OP-ED: Decouple Sections of the Watertown Square Plan from the State Housing Requirement

By Linda ScottWatertown Resident

Part Four: “Great things are done by a series of small things done together.” – Vincent van Gogh

Part One: We looked at the results of the June 13 joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Board and why public input is so important. Part Two: We looked at our City’s failing public communication system and how, for some, this might be politically advantageous. Part Three: We looked at my experiences meeting with Watertown residents and looked at the one part of the Watertown Square Area Plan with a deadline: The MBTA Law Compliance (zoning for 1,701 State mandated housing units). Today, in Part 4, we’ll look at the other components (topics) of change (with no deadline, but which are being forced into one plan and one quick deadline by the City). These topics would benefit from a slower, more thorough and nuanced approach.

OP-ED: What I Learned Speaking to Watertown Residents; MBTA Law Deadline

By Linda ScottWatertown Resident

Part Three: “If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.” Mark Twain

This simultaneously cynical and humorous quote by Mark Twain would just about summarize the feelings of the many disaffected voters in Watertown at this time. As I walked Watertown streets with informational flyers, knocking on doors, having really full and substantive conversations with residents, the phrase I heard most often was “disappointed in the decisions our Council has been making and the direction this City is taking.”

I heard stories about how and why they came to Watertown and what kept them here. I heard how year after year decisions made by our government are making it less compelling for them to stay. Everyone had a story … the man whose oncology researcher sister-in-law left a brand new apartment on Pleasant Street (and Watertown) a few years back, because the rat problem was so out of control.

Save the Date for the Next Watertown Square Area Plan Meeting

The City of Watertown provided the following information:

Save the Date: The Joint Hearing to discuss the Watertown Square Area Plan will continue on June 27, 2024 at 6pm in the Watertown Middle School Auditorium at 68 Waverley Avenue in Watertown. This is a continuation of the Joint Hearing held on June 13 in the same location. We encourage everyone to visit the project website to learn more, and to access the plan document (PDF). This Hearing will be a hybrid meeting, meaning you have the opportunity to join virtually on Zoom or in-person. You will also be able to watch the Hearing live online on WCA-TV.

OP-ED: Reflections on the First Watertown Square Plan Hearing

By Linda ScottWatertown Resident

Part 1: Thomas Jefferson: “That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.”

At last Thursday night’s Joint Hearing of the City Council and the Planning Board, the purpose was to gather community information and evaluate the Watertown Square Area Plan. According to Watertown News: “A large group of people supported the plan…” and “A significant number of people spoke out against parts of the project.”

This description is both brief and accurate. Many Watertown residents went to the podium to announce their “strong support” for this plan and/or to support it with the caveat that they’d like even more density. One by one, community members, finding no reason to look deeper into this plan, went up to the podium and started their comments with a cookie-cutter like “I strongly support this plan” and “I don’t think it goes far enough.”

They’d be a bit more convincing if some residents who agreed with this position hadn’t chosen to hold up their middle fingers and hiss behind the backs of those people who had more substantive and nuanced questions to be answered. Every Watertown resident is entitled to be heard, without such disrespectful antics.

LETTER: Green Infrastructure Must be Part of the Watertown Square Area Plan

The following letter was submitted to be read at the June 13, 2024 Watertown Square Area Plan meeting:

Dear Vincent, Watertown Planning Board, and Watertown City Council:

I am sorry I cannot attend in person this evening, so I hope that this can go on the Public record as my comment:

—–

First, I just want to say that I have been excited to hear about the plans for Watertown Square to develop the area — much-needed improvements in public transportation, walkability, bike-ability, drive-ability, housing, local businesses, and our community as a whole, and I can say that the people of Watertown have very much appreciated your including the residents in the planning process. We have had the chance to voice our concerns, and we are grateful for that. 

Thank you to all of those who are working to make this the best plan for Watertown. I realize there is momentum to give the plan a GREEN light. However, please hear me out when I say tonight that I think that as good as this plan is, there is still a huge, critical piece that is missing and a means to make this plan much better for the future of Watertown. I hope that with my speaking up tonight, members of the Planning Board and City Council, and hopefully also any residents of Watertown who are listening, will consider taking the necessary steps to further optimize the plan to encompass that which is missing: 

Urban Ecological Planning and Living Green Infrastructure.

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.

Watertown Square Meeting Thursday Night, Kids Activities Available

The City of Watertown provided the following information:

The Watertown Square Area Plan will be discussed at the upcoming Joint City Council and Planning Board Hearing on June 13 at 6 PM in the Watertown Middle School Auditorium. The Hearing will include a presentation from the Project Team, followed by an opportunity for public comment. You can access the full agenda for the Joint Hearing here. 

You can access the plan document on the project’s website or in the above agenda packet to learn about the Draft Plan. This Hearing is a hybrid meeting and you can give public comment either in-person or virtually. To join virtually, you can access the Hearing on June 13 by using this Zoom link, which can also be found on the project’s website and in the agenda above. The City of Watertown’s Recreation Department will also be hosting a “kids-space” during the Hearing for kids ages 5-12 in the Middle School Cafeteria to accommodate those attending! 

Printed copies of the Plan Document can be found at the Watertown Library and Senior Center. You can learn more about the project at the Watertown Square Area Plan website, where you can also reach out with any questions about the Joint Hearing.

OP-ED: Watertown Square Redesign Lacks Public Transit Improvement Plan

Watertown Square. (Photo by City of Watertown)

By Mark Pickering

Watertown stands at a crossroads – on two separate issues. What we do now will guide the city’s way into the future. One question is whether to continue to be a city that emphasizes the use of cars and ignores public transit. The other question is whether to allow the construction of taller buildings in the Square.