Town Council Weighing How to Handle Airbnb & Other Short-Term Rentals

Watertown appears to be headed toward allowing short-term rentals in town, such as Airbnb and Vrbo, but will create a set of regulations to require them to be registered with the Town and limit the occupants. The Town Council’s Rules & Ordinances Committee voted on March 29 to move a proposed change to the Zoning Ordinance to the Town Council. The amendment would have to be reviewed by the Planning Board which would make a recommendation to the Town Council, which has the final decision. The Committee also discussed regulations for short-term rentals, which are defined as a rental for fewer than 31 days. Currently, short-term rentals are not allowed as part of Watertown’s Zoning Board’s list of uses, but Councilor Anthony Donato said that hasn’t stopped people from operating them.

Noise Ordinance Voted Down by Council, Request Made for New Effort

Watertown Town Hall

The Town Council voted down the proposed Noise Ordinance with those opposed saying they thought the proposal was too complicated and difficult to enforce, but the issue will likely be taken up by the Council again. The Council held a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss the proposal and to hear from residents. Some residents gave examples of noises that they said impact their quality of life, including noise from amplified music at parks, loud activities at churches not having to do with religious services, and leaf blowers and other landscaping equipment. Others talked about activities on construction sites starting before 7 a.m. when it is allowed. People who opposed the ordinance worried about their ability to do yard work if they cannot finish by 5 p.m., the end of the allowable period.

Watertown Charter Review Update: Important Upcoming Meeting, Info on Process

Watertown’s Town Hall. The following information was provided by Watertown Forward:

Important Upcoming Events and Opportunities to Weigh In

The next Charter Review Committee meeting on April 6 is particularly important. This will be a special Public Forum at which CRC members will hear the arguments and opinions of Watertown residents on what overall government structure they want — a Council/Manager (present form) or a Mayor/Council form of government. The CRC is expected to vote on the question — after any members of the public who want to offer their views have a few minutes to speak. Watertown Forward is hosting a virtual meeting in advance of the CRC meeting, where people can learn about the two options.

OP-ED: The Truth About the Proposed Noise Ordinance

The Truth about the Noise Ordinance

I read Councilor Woodland’s Op-Ed of March 18th on the proposed Noise Ordinance with dismay. It was filled with misleading claims and fear mongering tactics. I feel it is necessary to clear up some misconceptions. 

In order to make his points Councilor Woodland left out key elements of the ordinance which alter the meaning of several quotes that he chose to share. For instance, he asserts that the “proposed ordinance caps permissible noise from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in residential areas (more than 10 minutes long) between 55-60 dbA (depending on duration)” and since conversation is 60 dbA it would outlaw talking. However he neglects to mention that the dbA at the source is not relevant.

Watertown Resident Named Vice Chair of EPA Board, Fellow of Scientific Association

Dr. Barbara Beck. Watertown resident Barbara Beck, a longtime member of the Board of Health, received two recent honors involving her work in toxicology. Recently she was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and was also appointed to serve as vice chair of the Science Advisory Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Becoming an AAAS fellow was a recognition by Beck’s peers. “It is really an honor. It doesn’t involve any activities,” Beck said.

Watertown’s Capital Budget Includes School Projects, Park Improvements & Mt. Auburn St. Funds

Watertown Town Hall

Town Council approved $22.2 million in projects and equipment purchases as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 capital spending plan, including funds for the elementary and high school building projects, improvements to Town parks and the Mt. Auburn Street reconstruction. The plan has 33 items on it. The Town Council’s budget policy is to spend between 7.5 and 8 percent of the total Town budget on capital spending. Council Vice President Vincent Piccirilli, who is chair of the Budget & Fiscal Oversight Committee, said the figure would represent 14.02 percent of the projected Town expenditures, or 7.11 percent without the $10.9 million earmarked for the school building projects.

Town’s Website Adds Options to Assist Users With Visual, Auditory Challenges

The Town of Watertown’s website has added an accessibility feature for people with visual, auditory and other sensory disabilities. They can be accessed by clicking on the button circled in yellow. The following information was provided by the Town of Watertown:

Watertown has launched a website enhancement that leverages the most advanced digital accessibility remediation technology to ensure equitable access to local information, news, and resources for all citizens. The new, integrated accessibility enhancements enable the website’s content to be consumable by individuals with visual, auditory, and other sensory disabilities both with and without assistive technology devices. The website’s accessibility technology is made possible through the Town’s use of CivicPlus’ CivicEngage website design and hosting solution and AudioEye Inc., CivicPlus’ exclusive accessibility remediation solution provider.

OP-ED: Proposed Noise Ordinance Effectively Bans Lawn Mowers, Leaf Blowers

The Proposed Noise Ordinance Effectively Bans All Residential and Commercial Leaf Blowers/Lawn Mowers & Will Have Significant Other Negative Effects on Watertown Residents

On September 12, 2017 (yes 2017), the Town Council was asked to consider an issue brought up by the then Health Director regarding the Town’s noise ordinance. The reason? A resident, who lives next to the Commander’s mansion, claimed the landscaper who cuts the grass around the mansion was violating Watertown’s noise ordinance by cutting the grass too early in the morning. The Health Department disagreed. They reasoned that the noise ordinance, in its current form, exempts domestic lawnmowers and although the ordinance did not explicitly mention exempting commercial lawnmowers like the ones used outside the mansion, such a strict interpretation would likely place all commercial landscaping equipment in violation of the ordinance and result in a complete ban of such activity (whichclearly was not the intent of the ordinance).