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Sustainable Watertown ceased operations in 2016.
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Welcome to Sustainable Watertown

We are a civic organization committed to improving the quality of life for people who live, work, and learn in Watertown. Our goal is to mobilize our citizens to address our community's challenges, build on our strengths, and to create a healthier, more just and prosperous community. We are working to form coalitions in support of citizen-initiated projects. If your neighborhood or civic group needs town-wide support for an initiative, let us know.

Contact us at to receive updates on our initiatives. We hope you will decide to participate and help us create a more liveable Watertown for the future.

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.

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).

Two town residents have recently presented suggestions for a moratorium, and Roger Erickson and CCG introduced the idea at the Planning Board meeting. Please sign on if you agree before the Comprehensive Plan meeting tonight (6:30PM, Middle School auditorium, tonight), or before the Zoning Board meeting (next Wednesday, June 25, 7PM, Council Chambers).

Please send your thoughts and comments, or just add your voice if you agree with those requesting a temporary moratorium until Watertown can create a “master plan” for the Arsenal Street Corridor. Email addresses for the councilors may be found on the town website, or send to the office assistant who will distribute them. Ingrid Marchesano, will distribute your comments to Steve Magoon, Gideon Schreiber, and Andrea Adams of the Community Planning and Development Department.

You may have heard that 202 Arsenal Street was approved by the Planning Board, but must be approved by the Zoning Board (June 25), which many see as the greatest hurdle and an opportunity for us to respond.

Zoning changes for Pleasant Street were continued for further discussion and exploration.

The Arsenal Overlay Development District was approved, but without mention of the proposed 90’ parking structure. We think that the idea is that when a proposal comes before the town, there will be sufficient time for discussion. Barbara Ruskin proposed that the town work with AthenaHealth to decrease substantially the number of parking spaces so a nine story building with all the attendant problems will not be necessary. Director Steve Magoon agreed. Watertown is a transit hub, all the developers are trying to attract Millenials who prefer public transit and bike riding, and the Arsenal Corridor should be improved, etc, etc. A perfect segue back to the idea of a “master plan” for the Arsenal Street Corridor. Here are the letters. There have been many who have written to sign to the the Bockian letter. They both contain important ideas for you to consider.


The draft Comprehensive Plan is full of terrific goals and ideas that will be overtaken by events on the ground unless the Plan is implemented much more quickly than the draft proposes. The fate of Arsenal Street will be sealed without the Plan making any difference unless a moratorium on large new projects along Arsenal Street is put in place immediately, while a master plan and new zoning for the corridor are completed.

One of the most important things the Comprehensive Plan would do is to rewrite some of the zoning ordinance — the law that sets the limits and requirements on what gets built, where its built, how dense it is, where people live and where there can be an office building, a restaurant, or an auto body shop. The implementation schedule in the Plan calls for changing some of the zoning ordinance in 1 to 2 years. It makes sense that good changes to zoning should be well thought through, carefully written, and talked about a lot by residents and business owners before the Planning Board and Town Council vote them into law. But if projects can get permits to move ahead under existing zoning while the rules are being revised, the revised rules won’t impact new projects.

A moratorium is a powerful step, not to be taken lightly, but I recommend the Council puts a temporary moratorium on large new projects along the Arsenal Street corridor for up to one year while a master plan for the corridor is developed and the zoning is re-written, with input from all stakeholders. Repairs and simple renovations to existing buildings for pre-existing uses should not be affected. There’s lots of precedence for a moratorium: cities and towns do it all the time when events are outpacing their ability to plan. Watertown recently put in place a one year moratorium on medical marijuana centers, which has expired. I welcome redevelopment of Arsenal Street, if it’s done well. A moratorium is not without risks, but the risks of uncoordinated bad development along this crucial Town corridor outweigh the risks of a moratorium.

We should all applaud the Community Development & Planning Department’s hard work on the Comp Plan. Let’s not waste it.

