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, firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
FROM JONATHAN BOCKIAN TO THE PLANNING BOARD, TOWN COUNCIL, TRANSIT TASK FORCE, SUSTAINABLE WATERTOWN, AND OTHERS:
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.
Irving St., Watertown
This comment is on my own behalf as a town resident and not on behalf of any client or community group.
FROM NANCY HAMMETT :
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:
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.