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Comments of Local, Independent Businesses in Watertown on the Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance to Reduce Distribution of Single-use Plastic Bags

Don Levy, Deluxe Town Diner:
We try to do as much in non plastic as we can. The T-shirt bags, or carry out ones are the right size for 1-2 takeout orders and help in the rain and snow, but it is not the only way...
Susan Etyemezian, Fastachi:
We changed over to paper partly for the environment and partly because of a brand image...
Harry Basmajian, Arax Market, Coolidge Square:
Mr Basmajian says that he is in support of a regulation to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags in Watertown... Read More »

June 16th Forum to Address Transportation Planning

The Watertown Public Transit Task Force, the Watertown Town Council and the Town’s Department of Community Development and Planning will present a community educational forum on municipal transportation planning on Thursday evening, June 16, at 6:30 PM in the Watertown Free Public Library. All local residents, employees and business owners are invited to this free event.

The goal of the forum is to increase the shared knowledge about what modern transportation planning can do in municipalities like Watertown to improve local transportation and ease traffic congestion. Read More »

Citizen-Initiated Conversation Wed Jan 13

REMINDER: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13: SAVE THE RIVER, OPEN SPACE, GREEN SPACE: Second Citizen-Initiated Conversation for Watertown Residents on RMUD. 6:45PM LIBRARY.

We will have residents participating as presenters and facilitators. An independent advocate will join us to help with zoning questions. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?

Because the issues of the proposed Regional Mixed Use District are so complicated, Sustainable Watertown and many others believe that more conversation is absolutely necessary before passage of an ordinance that will have lasting effects on Watertown for generations to come. We urge you to participate to help improve the plan.

The first of the series was a big success. About sixty residents--and all our Town Councilors at one time, or another-- turned out to talk and hear Watertown residents Jon Bockian and Gary Shaw lead discussions about zoning concepts and changes in the RMUD enabling ordinance and about the massing of allowable building square footage in the RMUD properties. Gary presented a 3D slide show to give us an idea of what the alternatives would be like from a variety of angles. Ensuing discussion was informative and to the point. We look forward to continuing the Conversations this month.

A map of the proposed RMUD is at:
** Especially for tomorrow night: A map of the 100 foot buffer plus Conservation Commission control is at:
The proposed amendments to the Watertown Zoning Ordinance are at: Further amendments have been added by the Council Subcommittee.

Please contact if you would be willing to help set up for the Citizen-Initiated Conversations and with your ideas.





JANUARY 14, DEVELOPER MEETING, ATHANAHEALTH MASTER PLAN. 6:30PM, 311 Arsenal Street, Bldg 311, or Blakeway Auditorium. AODD Master Plan, 2016: SW North Beacon Neighbors group asks for your attendance. Plans have been dramatically changed from what the residents understood from the last meetings. Please come to discuss and make the Athenahealth plan better.

January 2016 Update

Watertown's citizens have spoken up for good public spaces to draw our community together and for healthy, walkable, connected streetscapes and paths. Watertown's citizens have also come together in our civic spaces to learn and speak out to promote and protect our community character along with the river and the precious green and open spaces that we treasure. Here is an opportunity to do both, with important results.

Please join us as Sustainable Watertown hosts a series of four CITIZEN-INITIATED CONVERSATIONS for Watertown Residents on RMUD, the Regional Multi Use District. The proposed district was devised by Boylston Properties, a major land holder in the RMUD with the property formerly known as the Arsenal Mall. The town Planning Department has edited the proposal and citizens and Councilors have offered amendments at the Planning Board and at a Council Subcommittee meeting. There is much more to learn and potentially to adjust in the plan.

Read the rest of the Update >>



TOPICS: Zoning Introduction to the Timeline for the Current Process, Approval Criteria, Comprehensive Plan.