Jonathan Bockian
Irving St., Watertown
This comment is on my own behalf as a town resident and not on behalf of any client or community group.


Attached please find my comments on the Comprehensive Plan as it relates to next steps for the Arsenal Street Corridor.

I feel strongly that we need to develop a Conceptual Master Plan or vision for Arsenal Street as a next step -- a short-term effort to develop a coordinated plan for all the elements that will make the Arsenal corridor a vibrant and attractive place to live, work and do business.

This process will:

  1. Provide a more coherent way to plan for traffic, transit, open space, bike & pedestrian use, street and sidewalk design, transitions to local neighborhoods, infrastructure and Green Infrastructure investments, etc. -- all the interrelated pieces that determine the success of the Arsenal corridor redevelopments.
  2. Identify areas where investments by the Town will significantly enhance outcomes, and allow us to seek funding for those investments; and
  3. Provide a forum for more effective public input.

The attached comments describe these benefits and suggest additions to the Comprehensive Plan goals and implementation matrix.

Thank you for considering my comments.

NEW DATE: Thursday May 1st, 7-9pm.
Watertown Free Public Library
123 Main St.
Watertown Square
Raya Stern Trustees Room

Open to the Public
Please come and share your T riding experiences and your ideas on Public Transportation in our community, present and future.

An Initiative of Sustainable Watertown

PUBLIC TRANSIT is officially on the table in Watertown. Sustainable Watertown member Joe Levendusky asked the Town Council to support the transit riders of Watertown by working with the MBTA to improve public transportation and identify measures to improve the system here. We think of ourselves as a hub for public transportation and will attract major development, yet buses are overcrowded and suffer delays at both peak and non-peak hours. Pleasant Street and Arsenal Street are important areas of concern as well. If we are to increase ridership and decrease our carbon footprint in the region, excellent public transit is key. The Subcommittee on State, Federal, and Regional Government discussed short-range and long-range suggestions for improvements with members of the Council, State transportation groups, Senator Will Brownsberger, and Representative Jon Hecht, and Planning Director Steve Magoon before sending its recommendation of support to the Town Council. The Town Council voted to work with the MBTA on these issues. Rejecting an idea for a town sponsored task force, the Council Subcommittee recommended that citizens organize themselves into a task force for public participation. Mr Levendusky has initiated just that as an initiative of Sustainable Watertown.

The first meeting of the Watertown Task Force on Public Transit will be Thursday May 1st, 7pm, upstairs at the Library. All are welcome. This is our chance to make a difference. Please look at Quick Links for background and contact information. If you are willing to distribute flyers for the inaugural meeting, or would like more information, please write to

Click Here for some additional information (find it at the end of the article)...

Presentation to Town Council:

There are three possibilities for financing solar panels. An owner can purchase them outright. An owner can take out a loan to finance them. And an owner can allow the roof of their building to be "leased" for the production of solar energy. This third option is called a Power Purchase Agreement or PPA.

Next Step Living gave Watertown a Purchase option and a Solar Loan option. It did not give Watertown a zero-down PPA option, which is the solar leasing option. SunBug and Corbin gave Watertown all three options: a Purchase option, a Solar Loan option, and a zero-down PPA option as was requested in the RFP

Although, at first glance, it would seem that the RFP does not require the installer to offer a zero-down PPA to the community as evidenced by the following paragraph, the Attachment BI makes it clear that a zero-down PPA is to be offered. Here is the RFP language:

"In order to participate in the Program, the Installer must provide a dollar per watt ($/W) “Purchase Price” for solar PV systems that will decrease by defined tier levels as the total contracted capacity of solar PV within the community increases. For Lease or PPA projects, the Installer must provide a base dollar per kilowatt hour ($/kWh) Lease/PPA Price, as well as financial incentives for customers that sign a Lease or PPA for solar PV systems as higher tiers of contracted capacity within a Community are reached. As such, proposals will not only be evaluated on the Installer’s ability to provide the highest quality design and installation services, but also on the ability to deliver a tiered pricing structure for the purchase of systems and a tiered financial incentive for Leases or PPAs. See the Pricing Proposal and Adder Form (Attachment B.1. and Attachment B.2.) for more information on the specific pricing tiers."

