City Council & Planning Board Weigh In on Watertown Square Area Plan

Traffic flows and affordable housing remained front and center issues for city officials who gathered on June 27th to discuss — for the second time this year — the comprehensive redevelopment plan for Watertown Square. The discussion among the City Councilors and Planning Board members circled around what the sticking points of the Watertown Square Area Plan were and how, exactly, they should move forward. “Watertown Square is a failed concept. It’s been failing for 30 years. We need housing.

Latest Draft of Watertown Square Area Plan Has Some Changes, More Detail

Public Weighed-in on Proposal at Thursday’s Meeting, No Vote Taken

City Manager George Proakis presents the Watertown Square Area Plan draft to the Planning Board and City Council on Thursday night at Watertown Middle School. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

City officials presented the latest draft of the Watertown Square Area Plan to the public on Thursday night, but the City Council and Planning Board did not take a vote on the proposal. They will reconvene in two weeks to continue discussing the report. At the meeting held at Watertown Middle School, City Manager George Proakis said even when the draft is approved, it will not be the end of the process. Rather, he paraphrased a Winston Churchill quote from World War II,

“I actually think we are at the end of the beginning of this process by handing you over a plan,” Proakis said.

Resident Wanted to Serve as Alternate Member of Planning Board

The following announcement was provided by the City of Watertown:

City Manager George J. Proakis is seeking community-minded residents to become an Alternate Member of the Planning Board. Are you interested in shaping the overall future of our City? Then the Planning Board might be just the thing for you.  

You will have opportunities to participate in the review and discussion of new plans and projects proposed within the City. Candidates should have background in architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, land-use planning, construction, or any related fields. 

The Planning Board meets the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 7:00 p.m.

Interested applicants should submit a letter of interest accompanied by a resume or other information concerning background or experience by email to or City Manager’s Office, 149 Main Street, Watertown, Massachusetts 02472.

Planning Board Supports Having Limited Short Term Rentals in Watertown

The question of whether to allow homes in Watertown to be used as short term rentals, such as Airbnb and VRBO, has been discussed for several years. It took a step toward being a reality when the Planning Board recommended that the City Council adopt a Zoning ordinance that adds short term rentals as an allowed use. The amendment, however, would limit who could offer short term rentals and for how long. The amendment sent to the Planning Board on March 13 changed significantly from the one that it saw in 2021, said Larry Field, a Senior Planner in the Department of Community Development and Planning. Two types of short term rentals would be allowed, a home share (when one, or more, bedroom is rented out while the owner is present) and a whole home rental (when the owner is not present).

This Week: Short Term Rentals, Increase Tax Exemptions & Study of City Council Salaries

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on whether to allow short-term rentals in Watertown. A City Council committee will look at increasing the exemption allowed on personal property, which would reduce the burden on businesses. The full Council will meet Tuesday and discuss establishing a committee to examine Councilor salaries. Monday night at 6 p.m., the City Council’s Committee on Budget and Fiscal Oversight will discuss increasing the personal property tax exemption from $5,000 to $10,000. The Watertown Business Coalition supports the idea, saying it would give some tax relief to small businesses.

Life Science Campus at Former Cannistraro Site Approved

A view of the life science building from Acton Street in the newly approved project on the former Cannistraro property on Pleasant Street. (Courtesy of Broder)

The Planning Board approved plans to build a life science cluster on land off of Pleasant Street, but had concerns about the proximity of the project to the residential neighborhood to the north. The hearing at Wednesday night’s meeting was the second for the project, and it lasted more than 3.5 hours. The complex will have add a four-story, 133,324 sq. ft.

This Week: Council Considering Snow Shoveling Requirement, Project at Former Cannistraro Site

A rendering of the proposed life science project at former Cannistraro property on Pleasant Street, Rosedale Road, and Acton Street. (Courtesy of Broder)

The City Council will be considering a requirement for residents to shovel sidewalks on Tuesday night, and Wednesday the Planning Board will hear the proposal for a biotech campus on Pleasant Street. The City Council’s agenda includes the amendment to the Snow and Ice Removal Ordinance that would require sidewalks in front of residential properties to be cleared within 24 hours of the end of a storm. The first violation would get a written warning, the second faces at $50 fine and third and later in one winter would get a $100 fine. There are exceptions for people “who are unable to meet the physical requirements of this section, particularly for low-income, elderly, or disabled residents, or for other unusual circumstances.”

The Council meets on Tuesday, Jan.

This Week: Council to Consider ARPA Proposals, Cannistraro Project Continued

The City Council will be considering what to do with Watertown’s $10 million-plus in federal ARPA funds this week, and also, the Planning Board will not be hearing the proposed project on the former Cannistraro site on Pleasant Street until next meeting. The agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting includes vote on the resolution for how to spend Watertown’s appropriation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds. The Council received more than 30 applications for a portion of the money. Applications came from City departments, local non-profits, and even resident groups. A Council committee heard from some of the applicants and produced a list of recommended proposals to fund.