TOPICS: Design Implications, Height and FAR, Massing and Sensitivity to Historical Buildings, Open Space, Public Space, Public Access. Gary Shaw, Presenter


TOPICS: Open Space and Green Space, Definitions, Public Stewardship of the Riverway, Local and State Ordinances and Laws Protecting the River and Riverway, 100 Foot Buffer; Public Parks, Public Access. Nancy Hammett, Presenter


TOPICS: Traffic, Transit (Including TMA, TMD), Plus a Street Network Vision within RMUD and Connectivity to Watertown Consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. Watertown Public Transit Task Force (WPTTF) Led by Joe Levendusky, Facilitators

TOPICS: Green, Sustainable Building, Zoning Language. Gary Shaw, Presenter


TOPICS: Open meeting for residents to talk about what we didn't have time to cover, what we've learned, how the RMUD Zoning Amendments relate to the Comprehensive Plan, to develop concrete questions, and to recommend changes to the RMUD document.

Candidate Forum

Sustainable Watertown presents "Town Council Candidate Forum"
District A,B,C,D Candidates: Sunday, Oct 18, 6-8:30pm
Council President and At-Large Candidates: Monday, Oct 19, 7-9:30pm
Auditorium at the Coolidge School Apartments, 319 Arlington St.

May 2015 Update

Dear Sustainable Watertown,

We are delighted to report that the Town Council has had a first reading to include a $130,000 position for a Transportation Planner. We are hopeful that the position will be approved, funded, and filled with great urgency since the need is tremendous. The Planning Board has approved the Design Standards and the Council will vote on them. The Council and Planning Board are having a joint hearing of the Comprehensive Plan this week before a future vote. A Transportation Planner could be expected to view these plans with an eye to the public realm and consider traffic, parking, and all modes of transportation from pedestrians to TMAs, or Transportation Management Associations. A Transportation Planner would work with our Planning Department as has David Gamble, the Architect Planner previously hired to work on design guidelines and non- public realm issues. An overview of the city and its circulation, streets, paths, sidewalks, and parking is essential. Hundreds of petition signers for a Moratorium last year hoped to have a Transportation Planner look at the public realm infrastructure. We look forward to learning from and working with a creative and future-thinking Transportation Planner.

Read the rest of the Update >>

Public Forum to discuss the Planning and Zoning Process in Watertown

Sustainable Watertown is hoping to present a public forum to discuss the Planning and Zoning process in Watertown. We have heard an explanation from a town lawyer about what is; we have seen that in action. What we need is a town wide discussion about what should be and what goals we are trying to achieve. The Comprehensive Plan and Design Guidelines and Standards (which put the Guidelines into the zoning code specifically) represent those values and goals. The actual process is insufficient as it now stands. Consider the following Questions. We need your participation in planning this event and in asking the new applicant for a position on the Zoning Board of Appeals where he stands when he is interviewed May 27.

Questions for discussion, Planning and Zoning process in Watertown:

  • Selection process by the Town Manager and the timeline for selections to be sent to Council
  • Qualifications of Board members (respect for community participation, length of time in Watertown, devotion to values and goals of Comprehensive Plan and Design Standards, not simply profession)
  • Duration of appointments
  • Council and Subcommittee approval process
  • Oversight of a Board and ongoing evaluation of member preparedness
  • Decision making processes of Department and Boards and the members' views of their roles
  • Transparency, clarity, and availability of final decisions and explanation of member votes
  • Role of Town in supporting Board members in case of legal challenges to decisions
  • Clarification of State regulations, responsibilities, constraints on Boards and Planning Department, including flexibility of allowable timeline
  • Expectations for public participation and responses to questions at Developer Meetings and public hearings
  • Timeline used in the Planning and Zoning process--does the timeline rush the process and pressure for quick decisions? How could a large and complicated project be legally studied over time?
  • Access of the public to Boards and members of the Boards before cases are heard
  • Attendance of members of Boards at public forums before cases are heard
  • Access of the public to the Planning Department activities, including preliminary drawings, site plan reviews, filing information on line in reasonably easy form, improved website
  • Evaluation of new appointees for a period of time

Your suggestions?
Volunteers are needed to make this project successful. We would appreciate your help with this Planning and Zoning Public Discussion Series. Please contact with comments, to volunteer.

Trees along Greenough Boulevard

Dear Sustainable Watertown:
The following is a thread of letters about damage to trees along the river at Greenough Blvd. Happily, the Commissioner of DCR and the Watertown Tree Warden have agreed to a halt to any more “pruning” of trees along the river. We do need to show our support and the need for a coherent policy for the trees here and all over town, so no agency, or NSTAR can simply order the destruction of trees.
I encourage you to write simple notes of support for the Restoration project and a sensible, green, and healthy policy for the trees in our town. Thanks.