However, in the pricing requirement Attachment B1, there are rules about how the installers present their pricing. This is to create a level playing field for the selection teams to decide between bids. All bids are to use the same assumptions in order to price it's per kWh PPA price. This is in place so that those looking at the bids can compare apples to apples. That language in B1 is the following:

"Provide a Lease/PPA price for a system that produces 90% of optimal production. All Lease/PPA Prices should assume $0 down upfront. In addition, provide the contract escalator that company applies to projects."

Next Step Living did not follow these rules. Thus, Next Step Living by not offering a zero-down PPA was able to make its per kWh PPA price look much better than SunBug's or Corbin's. Town Council's WE3C advisory committee should have immediately disqualified Next Step Living and considered only Corbin/Onforce and SunBug. Instead, they chose Next Step Living, which requires the homeowners of Watertown to pay $3000 for the lease option.

Unlike the other two bidders, Next Step Living's bid gives financing options for obtaining the $3000 if the home owner wishes a PPA, but after either a year or eighteen months, that loan will require interest payments. This loan (and subsequent interest) will be added to the overall debt load of the homeowner. Thus, if that individual wishes to make another purchase using credit (appliance, car, home), this debt could negatively impact the amount and terms of a loan he or she is able to obtain in the future.

In addition, there is an NSL adder of 75 cents per watt for "Whole-home, low-interest financing." That is a $4000 adder on a typical 5kWh system. And there is also a statement about 25 cents per watt for "financing coordination support, which applies only to systems financed through Next Step Living partners other than the low interest loans." What is this exactly, and is this another finance charge? Does this mean that there is an additional 25 cent/kWh adder for every homeowner who is already paying $3000 for what should have been a free or zero-down option to begin with?

The PPA or solar lease option with zero-down is particularly attractive for multi-family homes, which Watertown has many of. The zero-down option allows the homeowner to "lease" their roof. If the owner wishes, for no cost, solar panels can be placed on the roof and connected to the units of the tenants. This creates an opportunity to tap solar and sustainable energy sources, gives the renter a break on their electricity bill, and makes the unit a more attractive rental option. On an owner-occupied multi-family, the owner can buy his or her system, and with a zero-down option, lease a system for the tenants. Both types of systems can exist on one roof. None of this is possible with the bid Town Council's advisory committee selected.

Solarize Watertown insists that the guidelines for Watertown are the ones that worked well for other Mass Solarize communities. Actually, what happened in Watertown happened in no other solarize community. All the other communities using this solarize process had zero-down options.

The Mass CEC and WE3C (Solarize Watertown) are victims of deceptive sales practices. But the real victims are the citizens of Watertown, who even with the tax benefits, don't have a "free" solar leasing option. Thus, our citizens will be paying thousands of extra dollars for the privilege of letting their roofs be leased because an advisory committee of Town Council chose Next Step Living. How is this a good deal?

Next Step Living Quality

Next Step Living is an enormous sales organization. It subcontracts out all its work. Thus Next Step Living has no installation quality, because it doesn't install. It does not "own" its process and recently has been infused with eighteen million dollars from the following four companies:

Black Coral Capital, Massachusetts Green Energy Fund, Vantage Point Capital Partners, and The Windquest Group.

The CEOs of these companies were at Bain and use the Bain model, which was described in detail by The New Yorker magazine when it ran an in-depth article on Mitt Romney.

Our other bidders included locally owned solar companies. These companies actually install and do not subcontract out residential installations. They own the process from start to finish and directly employ the people who actually do the installations.

