Town Charter Changes Proposed to Allow Council to Hire Staff, Hold a State of the Town Meeting Annually

Watertown Town Hall

Allowing the Town Council to hire staff to help them with their work, adding language to spell out the Council’s power, and requiring annual State of the Town meetings are some of the changes being considered by the Watertown Charter Review Committee. The Committee began looking at ways to alter the current Town Charter Tuesday, at the first meeting following their vote to keep the current form of government with a Town Council and the Town Manager serving as the executive rather than changing to one with a mayor as the executive. Assistants for the Council

The Committee’s consultant, Michael Ward from UMass Boston’s Collins Center, brought up some possible changes to address concerns raised at previous meetings. One issue raised was the Council’s ability to do its work, and having enough capacity to handle the duties of the Council. One way Ward suggested to address that issue was adding a piece to the Legislative section of the charter which would allow the Town Council to hire staff to help them with areas such as research into municipal issues, financial analysis or other areas.

Town Council Approves Creation of Watertown Public Arts and Culture Committee

The Town Council approved the creation of the Public Arts and Culture Committee, which will make recommendations for public art similar to the mural painted at Uncommon Grounds, as well as cultural events. A Public Arts and Culture Committee will be appointed by the Town Council to make recommendations on public art and cultural programs in Watertown. The Town Council approved the committee’s creation on Tuesday night. It will have nine members and will make recommendations that must be approved by the Town Manager and Town Council. The Public Arts and Cultural Committee’s recommendations will fall into two areas, according to the Town Council’s resolution:

Art in Public Places: Permanent, semi-permanent, temporary, and ephemeral artworks and activations that create a vibrant, welcoming, inclusive, and connected public realm.

LETTER: Town Councilor Announces Resignation to Take Position With State

Ken Woodland, District D Town Councilor, announced he will be resigning to take a position with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. After 9+ years of service on the Town Council, this morning I submitted my resignation as Watertown’s District D Town Councilor, effective immediately. I have accepted a position with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that does not permit me to simultaneously hold an elected role in local government. It has been the honor of my life to serve on the Town Council. I’ve lived my entire life in Watertown and my decision to run for office and serve the Town was inspired by the close-knit community experiences that have defined my life here.

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.

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.