Letter from Tree Warden Christopher Hayward with the good news:
Hi Barbara:

Its already done. I spoke with DCR reps yesterday and requested a cease and desist on tree maintenance until we can sit down for some follow up discussion to what has already been done. They have agreed.

Thank you for contacting me.


Christopher J. Hayward, MCA
Conservation/Preservation Agent, Tree Warden
Town of Watertown l 149 Main St. l Watertown MA 02472 l 617-972-6426

-----Original Message-----
From: Barbara []
Sent: Tuesday, May 19, 2015 6:30 PM
To: Hayward, Christopher J.
Subject: Trees along the river at Greenough Blvd

Hi, Chris,
Maureen O'Sullivan has alerted us to the damage caused by indiscriminate cutting of trees and branches along the river by Greenough Blvd. With the restoration of the area by the Solomon Foundation and supposedly the DCR, there is no excuse for this. Would you please become involved in stopping the cutting immediately and helping develop a sensible and green policy that actually supports our trees instead of making them more vulnerable.
Barbara Ruskin
member, Sustainable Watertown
140 Spring Street
Letter with phone numbers and emails for your letters and calls.
Thank you for the emails & phone calls in support of this. It was a shock to see the destruction caused in that area last week. The photos only capture part of it. The full extent of the damage is worse when viewed in person.

The DCR is currently reviewing the situation and may make a decision on it today which is why it is critical for people to get objections in by phone call & email this afternoon if possible. The problem is, the damage is being reviewed by the person who "oversaw" it, Matt Thurlow & his crew. I have not been informed of any independent, objective evaluation taking place.

I strongly recommend that everyone who has time, contact the DCR today. The DCR contacts listed below would be the # 1 people to contact. They need to hear your voice. You can cc. town officials and reps and Herb Nolan of the Riverfront Restoration Project, however make sure to address your email to the DCR personnel people listed below.

I spoke with the DCR a short while ago and they advised that they had not heard objections from anyone else. I know a few people did call, in which case I would recommend contacting them again by email to make sure the communication is documented & gets attention. Councilors and town officials are busy & might not get to this today which is why it is important for residents send their communications directly to the DCR.

Thanks again for the support. Hopefully with enough phone calls & emails we can prevent further loss of trees.


DCR Telephone #’s
Main #: 617-626-1250
Carol Sanchez, Commissioner: 617-626-4990.
Matthew Sisk, Deputy Commissioner: 617-626-4964.
Peter Church, Director of Forest Stewardship: 617-626-1461.
Joe Orfant, Arborist Manager & Director of Bureau Of Planning: 617-626-4933
Lisa Bishop, Assistant to the Commissioner: 617-626-1309

DCR Email Addresses

Herb Nolan, The Solomon Foundation, Charles Riverfront Restoration Project:
Phone: 781 431-1440

Watertown & Cambridge Town Officials
"David Webster",
"David Lefcourt",
"Cathy Fosher"

Cc: "Chris Hayward",
"Steve Magoon",
"Mark Sideris",
"Steve Corbett",
"Vinnie Piccirilli",
"Tony Palomba",
"Susan Falkoff",
"Cecilia Lenk",
"Aaron Dushku",
"Angeline Kounelis",
"Ken Woodland",
"Gideon Schreiber",
"Andrea Adams",
"Gerry Mee",
"Will Brownsberger",
"John Lawn"

Trees for Watertown (always looking for members):
"Libby Shaw",
"Anni Clark",
"Genie Johnston",
"William Kahn",

Letter sent yesterday to us:

Dear fellow residents of Watertown,

I hope you don’t mind my writing to you on a different subject to development. This past week I noticed large scale removal of beautiful trees along Greenough Boulevard between the Elliot Bridge and the Arsenal Bridge. Several beautiful trees were either totally cut down or subjected to large structural loss a process that affects the long-term health of a tree. Removing large amounts of a tree can cause hazards by weakening the tree, disrupting the leaf-root ratio and center of gravity, turning well-balanced healthy trees into top-heavy weakened structures at greater risk of falling over in a storm. In addition to the damage to tree health, this area with it’s beautiful scenic views of lush verdant trees has now had large sections turned into an unpleasant sight of matchstick structures with gravestones that were previously camouflaged now in full view.