On Angie's List, Next Step Living is the only solar company with a C grade. This is not anecdotal; there are over 150 reviews in total. It is literally the worst-reviewed solar company in the area. SunBug has an A rating with Angies's List Service Award for the last two years. OnForce/Corbin was not reviewed.

Additionally, on Yelp and other independent online review sources, Next Step gets reviews well below average while other solar companies fare much better.

Last but not least, other bidders gave us more options, including a choice of "local" with an American made panel and a Mass made inverter. Not so Next Step Living, which gave us a choice of an inverter made in Phoenix, AZ, which by their national standards may constitute local, but is not our "local."

Jaclyn Tager

[Editor's note: A petition asking to temporarily halt the Solarize Watertown initiative can be found on the town's website at:]

Dear Sustainable Watertown ,

Special Edition: We have prepared some topics that would focus further discussion of the proposed 202 Arsenal Street development of 300 apartments and a supermarket. We have also tried to incorporate much of the discussion from the big meeting and the five neighborhood groups that met beforehand in a summary of thoughts so far. In addition, some new concepts that have come up and a few comments from the Land Use report of the Comprehensive Plan have been included.

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN: How do elements of this 202 Arsenal Street proposal support the goals and values and limits of the Comprehensive Plan being prepared for Watertown as expressed in the community meetings for the Plan?

SIZE AND DENSITY and the effect that such a large development will have on town resources, businesses, political, social life. No impact on the schools is anticipated because of the small size of the planned units; will Millenials who become parents have to leave Watertown to raise a family? What, however, will the effect of 300 units be on these areas? Only both of the Repton Place developments match the size of the proposed Hanover development.

MASSING OF BUILDINGS is important in transitional areas between large developments and neighborhoods. The transition to the neighborhoods at 202 Arsenal depends on the gradient of the land and a green strip. Neighbors are worried that the transition is abrupt and will be ineffective. The development is built out to the limit. The developer claims that the area would otherwise need remediation. However, other areas have been cleaned up satisfactorily. We are fortunate that his particular development is proposed for a location set at a lower grade than the surrounding neighborhood to the north and that an area of the fourth floor near Birch Street is set back. The Arsenal Street side is set at three stories. However, the entire development is set apart from the rest of us because no through streets are planned. Green space is planned within the apartment rings for use of tenants only; this area is closed off to the public. It should not become a model development for other areas of town.

WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE GROWTH FOR WATERTOWN? PIECEMEAL DECISION-MAKING. We are told that Arsenal and Grove Street developments would yield more than 1000 new residences. Pirolli will build. Arsenal Projects plans a gigantic redevelopment. There will be a hotel. Who knows which other properties will be developed in the Arsenal Corridor in this area, or closer to Watertown Square. We cannot make decisions only one development at a time when the effects are area-wide and very long term. Will the Comprehensive Plan provide any guidelines for broad based development? How does Watertown create a sustainable plan for development? Does Watertown have an interest in maintaining the commercial properties along this corridor? Will design review be required for new and existing property development? How big is big enough? How big is too big?

TRAFFIC AND PARKING: We have already talked about Traffic, but people are not satisfied by the three block traffic light rehab and the report that the 300 new units will have little effect on traffic elsewhere in town. If Hanover is aiming for those Millenials who will walk to work at AthenaHealth we must consider fewer numbers of parking places (with appropriate Zoning changes), and the increased number of pedestrian and bicycle users in this target population (therefore requiring better bicycling paths/lanes for commuting as well as recreation). David Hall said that the old numbers of parking spaces will be offered until proven unnecessary at this site. But look at Riverbend Park which has fewer cars than residents.

