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October 2013 Update

Dear Sustainable Watertown,

Now that the Federal primary elections are over we hope that you are enjoying this beautiful weather and the colorful skies. There is lots to do and think about to fill your time in Watertown. Some major issues in the next few weeks and TONIGHT:

Tuesday, October 29: Protective of our Planet? Perplexed about Plastics? Puzzled about What To Do? Join us for the movie BAG IT and discussion, 7-9PM at the Watertown Public Library.

BAG IT is a delightful light-hearted, yet piercing examination of the problem of overuse of throwaway plastics, particularly single-use plastic bags. Do you know that every single plastic bag that was ever made, still exists? Some are turned into other plastic objects, like trash cans and reusable shopping bags. We see bags caught in tree branches and littering our roadsides. But the largest percentage are in landfills and in the oceans. Have you looked up Pacific Gyre? It is a floating island of plastic trash the size of Texas in the ocean!

Join us to see the discoveries and some solutions that Jeb Berrier finds in this entertaining and fact-filled movie. It will change your life.
Brought to you by the Recycling Committee, Sustainable Watertown, and the Watertown Citizens Environmental Task Force.
Join us for the movie. It is free and suitable for all ages.
For more information write to

Tuesday, November 5: VOTE. MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS. VOLUNTEER. Your elected officials will decide on important sustainability issues. They will vote on the planning process and zoning issues for years. VOTE YOUR VALUES. Ask questions of the candidates. Read up on their positions. Participate in your community.

Wednesday November 13: PLANNING BOARD decides on new housing developments, 7PM, Council Chambers, Town Hall. On the agenda is the 45 Bacon Street/80 Howard Street development which is near Pleasant Street. There may also be the 33 Mt Auburn Street development under consideration.
The Community Development and Planning Department and the Planning Board move fast. So far, extremely large developments have been accepted in a single hearing! The public has very little time to inform itself to be ready to participate. If you would like more information, please write to ASAP. And please check each of the links below.
Please take a look at the site plans that will be discussed: Bacon/Howard Streets:
The site that gives all the projects in town with a variety of documentation for each may be found at
••As a community, we have to be prepared to comment on the appropriateness and sustainability of new developments here and how they will contribute to the neighborhoods that surround them. Please read up and come to the hearing, or a neighborhood meeting ready to discuss.

The Community Development and Planning Dept has notified us of another potential project at 33 Mt Auburn Street. It may be on the agenda. Check it out: :

Sign up for Notify Me so that you get these announcements directly and help us keep on top of potential developments:

In addition, there are rumors of a large "mixed use" (housing plus businesses/commercial) at the site Cresset Group proposed for the Walmart. Will it connect our neighborhoods, or separate them?

If you would like more information, or have ideas to share, write to us at info@sustainablewatertown.orgimmediately.Understanding these developments takes time. Some neighborhoods are planning informational get togethers. Let us know if you want to attend.

Get involved!

A Happy Halloween and GO SOX,
Thanks for all you do--and will do!
Sustainable Watertown

Urban Sustainability

This article provides a nice analysis of the end of the traditional shopping mall and the urban answer to using the space "sustainably" and effectively.  Check it out, and be sure let your town councilors know this is the kind of vision we need for our town:

August 2013 Meetings and Events

Dear Sustainable Watertown,

Enclosed are some meetings and events to attend, but also some town-wide issues to think about that need your attention.

Wednesday, August 7, 7:30pm, Conservation Commission, Lower Hearing Room. Department of Conservation and Recreation will discuss the yearly operation plan. Owner of 270 Pleasant Street requests a dog run on its property. GSA site update.

Thursday, August 8, 7pm Building and Grounds Subcommittee, Conference Room, School Dept, 30 Common Street, Capital Improvement Plan update.

August 8, 7pm Historical Commission, Lower Hearing Room: Hear a discussion about the potential Bacon Street residential development and Main Street commercial development.

August 8 and 15, Watertown Summer Concerts, Saltonstall Park, 6:30-8.

August 14, 7pm, Watertown Planning Board, Council Chambers: Residential permits and variances, including permission request for awning with signage to remain at 55 Bigelow Street, at the new Kay's Market. Comprehensive Plan update. Please see below to participate in the Comprehensive Plan.