Links to photos are provided below along with copies of my correspondence to the DCR, town council members and Jonathan Hecht requesting a prompt addressing of the issue. To prevent further destruction of these beautiful trees I am writing to ask if each of you would call and write to the DCR first thing this morning to request that the tree-cutting be stopped until an independent evaluation is conducted and resident input taken into consideration. Contact phone #’s and email addresses are provided below. Please also forward this to your respective groups & others that you know.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter. It may very well help prevent further damage and preserve the remaining beauty of the area.


Maureen O’Sullivan.

To Commissioner Carol Sanchez, DCR
Letter send May 17:

Dear Ms. Sanchez:

I am writing to follow-up on phone calls I made to the DCR on Friday, May 15th. I am cc’ing Trees for Watertown and Sustainable Watertown on this email as well as other residents & groups in town. Since preservation of the beauty & health of trees along Greenough Boulevard is an issue of serious importance, I will be forwarding this separately to additional residents and community groups in town, as well as members of the town council and the state rep, Jon Hecht.

This past Friday, I called the DCR in regards to the recent excessive cutback & removal of beautiful trees along Greenough Boulevard in Watertown & Cambridge. I first spoke with Matt Thurlow who responded to my inquiry with sarcasm & disrespect, providing abrupt answers to a few questions only then refusing to answer any additional ones or discuss valid points that I raised. He said the reason so many trees were cut back and removed was to remove dead wood, create clearance for snow plows and remove invasive species.

I drive and bike ride along that area on a regular basis in summer and in fall and mentioned to Mr. Thurlow that the vast majority of these trees were in very good condition during the later months of last year. While there was the occasional decayed branch, there certainly was not a vast # of dead branches that would warrant such a large-scale clearance of the area. I also mentioned that the removal levels were far in excess of that required to allow adequate clearance for snow plows. Several trees had entire limbs removed 20, 30 feet and higher. This is greatly in excess of what would be required for clearance for snow plows which are probably no higher than 6 to 8 feet. I mentioned the problems that result from such large structural loss to trees and the impact on the root leaf ratio. Since leaves are the vital food supply to a tree and its roots, depleting trees of large amounts of limbs & leaves results in food loss to the root system resulting in both root decay and loss of stability of the tree. In addition, removal of large amounts of the lower structure of the tree disrupts the center of gravity creating top-heavy trees that are at higher risk of toppling over in a storm. Even the utility companies have admitted this.

Mr. Thurlow refused to discuss any of these issues other than retort: What book are you reading from? When I referenced some articles I had read on the issue, he refused to discuss it further and disconnected the call.

I called back to see if there was someone else there who would be willing to discuss the issue and advise why so many trees were removed and subjected to such severe cut-back. I spoke with Peter Church, Director of Forest Stewardship, who apologized for Mr. Thurlow’s behavior and agreed it was a disrespectful way to respond to a resident inquiry. He advised that he would bring the matter to Joe Orfant, Mr. Thurlow’s manager, and would have the issue addressed. He said he would request that Mr. Orfant or someone else would get back to me to follow through on the issue.

Since I was advised during the earlier call that the tree-cutting was continuing that day, I went to the area that afternoon. When I arrived, Northern Tree Service was removing healthy limbs and branches from a pin oak tree on the river side, slightly west of the Grove St. exit and feeding it into the chipper. I spoke with Peter Wormstead who was in charge. While it was difficult to talk due to the noise, he did his best to answer my questions in a helpful way.

When I inquired as to the reason for cutting down so many branches from what was clearly a healthy tree, I mentioned that I did not see any dead wood in the tree, he relayed that the reason for the cutting was not the removal of dead wood but to create clearance for snow plows. I mentioned that the tree was sufficiently far back from the road not to be in the path of snow plows. He responded that he was instructed to clear all branches up to a certain point. I inquired how high. He didn’t provide any exact clearance heights but indicated removal of up to 60% of the tree structure. I mentioned that limb loss at these high levels causes trauma to a tree, weakening the tree and making it more likely to come down in a storm. I also mentioned the ANSI guidelines that stipulate that no more than 25% of a tree be removed in a growing season, that this was an absolute maximum and should be adjusted downward based on the tree’s age, health and location. He seemed to be unaware of this and was of the impression that as long as you leave 40% the tree would be fine. I explained not according to ANSI and described the problem that resulted from Nstar’s massive tree-cutting a few years ago which shifted the problem of branches falling to entire trees toppling over in storms, due to die-off of roots and loss of the balancing structure of the lower part the tree.