We should be a leader in anticipating fewer cars owned, if not car-free living in the future. We should be proud of our location, as always, but press the advantage of being a transportation hub (even though we need improvements, but that's part of the point--we can't delay advocacy of one for the other). It seems to us that a further next step is for the community to meet with our Peer Traffic consultant to get a town-centered future-thinking perspective. And if Hanover's traffic team studied the whole town, we should have that information and be able to compare the work with that of the independent. Is parking part of a traffic study? Shuttles to Watertown Square, available to the public, until public transportation catches up with need. Decrease traffic on neighborhood streets by exploring a through street from North Beacon Street on the Arsenal property to connect to Woolsey Street. Add traffic light allowing left turn onto Arsenal Street. It might draw cars from Exit 17 and lessen traffic in Watertown Square.

ENVIRONMENT/SUSTAINABILITY INFRASTRUCTURE. Landscaping and street trees, setbacks, stormwater, emphasizing pervious surfaces at entrance, firelane, supermarket area, sidewalks. LEED Certification, or equivalent checklist assurances. Do Watertown's requirements surpass those of Massachusetts in any way? Solar. Green Roof practices. There is tremendous surface area on the roof of 202 Arsenal St. Rooftop gardens are now fairly commonplace (not just on rooftop parking garage if fewer spots are needed in a few years as Mr Hall agreed). Recycling--he said there will be places for recycling to be taken in the trash room. Will most people really go there? Are there plans, ideas to make this a serious endeavor in such a large development?

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: We've talked a bit about landscaping, aesthetics, high quality materials, finishes, windows. Some about lights, signage, noise, pollution, construction hours, etc. affecting neighbors. There are other aspects of Public Benefit and amenities. Increase size of public gathering space at entrance; Setbacks for green plantings at all retail, including supermarket; Green streetscape along Arsenal Street; Living fence/screen transitions for abutters. We suggest a public meeting room so that local groups can try to involve Hanover's residents in Watertown activities on site and have a meeting place in the area. Recycling Plans developed fully. Public Art fund financed by developments for use all over town, not just at a particular development. This is a common practice in cities and towns nearby. Advocate with town for improved public transportation for the influx of new residents. Union builders. Cell antenna safety. Neighborhood connectivity through multiple public pathways through the development North/South as well as East/West.

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS AND INTERACTION: Mr. Hall of Hanover indicated that he will carefully maintain the fortress shaped building because it will be a separate community there. We want them to be part of OUR community. Many of us want the building to be bisected E-W by a greensward, or a street.The concept of the Urban Village incorporates large developments, but connects them to the surrounding neighborhoods by streets and by decreased massing. Perhaps the fire lane/trash/mail route could provide connection in some way. Creative approaches are called for, not immediate dismissal. Perhaps other businesses in the area will work with the Planning Department. The recreational part of the Community Path could go under the building abutting the rear park inside the development. It would open up their community green space to ours and connect neighborhoods. It sounds as if Pirolli is planning a path in the transitional area as well as on Arsenal Street. In some small way, this development could have direct access to open green space as would the Community Path on its way across town. It would allow a protected greenway for recreational users as well as the street-side lanes for bikes. Whether commuters would use a bike path along a track next to the sidewalk remains to be seen, but a green Community Path, as part of an Open Space Network as referred to in the proposed Comprehensive Plan would be an important amenity for the Town of Watertown.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Hanover could work with Watertown to advocate for improved public transportation system. Extra service when necessary. Town-wide study. Map. Publicize Watertown as a transit hub, perfect for car-free living. Enhanced MBTA stops. New ideas for more efficient payment. Improved bike lanes (and bike parking) and Community Path. Zip Cars. Hubway, or similar bike share.