August 25, Chemical Free Garden Tour, 1-5. For information email Salman at

August 28, 7-8pm. 50th Anniversary Public Reading of I Have a Dream speech by Martin Luther King, Jr, Watertown Charles River Dock. Sponsored by Watertown Citizens and World in Watertown.

NOTIFY ME: You can sign up for Notices of Town Government meetings and events: Please go to the town website and select all the committees you'd like to hear from directly. It's pretty easy to do.

Mt Auburn Street Redo: Watertown residents will have a chance to voice their opinions on design options.

Potential New Developments in Watertown. The Planning Department has made public possible site plans for developments in Watertown that are being considered. No official applications have been made yet, but we appreciate the town's commitment to keeping residents informed.Please look at two possible developments that will need our attention in the near future, one at 45 Bacon Street: the other at 33 Mt Auburn Street: The page that gives all the town's projects with various entries for each address can be found at If you sign up for Notify Me, you will be kept apprised of meetings and also new issues in development in town. We know that we need thoughtful consideration of site use and planning. Here's your chance to be ready to participate.

In addition, please add your voice to the Comprehensive Plan. Check out the Envision Watertown 2013 MindMixer website. It is updated each month. You are asked to comment, post photos of Watertown and elsewhere and tell us what is important to you---it is one of the most active sites of its kind in the nation and allows you to send suggestions and comments. The Comprehensive Plan is scheduled for completion December 2013. Thanks to Planners Steve Magoon and Gideon Schreiber for this information. Links to project-related websites are:

Library Historical Collection: You may still want to write to your Library Trustees to show your support for maintaining the historical collection on site. It appears that there might be solutions to the stated problem of space: apparently, the storm water files required to be maintained are available on CD and the originals are allowed to be saved elsewhere. For the names of Library Trustees, see, the town website, for lists.

Your reward for reading this far: The Watertown Public Art Mural Project is fabulous! Congratulations to our muralist, Gregg Bernstein and his crew of Watertown High School interns. Take a look:

Let us know what you are thinking. Get ready to volunteer in September.
Have a great summer.
Sustainable Watertown

End-of-July / August 2014 Update

Dear Sustainable Watertown and Neighborhood Networkers,

Join us this Wednesday, July 30, 7-8:30 PM for a brainstorming session for Sustainable Watertown at the Library, main room. Help us plan for the future and keep abreast of all the amazing and fraught things happening in Watertown. We need to set some goals and share the work for the next season.

We are in the process of correcting our lists. If you get a duplicate, please bear with us. If you haven't yet been unsubscribed, it will happen soon.

