on doors, having really full and substantive conversations with residents, the phrase I heard most often was “disappointed in the decisions our Council has been making and the direction this City is taking.”

I heard stories about how and why they came to Watertown and what kept them here. I heard how year after year decisions made by our government are making it less compelling for them to stay.

Everyone had a story … the man whose oncology researcher sister-in-law left a brand new apartment on Pleasant Street (and Watertown) a few years back, because the rat problem was so out of control.

The man who asked if there’s a way to speak with the City about the damage done to his property during the building of 66 Galen.

The guy who said, “The Councilors don’t even give out their phone numbers anymore so we can reach them.” When I tried to explain how to go online to get that information, his eyes kind of glazed over … oh, no computer access, I thought. I made a note. I’ll go back to his house with a printed copy of the numbers that he’s looking for.

The overall reception to me and my friend’s door-knocking was gratifying. Someone actually cared enough to seek out their opinions and to fill them in on what’s happening.

One young guy who lives within yards of 66 Galen said, “I didn’t even know that all of this was happening until April 4th, when that big crowd of people descended on 66 Galen!

I gave him and others who had access and skill with a computer the address for Watertown News, but that does not release the City from its obligation to keep these voters informed.

Let’s go back to the issues at hand, the ones that George Proakis would like the City Council and Planning Board to approve in just 2 meetings (approximately 6 hours). We’ll look at the MBTA Law now, because that is the most pressing (with a deadline). We’ll look at the other 3 issues tomorrow in Part 4.

Important Topic Number One (has a deadline December 31, 2024): Fulfilling the MBTA Law Mandate

First, and most pressing, the required MBTA zoning plan for 1,701 more housing units does have a deadline … December 31, 2024. What are we missing? An actual map that circumscribes ONLY the 1,701 units required for this plan. We may be very close to completion on this. Six months should be more than enough to work out the kinks and compromises, once we are provided with that specific and elusive map.

In my walks around Watertown with the flyers, I noted that one small neighborhood in Watertown would seem to bear the a large part of the burden of this plan:

In addition to being surrounded by very tall buildings, the new streetscape plan for the Watertown Square Area would turn their small streets into busy cut-throughs. This needs to be scrutinized and discussed and given the attention and due diligence it and those residents deserve.

Another Watertown resident told me: “I know that the plan [which has large housing developments with smaller parking requirements] is to allow the parking space shortages and traffic distributions into nearby neighborhoods and let the people adjust to it. Speck states that very carefully and subtly in his seminar videos that I have seen. I want the Planning Board to admit publicly to that or present a plan of how to manage it.”

Here’s another issue: with the increase in people coming to live in these 1,701 state mandated Watertown housing units (estimates could be 3,400 people or more) and expecting them to use the “T,” what is the City’s plan for accommodating these folks? Our “T” connections are already overburdened.

Tomorrow: Part Four: “Great things are done by a series of small things done together.” – Vincent van Gogh

Send letters to watertownmanews@gmail.com Note: letters may not be posted until the following day, or later.

2 thoughts on “OP-ED: What I Learned Speaking to Watertown Residents; MBTA Law Deadline

  1. It’s shameful and an insult to *all* residents that an option for the 1,701 units was never even offered or discussed at length.

    If the City Manger, Planning Board and City Council fails in their duty to address this issue the only option would be to submit a Citizens Petition to the City Clerk signed by at least 150 registered voters (the more the better), to be certified and presented to the Council.The City Charter requires that they have 3 months to hold a public hearing on the matter. Even if it fails or passes by a wide margin at least residents would have had their day in court and neither the pro 1,701units proponents nor the pro 3,000+ units supporters SHOULD have a valid reason to complain (I put should in bold because inevitably some will still complain)

  2. As to Donna’s comment, there have been numerous residents raising the question of either a Citizens Petition or Referendum being submitted. If we want to be truly transparent in this process, this may be the only option so that more citizens can be informed of what is going on in a much better way and have an actual vote. Many people feel that a 1701 option should be presented and so far it hasn’t.

    The City doesn’t seem to want to send postcard notices to all residents with all the details for upcoming meetings. Only by having everyone in the loop can we feel that the majority of people’s ideas and thoughts are considered and get the best possible outcome.

    How much density and City character-changing plans do homeowners want when they’ve put their life savings into their homes based on what our City was like when they purchased their homes here? How much of their tax money will be used to develop plans they may or may not agree with?

    Separate the housing and traffic issues. have more meetings and inform ALL residents well in advance so they know how they will be impacted by the proposed plans in the City as a whole and in their individual neighborhoods.

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