RETAIL AND SUPERMARKET: If the idea is to create a lively streetscape on Arsenal Street, we are hoping that mixed use will mean an infusion of diverse, particularly local independent businesses, or at least a variety of small shops that residents can go to for ordinary shopping needs and enjoyable places to go for browsing. One of the features of good retail space for local independents is small size and, in new construction, divisibility which allows flexibility in renting. Bank frontage limitation policy is being used in various cities and towns to prevent banks from taking over retail frontage that would better serve the economic health of a community as storefronts for local independent, or small businesses. Zoning limits most business frontages to about 25 feet, though banks and other businesses may have the space they require without extra frontage behind the other shops. Transparency is the concept of keeping windows facing streets to attract customers, allow us to look inside, and have an interesting streetscape. Look for the drawings of a vibrant shopping district here: Frontage limits go hand in hand with transparency to achieve the goals of a varied and interesting business district. Hanover promises only a restaurant and one other business on its property. That seems insufficient to create a vibrant destination. The supermarket space is sized for a Whole Foods, or some similar store. If that concept does not reach fruition, however, we hope that Watertown has an interest in protecting us from more big box stores that might anchor this site. Remember that 33,000 square feet was what Walmart proposed for a mini market plus. What alternatives does Cresett/WC have for this site?

We hope that these points will be useful for discussion on the 202 Arsenal Street development and the basis for others. Thanks for all you do. Let us know what you think at

Sustainable Watertown has been supporting a network of neighborhood groups. It's a great way to get to learn about development and other issues in your neighborhoods and to meet your neighbors and talk about what's going on in town. Five groups met to talk specifically about 202 Arsenal Street which is proposing to build 300 apartments, retail space, and a supermarket. Groups poured over maps and descriptions offered by the Planning Department and at least one Councilor. Summaries were sent to the Planning Department and they sent them on to the developers before the community meeting with the developers. They are useful and provide a good basis for further discussion. You will find them below.

If you would like to gather a group together to be a watchdog in your neighborhood, learn about developers' plans, and meet your neighbors, please contact us at We have maps and blow ups of plans and can tell you where to find them on line. There are many residential developments proposed, a hotel, and we expect more retail. Small is good, so don't worry if you just want to call some people on your street and ask them to call others nearby. That's the idea. If you don't want to host, but want to attend, please let us know that, too.

Summary of feedback among us so far:
1) Too dense, built out to the max;
2) Inferior architecture, ugly, more "boxes" like Pleasant St;
3) Not built for the future: demographic of this project=more transient residents. We want to attract and support residents who will be invested in Watertown's future: Schools, Recreation, Arts, Community programs, Riverfront, etc;
4) How does this project support the Comprehensive Plan?
5) Gated community, walled off, where is bike/ped path?
6) Mixed use portion is underwhelming and not clear;
7) What are anticipated hours of operation for commercial areas? Limited hours are safer for community;
8) Parking garage is better than all open-air parking.

* Does Hanover have a letter of intent from Whole Foods or Trader
Joe's. If not have they begun the reach out to either store
* What will restrict stop & shop or shaw's from going in or renting the
space to limit competition with their other locations?
* Would the traffic light blink (and beep) at night?
* What would be the operational hours of the restaurant/bar and supermarket?
* Has a restaurant /bar been identified for the space?
* How will development of Arsenal Project and hotel at former Saab dealership
affect traffic study?A Pirolli residential complex? Other developments on Arsenal?
* Will apartments be pet friendly? If so green space for pets?

* Above ground parking/garage being a visual eyesore
* Greenway/space is essential, appears to be limited on both sides of
arsenal st, renderings depicting southern side of Arsenal St do not
appear realistic or accurate given the space available
* Traffic flow would allow Beacon Park becoming a "cut through" to/from north beacon st
* Number of parking spaces for potential residents impacting traffic
* With two travel lanes, a turning lane, bike path, sidewalks,
parking on both sides of the street, and bus stops the street will
appear congested most of the time
Huge number of units
Trucking deliveries, collections location, frequency, hours

* Everyone in attendance agreed that closing off access to arsenal st
to prevent Beacon Park from becoming a "cut through" would be
beneficial. If the stem connecting Arsenal Street to Beacon Park were closed
and a little green park placed there, it would serve many purposes by adding
a green barrier and a permeable surface.
* That the majority of the space be developed as residential and not
commercial use
* Signage should be limited and sight lines to Beacon Park reviewed
prior to locating; limit lights/neon
* More green space/open space on arsenal st (additional commercial
space setback), additional green space around entrances to residential
* Reduction in parking spaces at site
* Zipcar on site
* Vegetation and/or walls to limit noise pollution from site and trees on
the opposite side of Arsenal as a green barrier to the increased traffic.
* Need to limit on street parking along arsenal, especially along
south side of Arsenal.


