Economic Development


Neighbors Have Requests for Proposed Athenahealth Project

Here’s a letter from a group of members about the Arsenal Overlay Development District. Note: the 50 ft height of any garage comments on the current height regulation limitation which is being debated on the Zoning Board. It does not mean that a 50 ft height on any garage is wanted.

From the letter:

We appreciate the Town Council’s delay on the vote for AthenaHealth’s proposal for changes to the AODD. We are assuming they have realized, like we have, that we need more details from them in order to make an informed decision. Any changes to the AODD should be considered with the future in mind: how will these changes affect Watertown’s ability to control what happens on that property while AthenaHealth owns it, as well as after they have gone. We hope AthenaHealth stays for the long term and works with the town in good faith, but businesses come and go, so we shouldn’t give away our rights to some determination on that property.

Read the entire Watertown News Letter to the Editor

AODD Ordinance Amendment

Dear Town Councilors,

Please accept the following comment and recommendation about the proposed amendment to the AODD provisions of the Zoning Ordinance.

Praise: I look forward to realization of what I understand Athenahealth’s vision to be: an active corporate campus that invites community presence through on-site retail, recreation and cultural offerings, and that is respectful of the existing and evolving adjacent neighborhoods and the wider Town. I am excited to live nearby. Based on Athenahealth’s corporate success and the few personnel I’ve met, I have hope that this vision will be creatively and professionally executed, and Watertown residents will be proud to host the Athenahealth headquarters.

Criticism: If I lived on North Beacon opposite the Arsenal, I would fear that allowing a 90’ high garage as of right would be too much of an imposition on the quality of my neighborhood. By allowing a 90’ high garage of right, the proposed new AODD ordinance requires residents to visualize in 3D something that isn’t designed, and to have sufficient faith in Athenahealth and the Watertown permitting process to believe that a 90’ height will be designed wisely, to minimize the visual impact of the new garage. The proposed AODD amendment does not appear to address residents’ concerns. The legitimate fears of the neighborhood could be addressed by having a tighter baseline control – that is, making the 79’ height the “of right” height limit — but allow the Planning Board to give a height bonus by special permit under certain reasonable conditions.

Revision: In plain language, the AODD could be changed to say that a project does not have a right to a 90’ high garage but may be given permission to go to 90’ by a special permit only if the project creates open space equal to the bonus parking garage area allowed by the 90’ height, has a green roof (not parking) at the 90’ level, and, most importantly, the Planning Board affirmatively finds that the height will not adversely affect the residential neighborhoods*.

To that end, the proposed amendment should be revised by changing section 5.12(e)(2) as follows: in the first sentence, delete from the words, “except that the maximum height…” to the end of the sentence. Insert the following: “By special permit, the Planning Board may allow the maximum height for a new structure used for structured parking (except to the extent other uses are allowed or required pursuant to Section 5.12(e)(4) [Setbacks]) to be up to 90 feet, provided that (i) such additional height will not adversely affect the residential neighborhoods to the west and south of the AODD, (ii) such additional height enables public vegetated open space within the AODD to be increased by an area not less than the gross floor area to be created by allowing such increased height, and such additional gross floor area is necessary to comply with the provisions of this Section 5.12(f) [Parking Requirements], and (iii) the top level of such structure shall not be used for parking, i.e., shall be a “green” roof over the top level of parking or the roof of occupied space.”

This change does not forbid or allow a 90’ high garage, but it take consideration of such height out of the abstract and focus it on a specific design when and if a specific proposal is in a special permit application. It may be that athenahealth determines the 90’ height is not needed either because they are allowed to reduce required parking enough, or for some other reason. It may be that athenahealth’s architect will be able to design a 90’ high garage structure that is acceptable to most neighbors.

Thank you for considering this suggestion. Please let me know if you have any questions about this proposal.

Jonathan Bockian
165 Irving Street
Watertown, MA 02472

*Note that it is necessary to require the finding about no adverse effect, because if the special permit granting authority is the Planning Board, not the ZBA, zoning ordinance section 9.05(b), which requires the same finding for ordinary dimensional special permits, would not apply to this special permit. Alternatively, the permit granting authority should be the ZBA.

Urgent! Meeting to Discuss Temporary Development Moratorium on Wednesday July 2nd

On Wednesday July 2nd at 6:15pm, President Mark Sideris has scheduled a Town Council meeting to consider action on the petition for a temporary development moratorium along Arsenal Street. The meeting will be held at the Town Hall in the Town Council chambers. Please spread the word about this special meeting and come to express your views!

The agenda is as follows:

  1. Roll call
  2. Motions, Orders, and Resolutions
    a) Review and consideration of further action regarding a petition submitted to the Town Council expressing support for a moratorium on large projects along Arsenal Street.
  3. Adjournment

The petition was signed by over 100 citizens and read as follows:
PETITION: we the undersigned support a temporary moratorium on large projects along Arsenal Street in Watertown for up to one year, while a master plan for the corridor is developed and zoning is re-written with input from all stakeholders! Repairs and simple renovations to existing buildings for pre-existing uses should not be affected.

Development Meeting to Discuss Pleasant Street Corridor

There is another important development meeting Tuesday, July 1, Police Station, 552 Main Street, 7-8:30pm. This one has been called by Councilor Ken Woodland. The proposed amendments to the zoning code concerning the Pleasant Street corridor and the Comprehensive Plan and how it could be translated into zoning law will be on the table.

Petition for Temporary Moratorium on Large Projects Along Arsenal Street

The Watertown Concerned Citizens Group (WCCG) is calling for a temporary moratorium on large projects along Arsenal Street. The petition reads:

PETITION: we the undersigned support a temporary moratorium on large projects along Arsenal Street in Watertown for up to one year, while a master plan for the corridor is developed and zoning is re-written with input from all stakeholders! Repairs and simple renovations to existing buildings for pre-existing uses should not be affected.

If you wish to support this, print out the petition (pdf 67 KB) and get your neighbors to sign it. Filled out petitions should be returned to the 40-42 Washburn St. porch box by 5pm on Tues 6/24 for review before the Town Council meeting begins. Copies of the petition and flyer/map (pdf 741 KB) showing the area (in case you cannot print out your own) may be found at 48 Chester St, or at 34 Parker St. (red house).


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