It has been a busy month again for Development issues. 202 Arsenal Street won approval at the ZBA for a special permit and will be starting to build any time now. Neighborhood groups and individuals raised important issues before the developer meeting which were noted by the Planning Department and sent to the Hanover and Cresset developers. Hanover reneged on a promised second meeting at which Sustainable Watertown had organized some crucial topics for discussion in depth. That document as well as the Network summaries were included in the Planning Department Report (which supported the development). We had many people in attendance at the Board meetings. However, very few improvements were made in the plans which are a specialty of Hanover and used, nearly in toto in many communities, mostly suburbs, around the country. We had hoped for place-based sensitivity and connections to our already existing community, but to no avail, other than a guaranteed bike path down from Birch Street to the island enclave below. We will have to work harder to include the new residents in town activities. We remain hopeful.
One victory you’ve heard about is the requirement for a developer meeting. We had hoped for at least two, but one is now assured by vote of the Council. Unfortunately, the only legal invitees are abutters. To maneuver around this limited publicity, please sign up for Notify Me on the town website and read notices from your friendly citizen groups and Councilors. Another excellent occurrance is the participation of some Councilors and the Planning Department in community meetings about both Arsenal and Pleasant Street zoning improvements.
The draft Comprehensive Plan has been slowly moving through joint meetings of the Council Subcommittee on Economic Development and Planning (Corbett, Falkoff, Piccirelli) and the Planning Board with the Planning Department. All elements from the Vision to the particular goals and strategies are read and comments solicited. The public has been invited to speak and the officials have been most open and amenable to suggestions from the few of us in attendance.Your comments by mail are most welcome and important. Each participant has prepared carefully by studying the language and implications for Watertown’s future and for implementing zoning changes. It is slow going, and appropriately so. However, community members and officials are all concerned that galloping development proposals will outrun the town’s ability for sensible sustainable projects because the vision, goals, and zoning changes will not have been implemented in time for Watertown to make a stand. For this reason, citizens petitioned and gathered support for rapid responses to the particular issues presented by the Arsenal Street plans. Hundreds of signatures were collected. However, pleas to the ZBA to "continue" the 202 Arsenal Street development until after the citizen initiated hearing was held the next week by the Council went unanswered. The special permit was approved unanimously so that the huge development can begin without clarifying interfacing and interconnections with other developments to come in areas such as traffic and transitions to the community. AthenaHealth has approval for an Overlay District not including a garage structure.
Meanwhile, local groups, individuals, and supporters of sustainable development collected signatures for the Moratorium on development on Arsenal Street until a master plan could look at infrastructure, traffic and circulation, density issues, green space, interconnectivity, etc and an architect could develop design standards. More than 150 names were certified. Council President Sideris called a Special Council meeting July 22. Because the Council did not seem to have the votes for a Moratorium-- though other cities and towns have instituted them, including Watertown before completion of the Pleasant Street Corridor Plan-- another petition was circulated by CCG, the Concerned Citizens neighborhood group. This one called for hiring an architect/master planner to work with the Planning Department in case the Moratorium failed. More than 200 signatures were collected from all over town.
The Special Council Meeting was well attended and again, many residents made strong statements. The Council President had asked the Planning Department to come up with a plan to satisfy some of the basic issues raised by residents without calling for a Moratorium on development. Steve Magoon, Director of Community Planning and Development and now also Assistant Town Manager presented the compromise plan. It was unanimously approved by the Council and will be discussed further at the next Council meeting. Introduction and proposal from Mr Magoon are as follows:
We have heard the concern from residents regarding the development activity that has taken place and is being proposed, particularly in the Arsenal Street corridor. One result is tonight’s hearing regarding a proposal to create a moratorium on development within the Arsenal Street corridor.
A moratorium is a serious and significant step to take, and one that should not be taken lightly. It can have the effect of suggesting to the region that we are closed for business, and this is not a place to invest in or bring business to. It also not only affects proposed development projects, but also prospective projects, it affects property owners, and it affects the industries that feed this system, including designers, financiers, suppliers, construction trades, etc. Therefore it is a step that should be approached very cautiously.
I would propose that we undertake an analysis and creation of Design Standards and Design Guidelines. This will allow the Town to develop a more specific set of standards that address how a project is designed, within the envelope that zoning allows. It will give us an opportunity to give greater definition to how new projects look, how they relate to adjoining properties and neighborhoods, and how they address issues like circulation, step backs and transition areas. Design Guidelines then take the next step of providing guidance to how projects can achieve the elements described in the Standards.
While the projects immediately before the Town on Arsenal Street seem to be driving the primary concern, I would suggest that this effort apply more broadly. The design concerns and consideration that have been expressed can and should also apply to projects in the major street corridors in other areas of Town. I believe that this is a better use of Town resources and will result in a more meaningful result in the long term, and can help us address similar concerns elsewhere.
Design Standards and Guidelines can be developed and vetted through a public process that would involve interested parties, while also striving to be as quick as possible.
As the Council is aware, the Community Development and Planning Office is a very busy office these days, and I would propose that we enlist some outside assistance to complete this process. I don’t have a good idea of the total cost at this point, but would suggest that if it is an approach acceptable to the Council, that staff be given an opportunity to put together a scope and cost estimate for Council consideration for the August meeting. I will also need to work with the Town Manager to address the necessary funding for such an effort. As time is of the essence for this concept to be effective, I would suggest a quick turn around and would also place a premium on a process that can be completed in a timely fashion./////

The Moratorium vote, which was the reason the meeting was called, was 6-3 with Dushku, Falkoff, and Palomba voting yes. Cecilia Lenk suggested funding be found for additional permanent staff as soon as possible, notwithstanding the approval of the architect/master planner to aid in conceptualizing the corridor(s). President Sideris also asked the Planning Department to inventory prospective developers and work with the Council President to arrange a Town Hall community meeting in the Fall for discussion in general about what Watertown would like to see here.

