This Week: ZBA Hears Main Street Project, Budget Hearings, Library Director Search

A view of the project proposed for 104-126 Main St. viewed from Main Street. (Illustration by Icon Architecture)

The six-story retail and commercial project on Main Street will be heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals, the City Council will hold two budget hearings, and the Library Board of Trustees will continue discussing the process for hiring a new Library Director. The Zoning Board of Appeals will hear the mixed use project at 104-126 Main St. that was discussed by the Planning Board in April and May.

Council to Meet With City Departments at 3 Budget Hearings

Watertown City Hall

The following announcement was provided by the City of Watertown:

In accordance with the Watertown City Charter and the Council Rules, the Honorable City Council will meet, as the Committee of the Whole, for the purpose of holding public hearings on the City Manager’s Proposed Budget for the Fiscal Year 2024. The public hearings on the City Manager’s Proposed Budget for the Fiscal Year 2024 will be held as follows:

Tuesday, May 23, 2023 – 6 PM

City CouncilCity ManagerCity AuditorProcurementCity AssessorTreasurer / CollectorCity Attorney

Thursday, May 25, 2023 – 6 PM

Human ResourcesInformation TechnologyCity Clerk / ElectionsCommunity Development & PlanningConstituent ServicesParking Lots & MetersPublic BuildingsLibraryRecreation Departments         Non-Department Appropriations, (Debt, Capital Projects, Etc.)

Tuesday, June 6, 2023 – 6 PM

Health and Human Services DepartmentsSchool DepartmentPublic Safety DepartmentsDepartment of Public Works         Water & Sewer Enterprise Budgets

Department Heads will be available for questions at the above scheduled hearings. Under this schedule, it is anticipated that the Honorable City Council will take formal action on the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget at its regular meeting on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. The hearing will begin at approximately 8 PM. The Fiscal Year 2024 General Fund Budget, as proposed, totals $190,325,000.

City Will Distribute $10.5M in ARPA Funds, Several Groups Have Ideas for How to Spend It

The kitchen at the Belmont-Watertown United Methodist Church — the site of the Watertown Food Pantry, needs upgrading. The church is applying for some of the City of Watertown’s ARPA funds, with which Pastor Gary Richards hopes to create a space open to the community. Photo by Maya Shwayder. Watertown has $10.5 million to spend, and the clock is ticking! The City Council will be the ones divvying up the dollars, but Councilors will have to choose from a long (and growing) list of proposals:

The Department of Public Works needs around $5 million to replace Watertown’s crumbling water and sewer infrastructure.

Council Thanks Longtime Personnel Director on Her Retirement

Gayle Shattuck

This week the City Council bid farewell to longtime Personnel Director Gayle Shattuck on her retirement after 19 years working for the Watertown’s municipal government. The City of Waterotwn sent out the following announcement, including the proclamation approved by the Council:

Congratulations to Gayle Shattuck on her retirement after serving as the City’s Personnel Director! Thank you for your 19 years of service and also for serving as the liaison on the Commission on Disabilities! Here is the Proclamation from the Watertown City Council:

WHEREAS: The quality of life and spirit in a community is enhanced by the commitment and willingness of an employee to give of her time and talents during employment; and,

WHEREAS: Gayle M. Shattuck is being honored by the City Council, the Administration, Colleagues and Community Members for her nineteen years of dedicated service to the Watertown community, and,

WHEREAS: Ms. Shattuck came to Wate11own with a long-standing tradition of serving others in both not-for-profit organizations and municipal public service: she served as the Central Middlesex ARC Program Director in Woburn, Massachusetts for fourteen years from 1980-1994, promoting and protecting the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and as a Human Resources Specialist for the Town of Lexington, Massachusetts for ten years from 1994 until 2004, directly responsible for personnel administration for all Town, Public Safety, and School Department employees; and,

WHEREAS: Gayle M. Shattuck was appointed by Town/City Manager Michael J. Driscoll as the Personnel Director for Town/City of Watertown on February 26, 2004, for which she discharged her duties professionally, faithfully, fairly, and honorably; and,

WHEREAS: During Gayle’s tenure, she served on various committees assisting the Administration and City Council on Screening Committees of Candidates, Budget and Bargaining Teams, and as the liaison for the Commission on Disability; and,

WHEREAS: Ms. Shattuck worked tirelessly in her understated manner to be a strong advocate to the Commission on Disabilities by developing policies and procedures, suppo1iing their mission to serve those affected with disabilities and their families; and she served consecutively up until her retirement on Friday, April 28, 2023; and,

WHEREAS: Gayle, in her retirement, can now enjoy her time with her beloved husband, Mark, and her two “favorite” sons, Brian and Derek as they continue to share her joy of traveling … “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey!”

Linkage Fee Approved by City Council, Developers Have Longer to Make Payment

Charlie BreitroseWatertown City Hall

The City Council approved a linkage fee on large developments that would be used to create affordable housing in Watertown. The ordinance also spreads the fees into two payments and the City can consider offers of housing units or land in lieu of the fee. Before they deliberated and voted, the Council heard from people advocating for changes to the proposed ordinance. Charles River Regional Chamber President Greg Reibman, who represented multiple developers who do business in Watertown, asked to delay the start of the fees until 2024, and phase in the amount starting with $5.56 per sq. ft.

LETTER: Residents Ask Council to Increase Linkage Fee to $15/Sq. Ft.

Note to reader: There has been a lot of talk recently in Watertown about the need for more affordable housing. One thing everyone in Watertown can do to help build more affordable housing is to attend the City Council Meeting on 4/11 at 7:00 PM and voice their support for proposed linkage fee ordinance that would raise money for affordable housing by applying a modest fee to new large non-residential developments in the city. While there is some debate about the exact fee amount (below is a copy of our letter to the City Council outlining the case for a $15/sqft fee), the most important issue to make sure the linkage fee is implemented as soon as possible, so we do not lose out on any more funds for affordable housing. 

Dear City Council President Sideris and City Councilors Gardner, Feltner, Piccirilli, Izzo, Airasian, Bays, Gannon, and Palomba:

We applaud the City Council’s efforts to promote affordable housing, first by establishing the Watertown Affordable Housing Trust and now by working with our state delegation to establish a linkage fee to directly fund affordable housing development. As the council considers enactment of the linkage fee, we urge the council to adopt a linkage fee of $15 per square foot, which our technical analysis below shows is in line with recent increases in residential construction costs not measured by the original Nexus study published last year. The Nexus study published last April recommended the council consider a linkage fee in the range of $9.44 to $11.12, which balances raising revenue for affordable housing while maintaining Watertown’s competitive position in the commercial (mainly focusing on life sciences) development space.

This Week: Main St. Project at Planning Board, School Budget & Council Considers Linkage Fees

Charlie BreitroseWatertown’s City Hall. 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.

Meetings to Check Out: Voc Ed Report, Discussion of Neighbor Notifications of Projects

The School Committee will hear the report on Career and Vocations Education Monday, a Council Committee will discuss notification of proposed projects, and the implementation of the City’s Climate and Energy Plan will be discussed. Also the Council will vote on the replacement of the Filippello Park spray pad. Upcoming meetings:

The Council’s Committee on Climate and Energy will discuss implementation of the City’s Climate & Energy Plan on Monday, March 27 at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall and remote. See more info here. The School Committee will get the final report from the Career, Vocational Technical Eduction Committee and will hear about the State’s Comprehensive Audit. Monday, March 27 at 7 p.m. at Cunniff Elementary School, 246 Warren St. See more here. The Council’s Committee on Economic Development and Planning will discuss enhanced public notification of to neighbors about projects.