Katie Montelli from notes by Jeanne

Dear friends, neighborhood group leaders/scribes, and those of you interested in retail as part of developing Watertown's economic base, Here is a letter I sent to the Councilors and Planning Department after my disappointment with the limited view of "retail" by developers recently. I'd be interested in your comments. If you agree in any way, I hope that some ideas will become part of your speaking and writing to our Councilors and Planning Department and before the Planning Board.

33 Mt Auburn Street was officially filed and continued March 12 so the Board will take some time and not vote on the same day it hears plans, which has been its usual way of doing business. There have been some remarks from members that things have been moving too fast, and we heartily agree. You may write to the Planning Board (and Planning Dept also) c/o Clerk Ingrid Marchesano, The Zoning Department (Mike Mena is Zoning Enforcement Officer) and Board may be reached c/o Louise Civetti, Steve Magoon is overall head of Planning and Zoning. All those who sit on boards use their first initials, last names and the same address as the above if you want to write individually. The names are all on

Thursday, March 13 is a meeting with the developers of 202 Arsenal Street ostensibly to meet with CCG which abuts to the north, but it is an open meeting and the CCG leadership thinks that it should be open to everyone, since the developers promised to have a second meeting. 7PM, Library. However, it turns out that the plans were officially filed last week so will go before the Planning Department for its review and then its recommendation goes to the Planning Board for its decision in April. Again, we hope for time to digest all the elements and time for the public to be heard by the Board at a number of meetings.


Hi, Councilors and Planning Department,

* What is mixed use? Infusion of diverse, particularly local businesses, a variety of small places that residents can go to for ordinary shopping needs as well as enjoyable places for browsing:
I am concerned after returning from the developer meeting for 33 Mt Auburn Street and the one with the developers of 202 Arsenal Street that the idea of retail presented to the public as "mixed use" retail is not what we want it to be. I assume that this category is separate from commercial, which I take to be offices (not the individual accountant, dentist, etc), manufacturing, apartments, startups. I think that we are hoping mixed use will mean an infusion of diverse, particularly local independent businesses, or at least a variety of small places that residents can go to for ordinary shopping needs as well as enjoyable places to go for browsing and poking around.

* Lack of planning and regulation for attractive, vibrant streetscape. Tradeoff for streetside Community Path should be worthwhile:
What we are getting is much less and a disappointment. 202 Arsenal is planning for a restaurant and one other shop in its 7000 sq feet. The 33,000 sq ft supermarket seems to be up in the air. We assume we will not be subjected to another kind of big box store (that recommendation was in the Strategic Framework, and should be in the Comprehensive Plan). But, there is still no there there. If the proposed Community and Bike Path is placed on Arsenal Street, we have a great interest in creating a great retail streetscape.

* Down town enhanced with walkability, variety, attractive to residents and small business. Design Review:
The sq footage for retail at 33 Mt Auburn is minimal At the meeting, the developer expected that it will be one office. This is not our idea of retail to enhance Watertown Square. How can we let this happen? Why wouldn't there be room for two small businesses? There should be access from the little park. It should connect to the rest of our walkable "down town." I appreciate that it isn't the best of times for small businesses. But isn't it in the interest of building our community to require certain kinds of retail? What good would a closed office be to enhance the walkability, the interrelationship of shops, the draw to people to walk around the Square? We have the Location, but are we demanding enough from our developers? How can Watertown work to attract small business? We have so many plans on the drawing boards and we have to be prepared. Design Review in CB might help if it covers attracting a variety of local retail.