Mr. Wormstead was interested in the concerns I relayed and offered to postpone further tree-cutting that afternoon to allow me and other residents to make our concerns known to the DCR. He said he would be willing to postpone further cutting on Monday if the DCR authorized this.

Another point I relayed to him was the Riverfront Restoration Project that will involve narrowing the road and extending the riverside grass towards the road to provide additional space for trees, pedestrians & cyclists. I brought this up in relation to his response when I inquired why trees several feet back from the road were being cut. He said he was instructed to remove all over-hanging branches, even if the branches were several feet back and not close to the road at all. As far back as the trees and branches currently were, I mentioned that with the grass extension and road narrowing, all trees would be even further back from the road eliminating any reason to cause such loss in structure.

Mr. Wormstead said he wasn’t aware of the Riverfront Project and did not know that the grass area was being extended. In light of these facts, he agreed to hold off on further tree-cutting until the DCR reviewed the situation.

I called the DCR at 4:30pm to follow-up. I spoke with Patrice Kish, assistant planner. She mentioned that she had spoken with Joe Orfant and Matt Thurlow and that they were going to go out sometime next week to have a look. She said they had busy schedules and might not get to it until later in the week. I expressed my concern over the damage already caused to the area and additional concern over further damage being caused Monday and during the next few days if review of the matter was delayed until later. I asked if the tree-cutting could be postponed until the situation is investigated. She wasn’t sure but would relay the request. She provided me with your email address to contact you in writing and provided the email addresses of others in your department to include in the correspondence.

Due to the seriousness of this issue, the area has already been badly damaged with valuable tree shade lost, I am writing to you and to others at the DCR to ask if the tree-cutting could be stopped and no further trees cut until the situation is fully evaluated and citizen input obtained & taken into account. Watertown and Cambridge residents have already had thousands of their street trees subjected to severe gouging by Nstar during the past few years. Due to the uglifying effect this has had on our neighborhoods in addition to the loss of valuable shade during the summer months, people value the beauty & shade provided by trees along the river. It is one of the most beautiful and magnificent drives in the metro Boston area. I one week take longer detours along the Boulevard just to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the area. It was a complete shock recently to see how quickly this beauty was erased and turned into an eyesore with mature lush trees turned into lollipop structures and bare toothpick structures with top-heavy canopy residue on top. The following are links to before & after photos.

Beautiful Trees Cut Down & Subjected To Excessive Limb Removal Along Greenough Boulevard, Watertown & Cambridge, MA
After Pictures -

Before Pictures -

It is a tragedy and great loss to Watertown and the surrounding towns to see such beauty
reduced to this. Watertown, while full of character, is generally acknowledged to be a little short on beauty. The riverfront front however is the prized jewel of the town. To have the beauty of the area & one of the gateways into the town damaged in this way is a serious loss to a community striving to create a new image for itself and attract new business. Studies have shown that landscape & environment play a vital role in attracting quality business & residents. Due to major loss of trees, over 1,400 trees were subjected to major structural loss by Nstar in recent years, Watertown needs to preserve its remaining tree canopy. Cambridge & Belmont have also been subjected to similar loss in tree shade and would benefit equally well by preserving the health of natural trees on the waterfront.

The ongoing loss of shade trees in Massachusetts has been recognized as a serious problem for the state. Tree loss as a result of storms, trees weakened from excessive utility-pruning, over-salting of the roads, urban sprawl (nearly 16,000 acres of open space being lost to development each year), over 40,000 trees lost as a result of the Asian long-horned beetle – these are very serious concerns for the future of our urban forest. So much so that I think it was your office, the DCR Division of Forestry, in recognizing the seriousness of the problem, drew up a 5 year plan to tackle this during the recent decade.