July 23 the ZBA approved a special permit for the hotel at Arsenal and Elm Streets. The Pirolli plans for 300 residences with commercial has had site plan reviews.
Tuesday, July 29, 9AM, CVS has a Site Plan Review in the Lower Hearing Room, Town Hall, for a 14,000 sq ft store at the gas station and Elks properties at Mt Auburn and Arlington Streets.
Monday, August 4 a CVS developer meeting is scheduled for 6:30PM, Coolidge School Apartments. Plans are available at the town website:
The Staff Report on CVS can’t be too far ahead, so now is the time to meet in the neighborhoods and get your thoughts organized before the developer meeting and the hearings.

Thursday, August 14, 7PM, Council Chambers, the Economic Development and Planning Subcommittee will discuss Transition Zones. Councilor Dushku writes: "Transition Zones and what we allow in them are not new issues here in Watertown but I was able to get a new referral of this matter to the economic development committee of the town council. So, on August 14, this committee will discuss the low and medium density residential areas that abut commercial or industrial zones. My motion asked for discussion on 'analysis' and 'planning' in these areas. We know that there are new developments under consideration for a few of these. Houses on these streets could be discussed so please, tell people you know there to show up at the meeting at Town Hall: Acton St, Arlington St, Cottage Ln, Clarendon St, Crawford St, Hearn St, Kondazian St, Midland Rd, Molloy St, Norseman Ave, Parker St, Phillips St, Pleasant St, School Ln, Swetts Ct, Waltham St, Washburn St.”
Your anticipation of issues and potential solutions as well as zoning implications are very important.
Monday, August 18, 7PM, Joint meeting of the Economic Development Subcommittee and the Planning Board meets to continue going over the Draft Comprehensive Plan.

RETHINK PLASTIC WILL EDUCATE, ILLUMINATE, AND CONTEMPLATE WHAT TO DO ABOUT SINGLE USE PLASTICS-- IS IT TIME FOR WATERTOWN TO INNOVATE? Cities and towns all over the country and the state of Hawaii have banned bags and styrofoam as have cities in Massachusetts as well. 7PM, Coolidge Apartments. Please Join the Discussion.

THE TAPESTRY OF CULTURES, Watertown’s second public art project is underway. Read all about it and enjoy photos.

Thanks for all you do.
Please help us brainstorm for Sustainable Watertown Wednesday, July 29, 7-8:30, Library.
Sustainable Watertown

July-August 2013 Update

Dear Sustainable Watertown,
We hope that you have a chance to enjoy the gorgeous weather today and tomorrow.

Tuesday (today) July 30: 6pm. Special Town Council Meeting for an Informational presentation of the Mt Auburn Street Project. This is the first major public hearing of a plan and we hope that there will be continuing discussion. We can't fully anticipate the plan for Mt Auburn Street, but here are a couple of links that will interest Sustainable Watertown members concerning traffic calming and at the same time moving traffic on roads that are shared with bike riders and pedestrians.
These articles contain references to many issues discussed by the Complete Streets model of the MA Dept of Transportation. Watertown is in the process of adopting these standards. Public input to determine values and goals from which the design of streets will evolve is an important component. Take a look at these articles, send us your comments, and let us know of other articles you find.
The Special Council Meeting will also discuss snow plowing of private ways. Your town councilors will know more after tonight and plans will be in the papers and on line. Check out and for details.

Wednesday, July 31, 7pm, Zoning Board of Appeals, Council Chambers. Meeting will discuss private variances, etc, and also placing a cell phone antenna at 65 Main Street, at the Armenian Library and Museum. This building is in the Central Business District in Watertown Square and next door are the fire station and public library.

Thursday, August 1, 6:30-8pm, Watertown Summer Concert Series, Saltonstall Park. 'Tarbone will perform this week. See you there! 8/8 Love Dogs; 8/15 Sunny and her Joy Boys with Duke Robillard. Rain? Please check at 617-972-6431 after 4pm.

Cambridge and Boston have Hubway bicycle rentals and now Waltham is working on it. How about Watertown? We need your help. Please let us know because Thomas Theune is organizing a committee to get started. Want to know more? Write to

