Listen to Attorney General Maura Healey at the Newton Mayor’s Community Prayer Breakfast

Sit with other LWVN members at the upcoming Newton Mayor’s Community Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday, May 20th, starting at 7:15 am.  The breakfast is held at McElroy Commons on the main Boston College campus.  This year, the featured speaker is Attorney General Maura Healey.

Seats are going fast, so if you are interested in attending, please contact info@lwvnewton.org for more info.

Zoning Reform: Defining the Future Newton – Topic Meeting

Please join us
Wed, May 13, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
NewTV, 23 Needham St., Newton

Brown-bag lunches welcome

Zoning is the means by which the City controls the use of land and defines the rights that landowners have to develop their properties.  Zoning describes the uses, density, coverage, and other aspects of what we can put on our residential and commercial land.

Newton’s current zoning ordinance dates back to the early 1950’s and has been updated several times since that time.  However, the ordinance has never been comprehensively updated to reflect the City’s comprehensive plan or to address other prospective city goals.

The City’s Planning Department and Aldermen are in the process of completing Phase I of Zoning Reform – in which the current ordinance has been made more legible, better organized, and where known contradictions have been removed or addressed.  The City is now on the verge of beginning Phase II, which will update the policies and zones themselves.

Our speaker will be James Freas, Acting Director of Planning and Development.  James will provide an overview of the process to date and the issues to be addressed in the coming phases.  He will speak for 15 minutes, followed by open discussion among all attendees.

LWVN Comments on Proposed Water / Sewer / Stormwater Rates

NOTE:  The comments below were based on the originally proposed fees, not the rates proposed over the weekend before the hearing.  LWVN did not have the opportunity to review those fees in time for public comment.

The proposed rates for water, sewer and stormwater are the result of tremendous efforts by city staff and aldermen, particularly Aldermen Deborah Crossley and Ruthanne Fuller. The goal of these changes is to create a fair means by which to pay for the upkeep of the  infrastructure that provides us with safe water and prevents flooding.

LWVN supports full-cost pricing for water systems as a best practice for  covering the costs of providing water and sewer services.  We hope this will also provide an incentive to conserve this vital resource.

Despite the City’s efforts over the last few years to repair our water pipes, Newton still pays the MWRA for a large amount of water, which does not make its way to customers. Finding and repairing the leak(s) in order to reduce Newton’s percentage of unaccounted water (in line with other MWRA communities’), will be a critical investment and provide future savings. Thus, we support the new water & sewer block rates, which encourage water conservation while minimizing the burden on small users.

We also understand that the proposed stormwater rate increase is necessary to pay the estimated expenses in that system for FY2015-16. Newton needs to prevent nutrient and other pollutants from entering our water bodies, including Crystal Lake and the Charles River. This is important work, and includes repairing broken drainage lines to prevent future flooding.

The Weston & Sampson report before you identifies a scope of work that is critical to operations now and over the next 20 years but we still need a rational way to share the burden. About half of all impervious surfaces in this City are owned by all of us—our City buildings, our streets, tennis courts, parking lots, etc.   All of us need a working stormwater system.

The jump in residential stormwater fees from $25-$75/year is substantial, but avoiding water pipe repairs, delaying measures to prevent flooding where we can, and mismanaging runoff before it carries pollutants to our water bodies can have much higher ultimate costs to Newton and its residents.

The commercial stormwater rates unfortunately perpetuate an unfair pricing structure that bills all businesses the same (regardless of its contribution to the problem). While this fee increase is needed in the short-term, we urge the city to continue moving with deliberate speed toward a fee system in which the tiers are adjusted according to the amount of impermeable surface on a property. We urge the administration to set the upper tiers of such a system high enough to be fair on a per-square-yard basis, and to create an incentive to implement stormwater mitigation measures that benefit everyone.

We support the proposed rates and we look forward to reviewing new proposals that use impervious surfaces as the basis for stormwater fees by the next fiscal year

 

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