The plan states that: “At least 40% of all street trees are in fair to poor condition. This suggests that there will be a significant tree loss over the next decade, unless there is aggressive and consistent tree management and replacement.”

As a result, it called for the following action items:

§ Increase tree canopy, not reduce it.
§ Adopt policies that support no net loss of tree canopy.
§ Work with the legislature to assist communities in protecting local trees & forested areas.
§ Ensure more trees are planted than removed.
§ Acknowledgment that trees create habitat for migratory birds and indigenous wildlife.
§ Listen to & incorporate citizen input. Public involvement in urban and community forestry is growing across the country, and an effective plan cannot be created by a few individuals in an office somewhere. A plan for urban and community forestry must be founded upon broad input from diverse stakeholders across the state – rural and urban residents, detractors and supporters, activists and practitioners. All stakeholders, including decision-makers, professionals and activists, integrate their work.

Citizen input is a very important element and I am writing to request that it be taken into consideration. When residents call to express concern about loss of urban trees, their questions need to be listened to and responded to in a respectful manner and their input accepted and included in the process. I know that some residents have already contacted your office and once I cc. others on this I am sure you will be receiving additional calls & emails.

Further concerns regarding what is being done on Greenough Boulevard is the effect on birds when large amounts of tree structure is removed during nesting season. To my knowledge, a depredation permit is required in certain circumstances to remove any section of a tree where birds are nesting, in particular, migratory birds. I would like to inquire if each of these trees were inspected for migratory birds nests and if the appropriate depredation permit was obtained?

The lush undergrowth that surrounds these trees also provides a protective landscape for other wildlife including river fowl and rabbits. Substantial sections of this protective landscape was removed during the recent clearance of trees.

Additional benefits of trees include reduction in traffic pollution and noise, lowering of air temperature, reduction in asthma and blood pressure & improved overall health.
People are impacted by ugly or attractive environments. Trees in particular have a calming and healing quality as well as a calming effect on traffic resulting in safer driving.

One thing that is greatly puzzling is the fact that the goal of the upcoming Riverfront Project is to restore the area. I’m puzzled why the DCR would allow so many trees to be removed and so many limbs sawed off remaining trees when another project is planning to revitalize & restore the area. It seems like a contradiction and one that will undermine the reason for and value of the restoration. Several of those trees that were removed or cut back camouflaged the graveyard behind. It provided a beautiful contoured canopy to the area. Now you have depleted toothpick structures with gravestones visible behind. One would be hard-pressed to see the point of creating green space for people to linger & enjoy the view while destroying the beauty of that view.

In regards to non-domestic species of trees and vines, I understand the need to manage these species, however, surely there are more moderate ways of doing this than tearing down several trees and leaving large empty gaps? Could not trees be replaced on a gradual, moderate level and vines cut or otherwise removed? Not all of those trees had bittersweet and if some did, they certainly seemed to be surviving pretty well. The impact from the bittersweet, if any, was negligible compared to the lethal impact of the chainsaws.

Due to the unique beauty of Greenough Boulevard it is an area worthy of Scenic Road Designation and the protections afforded to such roads. I will be forwarding a copy of this to members of the Watertown Town Council to see if something can be done in this regard. While it will take time to process and approve, I would request that in the meantime, the boulevard be afforded the protections of a recognized Scenic Route and that no further tree-cutting be done until the situation is evaluated and citizen input taken into consideration.

Ms. Sanches, if you would place a halt on any further tree-cutting scheduled for Monday morning, that would be greatly appreciated. Since one of the primary goals of the DCR is conservation, I’m hoping this conservation can be applied towards the remaining trees.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for giving this matter your urgent attention. I look forward to hearing back.


Maureen O’Sullivan.

Late January 2015 Update

Dear Sustainable Watertown,

The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.
-Salmon Rushdie

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.

If Liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
-George Orwell

$10 (children under 12 free). Join us for breakfast, Dr Emmett Price III, Francois Clemmons, the Intergenerational Chorus, awards, and, always, inspiration. Hellenic Cultural Center, 25 Bigelow Street.

Click here for more information »

Mt Auburn Cemetery, 24 Cottage Street, Watertown. $15 to recycle tube TVs, $5 CRT monitor and hard drive wiping, Free for other electronics. Cash only.

