May 2014 Update

Dear Sustainable Watertown,

The month of May marks the beginning of major development project presentations in Watertown particularly along Arsenal Street. These building projects will change the face and feel of Watertown forever. Our mission of sustainability has focused our attention on supporting the aspects of new development which will improve Watertown while maintaining the character and characteristics of town. The Vision component of the proposed Comprehensive Plan for Watertown includes protecting our residential neighborhoods. It allows major construction along Arsenal and Pleasant Streets with densities and heights of buildings massed in a way very new in Watertown. It proclaims that access to and street side views of the Charles River are important to protect. We hope it also protects and supports our wonderful variety of local, independent businesses all of which give flavor to our diverse and vibrant community. We look to forward-thinking designs and conceptualizations for what Watertown will need and want to look like in the future. We need your participation. We look forward to working with our Planning Department and Planning and Zoning Boards and the Town Council for excellent new projects.

An architect who is doing a lot of thinking about social contexts, Mark Lakeman from Portland, Oregon has been thinking about designing for community. He talks about re-defining scale “more in terms of richness and complexity than by largeness. This has become not only appropriate in the light of resource scarcity, but has become a vital imperative in the gigantic context of climate change. We can indeed continue to grow in terms of depth, quality, and the multiplicity of relational connections, but no longer merely in terms of size-as-benefit.” He also talks about “design as a means to build community.” For us perhaps this means making sure that the new projects, which are huge in the context of the old Watertown, contain the quality, environmental benefits, place-based sensibility, and a multiplicity of relational connections for the residents who will live there, but also for the new residents to have a multiplicity of relational connections with our community.

We hope that you will participate in the public hearings at the Planning Board this month and later at the Zoning Board. If you have not been part of our Neighborhood Network which met to discuss the plans, do use the links below to find the plans for the development at 202 Arsenal Street. There is a Special Meeting of the Planning Board, May 8, 7PM, Town Hall Council Chambers devoted solely to this project. While we would have preferred that this discussion start at the regularly scheduled Planning Board meeting, May 14, you will have another opportunity for public comment that night as well. We hope with a project of this magnitude and importance as a precedent-setting development that you will join in the discussion and stimulate and support the careful and full deliberation of our Boards.

We have learned that Zoning regulations determine how our town will look and function. The May 14 hearing at the Planning Board will also take up a major amendment to the Zoning codes for an Arsenal Overlay Development District (AODD) by AthenaHealth which owns all of the historic part of the Arsenal west of the Mall buildings. This amendment creates "implementation of a master plan" for development within an Athena “campus.” The master plan is not definite. Our Planning Department has built in some protections for the town, but this is a complicated measure with fast track determination of special permits. Your full consideration of the details is required for conscientious comment. Please see the links below for the full draft of the amendments to the AODD. Again, your knowledgeable participation will help support a careful deliberation process by the Planning Board and then the Town Council which has the final say on zoning changes.

THURSDAY, MAY 8, SPECIAL MEETING, PLANNING BOARD: 7PM, Council Chambers. Specifically set up for developer presentation, staff report, Board comments and questions, and public comment of 202 ARSENAL STREET. 297 apartments with small amount of retail and supermarket. Discussion to be continued May 14.
Related links:
Hanover proposal for 297 unit apartment building with some retail plus Cresset/WC proposal for supermarket. There are a number of reports, including schematic drawings and traffic analyses, etc:
Vision and Land Use Proposal for the Comprehensive Plan:
Staff Report: The Planning Department contact information is on the town website, Community Development and Planning.
Public Comment: It is supposed to be attached to the Staff Report, but we could not find it. You can find Sustainable Watertown’s Neighborhood Network groups comments and the Summary of discussion at the Developer Meeting along with areas of concern not discussed at Go to the tab at the top that says Initiatives and click on the Development page. The public comments on 202 Arsenal Street are there along with a letter about retail which is relevant.
For other information, here’s the drill: go to, right hand corner, find Document Center, click on Community Development and Planning, under that, Cases, then look for the street address of the project you want info about, check several listings for that address and start reading.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 14, REGULARLY SCHEDULED MEETING OF THE PLANNING BOARD: 7PM Council Chambers. There is an individual case, plus continued discussion of 202 ARSENAL STREET. In addition,
1) Athena Arsenal LLC, 311 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA 02472, herein requests the Zoning Board of Appeals
grant a Special Permit in accordance with Watertown Zoning Ordinance §9.11, Temporary Structures, so as toallow (3) temporary structures, each measuring 10’x20’, and each with a 15’x10’ canopy. AODD (Arsenal Overlay Development District) ZBA

2)Arsenal Overlay Development District (AODD) Text Amendment
Athena Arsenal LLC requests an amendment to the Arsenal Overlay Development District (AODD) of the Watertown Zoning Ordinance. The first reading before the Honorable Town Council was April 8, 2014. As stated, the requested amendments allow the implementation of a master plan to create a vibrant campus for athenahealth , Inc. as well as the residents of Watertown. The amendments would modify the retail categories to allow small scale retail uses through special permit, increase height for new construction, and clarify the permit process for the AODD. The amendment would also incorporate amendments made by the Watertown Arsenal Development Corporation at the time the site was first redeveloped and make ministerial changes. The WZO amendment language is available for review in the Office and Website of the Department of Community Development and Planning.
PLEASE READ THE DOCUMENT AS AMENDED BY THE PLANNING DEPARTMENT. YOUR CAREFUL CONSIDERATION IS NEEDED DURING THE DELIBERATION PROCESS OF THE PLANNING BOARD AND THEN THE TOWN COUNCIL. Fast track approval is granted here as it was in the Pleasant St Corridor which decreases the number of hearings at which there is public comment.

One more item for May 14: Walker (Beacon) School wants to build an addition. This organization owns the 1848 farmhouse on Belmont Street which they applied to demolish last year.

Thanks for all you do,
Please contact us at with your suggestions and questions. Proposals for hotel at Saab site, Pirolli (another 300 apartments), and possibly the AthenaHealth campus plan next time.

Sustainable Watertown

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