Reduce our use of P L A S T I C S: A small group of Sustainable Watertown and Watertown Citizens members met to discuss plastics and their harm to the environment. (If you haven't heard, look up Pacific Gyre and know that they exist in every ocean). The MA legislature is working on reduction of plastics as well. Our Representative Jon Hecht has cosponsored a number of bills. H.696 ( particularly relates to plastic bags. Brookline is the most recent town to ban distribution of single use plastic bags and won approval from the Attorney General to do so. We would like to work on a local initiative that focuses on reducing plastic, particularly plastics that cannot be recycled at all, or incompletely, such as plastic bags and styrofoam. We identified three possible goals for such an initiative: 1) Review and improve town and school practices. 2) Reduce the use of plastic bags by local retailers--perhaps subsidizing cloth bags, fees on one-time plastic bags, legislation; 3) Increasing awareness of citizens and retailers to change plastic use. We would like to team up with members of other local groups such as the Recycling Committee and the W3E to build support, formulate an approach, and coordinate our efforts. Would you, or your group like to participate? Can you recommend other groups? We have scheduled a meeting Wednesday, September 11 at 7pm at the library. Please pass the word and plan to attend. Remember, every single plastic bag that has ever been made still exists in some form, mostly in our oceans.

New Watertown Recycling Center is open at 76 Stanley Ave.

Have a great summer. And thanks for all you do.
Sustainable Watertown.

Public Meeting RE: Town's Comprehensive Plan!


What is your vision for the Town’s future?
What do you enjoy most about Watertown?
What are the Town’s biggest challenges?
What can be done to enhance the Charles River waterfront?
What are the key land use issues along Arsenal, Mt. Auburn, Galen, Main and Pleasant streets?
What should be the focus for Watertown Square and Coolidge Square?

For more information contact Steve Magoon ( or Gideon Schreiber ( at 617.972.6417

Watertown Together

Baby Boomers across the US are making decisions about how and where they want to live the next stage of their lives. Rather than moving to retirement communities or to another part of the country to be close to their children, most want to stay in their homes and be active in their communities. People in many communities across the country are joining together to create local non-profit organizations called "Villages" that provide the service and support systems to make this happen.

A group of Watertown residents have gotten together to develop a "Village" in Watertown. The goal is to create an organization that would help Watertown residents support one another in getting help when they need it, share their skills and interests, and promote community.

To learn about WatertownTogether and the Village movement, visit

Sustainable Watertown Endorses Watertown Initiative to Save Energy (WISE)

WISE LogoComplete a no cost home energy assessment before June 1st and you could win $100 in gift cards to over forty Watertown Local First independent businesses! The Watertown Environment and Energy Efficiency Commttee has launched the Watertown Initiative to Save Energy (WISE) with local energy efficiency leader Next Step Living to help Watertown residents save money on their energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint. They've teamed up with Watertown Local First to get the word out and encourage people to shop locally, too. Save money, reduce your CO2 emissions, and support our local economy. One in twenty people win! To learn more and sign up, go to


Why Watertown Should Create Fillipello Dog Park

Sustainable Watertown Supports Dog Park at Fillipello by Barbara Ruskin

From Conservation Commission hearing on October 3, 2012

The Dog Park Task Force, a part of Sustainable Watertown, is working to support the creation of an off-leash dog park here. It would be a fine example of a sustainable addition to the vitality, character, and quality of life in Watertown.

Off-leash dog parks have been very successful in surrounding towns and across the nation. The responsible departments in Cambridge and Arlington have given us encouragement and a lot of information and feel that their dog parks have been a great addition. Dog officers believe that dog parks make their jobs easier.

There are all kinds of dog parks, from a simple circle 30' in diameter with a fence and a gate. There are giant ones as well--the Disney of dog parks is said to be in Somerville. Some have benches with cover for owners. One has a time-out space for naughty dogs. The best have a water spigot, doggie bags, posted rules, and a trash can. They can be grassy, or pea stone which seems to be the long term surface of choice with, or without trees for shade.


Dog Park Task Force Report

Changes in recreation use will be made at Filipello Park because the recycling center (temporarily on a basketball court there) is moving. This is the great opportunity for us to recommend now that Watertown's first Off-Leash Dog Park be designated by the Town for the unused, large, grassy, fenced in area on Grove Street at the entrance to Filipello Park.

Please email the Director of the Department of Recreation, Peter Centola (, the Town Manager, Michael Driscoll (, and Town Council members ( stating your choice of the Grove Street area of Filipello Park for the Dog Park. Don't forget your address. You may name your own Council member, but please ask that copies of your note be sent to all Councilors. Let us know if you get any replies at
Stay tuned for the next Dog Park Task Force meeting where we will talk and strategize about upcoming events. More information about the Dog Park Task Force will be posted on the website in the next week.


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