Click here for more information »

If anyone would like a tube TV, 27", works well, please by tomorrow afternoon.


A second hotel on an Elm Street location behind Target. Meeting at Coolidge School Apartments, 319 Arlington Street. 7PM.
View the Site Plan here.
View the Drawing and article here

Please join in a discussion about the final form of the Design Guidelines and next steps in review and adoption. We hope to discover how Design Guidelines are translated into zoning code. And try to get a way to really conceptualize what development plans will be when built. Will Design Standards and Guidelines prevent mediocre development? How does the planning process allow local control of the galloping development coming to Watertown?

Click here for more information »

SATURDAY, JANUARY 24, 11-12:30. Coolidge Square Neighborhood Group STANDOUT in Coolidge Square.

Please join the group as they petition and distribute flyers opposing the proposed CVS development.

SATURDAY JANUARY 24, 1:30-3PM. The Concerned Citizens Group

CCG, will present ZONING BY DESIGN, a Local TedTalk film by Somerville's Director of Planning, GEORGE PROAKIS. Discussion will follow. Library. Sustainable Watertown is proud that CCG is a member of the Neighborhood Network.

View the film show in July here »


Your good sense and good will are much needed to support excellence in development. The PLANNING BOARD DENIED the petition of the developer of the proposed CVS in Coolidge Square. The developer proceded to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) anyway, presented his unchanged building plans, and the community presented a petition of 300 signatures against and much discussion. The ZBA continued the case until JANUARY 28. Plan to attend.

Please consider supporting the Coolidge Square Neighborhood Group and members of Sustainable Watertown who are opposed to the present design. The crux of the problem is the outsized big box-type CVS at Mt Auburn and Arlington Streets. It would be a chain department store with pharmacy at the end of the lively and successful Coolidge Square shopping district with it's local, independent and small businesses. The scale of the CVS is mismatched to the diverse and walkable area we now treasure. The proposed CVS would wrap around the corner from the Mt Auburn Grill replacing the brick office, gas station and the Elks taking more than a fair share of street frontage. Traffic volume in general and truck traffic for the neighbors are big problems. Will such a large project lead to other chain stores buying multiple properties? Those opposed would prefer a project there that fits the scale of the interesting retail scene that has a well-established sense of place. Will it diminish the small and independent businesses? Perhaps new zoning which would allow mixed use and experiment with limited parking for any residences would add value to the entire area while maintaining the values the community expressed in the creation of the Comprehensive Plan. An exploration of a suitable anchor would help in the future. January 28 it is simply an up, or down vote by the ZBA on the project as it is now presented.
It is interesting that in the original Pleasant Street Corridor District an aspect of the design guidelines speaks to this kind of development and new standards: Section 2 p.66 of the Zoning Code relating only to this Corridor says:
(2) Guidelines:
In general, proposals should seek to satisfy the following:
(A) Be complementary to and provide for a harmonious transition in scale and character between adjacent sites.
(B) Provide for high-density quality development consistent with the character of building types, streetscapes, and other community features traditionally found in densely settled areas of the Town or in the region.
(C) Maintain streetscape continuity with a strong building presence along the primary street edge.
(D) The size and detailing of buildings shall be pedestrian oriented and incorporate features to
add visual interest while reducing appearance of bulk or mass. Blank walls should be avoided.
(E) A distinct "sidewalk" presence with incorporation of elements such as planters, traditional
awnings, signage projecting from building fagade (blade signage), etc. to enhance the
pedestrian scale and interest of the street.
(F) Avoid prototypical, standardized brand identity-related architecture and signage for businesses with multiple locations (i.e.: retail "chain" stores and restaurants.)
• If appropriate for a section of Watertown, why not for all of Watertown? Do you think the current CVS proposal satisfies the core values Watertown citizens have expressed in community meetings? Does it preserve and increase the amenities of the town?

••To read the informative Petition from some East End neighbors and sign it, please click here.

Please drop off all signatures at Doug & Stephanie Orifice's, 238 Arlington Street before the Wednesday meeting.
An excellent letter on the subject (and the Pleasant Street Corridor District as well) from Councilor Aaron Dushku can be found here on Facebook.