* Work with landlords to maintain the character and health of Watertown and protect existing local businesses:
While we're at it, I am so disappointed that 7-11 was allowed to set up shop across from The Meat Spot. Don't we care to protect the independent, interesting, and much needed businesses that are here already? Does the entire Planning Department and Town have no influence on creating the kind of town center we imagine? Just because the shell of a building exists, do we not have any right to choose our image of the character and health of our town and work with the landlord to attain it? Would design review in CB help?

* Unifying sense of cohesion and design for Main Street. Design Review to attract local businesses and shoppers:
The Settles Glass development is also falling into the trap of needing banks and perhaps a large chain to fill its expensive space. What is our image of a destination and cohesive shopping area for Main Street? Can we ask for a certain kind of exterior light, perhaps, or some unifying, though not cookie cutter, feature out front and down the street to the Square? I would have thought that the town would have some influence, even when Board decisions are not required. Do we have such discussions with builders now? Do we have any leverage at all? I'm glad to see the parking in the back (though I hope that the interface with the neighbors is kinder than it has been). Is that something that the town managed to achieve for us? Design review in business districts might require all developers to work with the town.

* We cannot legislate taste, but a Design Review in CB might help:
And, were permissions required for the professional building on Summer Street to build such an out of place brick facade without setbacks in front of a regular house being used as an office? I assume this whole block is about to be sacrificed to some fantasy of urbanism and to make hay with the residents of the Assisted Living/Alzheimer's development. I wonder if the home owners and other offices are anticipating this. We hope the retail in the Assisted living building is varied and reflects Watertown's needs. Again, could design review in our Central Business District enhance our goals?

* Transparancy and bank frontage limitations zoning. Good retail space for local, independents, and divisibility for flexibility:
Just a couple of other Zoning issues: Transparency and bank frontage limitations. I was told by the Cambridge Economic Development Division that North Cambridge area now has a bank frontage limitation policy. I believe that Watertown should take it on, particularly since there are so many huge bank buildings newly inhabiting Belmont and they seem to be among the few businesses that can afford to build, or rent large spaces. Is there anything we can do to limit the size of the bank frontage that we hear will be the mainstay of Settles before the project is completed? Might that not allow a small business to rent a small space in front more cheaply? Can we put the concept into our Comprehensive Plan and make it part of the Zoning amendments that the Economic Development Committee in Watertown requested after Councilor Woodland spoke about Pleasant Street? If the supermarket at 202 Arsenal turns out not to be happening, we really don't want it to become a bank (or in fact the Walgreens, or other big box). One of the features of good retail space for local independents is small size and, in new construction, divisibility which allows flexibility in renting.

* Maintain the character and diversity of businesses in Watertown's shopping areas. Reasonable frontage and transparency:
As you know, transparency is the concept of keeping windows facing streets to attract customers, allow us to look inside, and have an interesting streetscape. The glass-paned garage door at the 33 Mt Auburn development happily reflects that concept (and we hope that they will continue the outside facing into the entry way so our view is not cinderblock). City neighborhoods in New York have limited both bank frontage to maintain the 25' approximate frontage of most shops and required transparency to limit the closed look that destroys the enjoyment of shoppers. Look for the drawings of streetscapes in At one of our meetings someone spoke out about huge stores like CVS putting shelving against, and signage in, their windows. Transparency and frontage limitations seem to go hand in hand.

* Standards so developers will respect the scale, diversity, uniqueness, and vitality of Watertown while improving it:
I believe that since Watertown has plans for huge amounts of development we need to anticipate the needs of our town and put zoning in place to attract and protect the kind of retail, particularly local and independent, that creates those wonderful places residents and visitors enjoy. It seems clear that the town, speaking for our community and residents, has a great mission to protect the character of our local, independent businesses and the residential economy that will support them. If Watertown is asking for mixed use developments, we have to have standards by which developers will respect the scale, diversity, uniqueness, and present and potential vitality of Watertown while improving it.

Barbara Ruskin


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