LETTER: Planning Board Member Explains Comments Made at the July Meeting

Dear Honorable Town Councillors and fellow Planning Board members:

I am writing to you all today in regards to some comments that I made at the July 14th Planning Board meeting, which have apparently caused some consternation amongst several members of the Watertown community at large, and for which I would like to set the record straight:

First of all, I would like to be absolutely clear on the fact that I take public feedback on proposed projects very seriously — in fact, on several occasions during Planning Board meetings, I have expressed my preference to hear comments from the public BEFORE board members add their thoughts and questions, because these comments often influence my own. I always make every effort to read all of the letters and e-mails that are forwarded to us by Planning Staff, even when they are “form letters” where only the author’s name and address are altered, but the text is otherwise identical. My objection, in this case, was to the expectation of having to read dozens of messages that arrived in my Inbox on the afternoon of the meeting, within hours of the meeting start time, which is why I expressed my strong preference to have some sort of “cut-off” time for e-mailed public comments, prior to the meeting. I have no objection whatsoever to hearing any and all public comments, either in person or read into the record from e-mails, live at the hearing.   

As for the letter from 3 members of the WE3C that I read aloud at the meeting, my intent in reading that particular letter was to voice my frustration which was exacerbated by a comment made by a community member on the Zoom call, and for that I apologize to all of you and to the community at large — I realize that, as a member of this board, I need to have a “thicker skin” when it comes to situations like these. In summary, I can assure you that I take my role as a Planning Board member quite seriously, and always value the feedback of members of the public, so long as it is expressed in a respectful manner. I am proud and honored to represent my community on this board, and I hope that people have found my decisions to be fair and thoughtfully considered, even if they do not necessarily agree with the outcomes. Sincerely,

Jason D. Cohen

Watertown Planning Board

Vice-Chair, Community Preservation Committee

New Plan for Arsenal on the Charles Approved by Planning Board, Millions in Mitigation Projects to be Done

New Plan for Arsenal on the Charles Approved by Planning Board, Millions in Mitigation Projects to be Done

Alexandria Real Estate EquitiesA view of Building 2 with a pedestrian plaza in front. It is one of the new additions to the Arsenal on the Charles proposed by Alexandria Real Estate and approved by the Planning Board. The owners of the Arsenal on the Charles complex got approval for changes to the master plan, including three new buildings, and the owners will pay millions in mitigation funding. The plan had been criticized for the number of trees that would be lost in the projects, but the approved plan saves some of those originally slated to be removed. On July 14, the Planning Board gave approval for the amendment to the master plan proposed by Alexandria Real Estate Equities.

Charter Review Group Discusses How Planning, Zoning Board Members are Appointed

The Town of Watertown’s Zoning Map. With development in Watertown being a topic of controversy for the past decade, the Charter Review Committee examined how the two boards overseeing building and development are appointed. At the June 29 meeting of the Charter Review Committee, resident member Marcia Ciro proposed an amendment to the Town Charter, which would change the way the members of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals are appointed. Currently the Town Manager makes the nominations for appointment, and the Council votes to confirm, or not, the person. Ciro proposed having the Town Council appoint the members of both boards.

Planning Board Approves BB&N Fields Project with Objections About Artificial Turf

BB&NA planning document showing the design for the athletic field to be built by Buckingham, Browne & Nichols School on Grove Street. The project has met resistance from residents who oppose using artificial turf on the fields. After receiving many letters and comments opposing the installation of artificial turf at a new athletic complex being proposed by Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, the Planning Board grudgingly approved the project. The decision was made with strong objections by members of the board and after efforts to delay the vote proved unsuccessful. The project would build two athletic fields on property at 165 Grove Street, just north of Filippello Park.

Hearing About Future of Arsenal on the Charles, Plan for Trees on Campus Continues Monday

Alexandria Real Estate EquitiesAn overhead view of the Arsenal on the Charles complex, with the new buildings proposed by Alexandria Real Estate Equities shown in blueish-grey. Arsenal Street runs along the top of the map, and North Beacon Street is the road the curves toward the bottom. Alexandria Real Estate Equities discussed their master plan for the Arsenal on the Charles complex at last Wednesday’s Planning Board meeting. The group will continue the discussion at a special Planning Board meeting on Monday, June 14. The group purchased the property located at 311 Arsenal St.

Town Meetings: Waverley Avenue Renovations, Planning Board Hears Cases & Zoning Changes

Watertown’s Town Hall. On Tuesday, the Town Council will hear about proposed designs for Waverley Avenue and will consider a resolution on declaring a climate emergency. Also during the week of March 8-12, the Planning Board will hear three cases, including a move by the Town’s first marijuana dispensary and changes to the Arsenal on the Charles. Town Council

On the Town Council agenda is a vote on a resolution “Endorsing the Declaration of a Climate Emergency.” See the resolution here.

School Budget to be Presented, 2 Projects at Planning Board & Police Exam

An illustration of the plans for the former Mount Auburn Club at 99 Coolidge Ave. A community meeting will be held Monday about the project. One of the first steps in the making of the Watertown school budget will be presented Monday night, a community meeting will be held about the redevelopment of the Mount Auburn Club site, and the Planning Board will discuss two major projects. Watertown Public Schools administrators will present the Fiscal Year 2022 level services budget at Monday’s School Committee meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. That budget shows how much it would cost to preserve the district’s current staffing and programs, with no additions or cuts. It is typically the first major step in the school budget process.

Planning Board Supports Major Project South of Watertown Square

A view of the proposed life sciences building at 66 Galen Street viewed from Galen Street. Plans for an a new life science building on Galen Street near Watertown Square got praise from the Planning Board for taking steps to address traffic in the area, improving public transportation and creating green space for public use. The board voted unanimously on Jan. 13 to support Boston Development Group’s project at 66 Galen St., which includes the former Colonial GMC dealership and sits next to the MBTA’s Watertown Yard. On Jan.