Find the Planning Department Staff Report on CVS here »

View the site plan here

East End neighbors surveyed people about how they use Coolidge Square and made recommendations: Janet Jameson and Deborah Peterson wrote about the need to reduce the negative impact of a corporate chain store in a village environment; Coolidge Square is valued as a village center and it seems important to preserve and enhance its village qualities as a Watertown asset; There is a need for traffic intervention beyond those sited in the traffic study and for pedestrian infrastructure; There is unmet need for restaurants and a variety of retail specialty shops, eg ice cream, book, gift, craft stores.

Your comments to the Planning Department and the Zoning Board of Appeals are still needed before the ZBA meets Jan. 28 even if you are planning to attend. Relevant Zoning Code sections are found on the town website (Ed Note: we could not link them today). Article 1.0, Purpose of Zoning Ordinance, p. 8. And Article 5.09 Special Permit: Conditions for Approval, p. 89. There are four conditions: The specific site is an appropriate location for such a use, structure, or condition; The use as developed will not adversely affect the neighborhood; There will be no nuisance or serious hazard to vehicles or pedestrians; Adequate and appropriate facilities will be provided for the proper operation of the proposed use. They would be useful in your emails along with the Pleasant Street Corridor District wish list.

-George Bernard Shaw


The Town Council voted unanimously on the suggestion of Council President Mark Sideris to send the matter of a single use plastic bag ban to the Subcommittee on Rules and Ordinances. The committee is chaired by Councilor Ken Woodland and Aaron Dushku and Susan Falkoff are members.
Congratulations to Rethink Plastic! which has been learning and explaining about such bans in other Massachusetts cities and in towns and states across the nation and the world. Sustainable Watertown was a founding member of the group. Here'sanother reason why we need the ban.

The Pleasant Street Corridor District amendments were approved by the Planning Board and will be heard by the Town Council. Some members have issues with some of the amendments, others who live on Pleasant Street and have met with Councilor Woodland seem happy with them. A discussion of the issues will follow when we have a date for the Council hearing. The draft amendments are on the town website under zoning amendments.

FEBRUARY 11, PLANNING BOARD. The office development at 65 Grove Streetis scheduled to be heard in February. The proposal at 65 looks to be a creative, flexible, and modern renovation of an old brick building using lots of glass with the old brick. However, consider the very large outdoor parking despite a garage with more spaces than are required. Perhaps, instead of about 50 spaces on an impervious surface in the courtyard, visitors could park inside and enter the office building via a gorgeous green park that could be enjoyed by employees and residents alike. It could be a green amenity to attract tenants and neighbors with only a few visitors allowed to park beside the building. When and if there is a need for more parking, the numbers could be discussed by the Planning Department. The traffic on the property could possibly be redesigned to remove traffic from Crawford Street and the Arlington intersection perhaps in exchange for more parking in the garage. The project has been continued before; perhaps the new plans consider these issues.
••View the 65 Grove Street site plans here
Again, your comments are important BEFORE the hearing at the Planning Board. Please address comments to the Planning Department and members of the Planning and Zoning Boards via Don't forget to include your Town Councilors.

THE SECOND DESIGN STANDARDS AND GUIDELINES MEETING was eye-opening and inspirational for many. We appreciate the creative and productive process with the design of Greystar at the Pirolli site and the development of design standards from which to support excellence in development for the new growth in Watertown. Thank you to consultant and architect planner, David Gamble who lives in Watertown and to Brandon Henry of Greystar who has said this has been a transformational experience for him which has reminded him why he went into this field originally. And thanks to their staffs and the staff of the Watertown Planning Department whose participation is invaluable.

Library, upstairs.
Come brainstorm with us about strategy and future prospects.

We need a townwide discussion on criteria for membership. But, if you don't apply, you don't get considered. Let's talk. Email or click here

Kudos to Congresswoman Katherine Clark who has been named Assistant Whip in the Democratic House Leadership.

CPR, First Aid, Healthcare Provider classes in Watertown. Please contact the Board of Health.

Please consider a donation, large, or small, to the WATERTOWN FOOD PANTRY. WFP, 31 Marshall Street, or drop off a check at the Senior Center.

Thanks for all you do!

With best wishes for a creative & productive new year.

Sustainable Watertown


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