Thanks to everyone who came to our forum this evening! Below are the questions we received from the audience, grouped into topic areas, followed by answers from Councilor Deb Crossley. Read more →
September 24, 2019
Newton City Council
Land Use Committee
Newton City Hall
Dear Chairman Schwartz and Members of the Land Use Committee,
The League of Women Voters of Newton (LWVN) supports the proposed Northland project because it leverages underutilized space that offers substantial improvements for Newton residents. With this development we will be able to work towards our common goals of increasing housing diversity; mitigating the use of cars; creating new recreational open space; encouraging walking, biking, and use of the Greenway; attracting new shops, restaurants, and other kinds of employers and increasing our commercial tax base.
In the Globe article NIMBY? Not in these cities and towns Watertown, our neighbor, was cited as an example “In Watertown, which permitted 1,296 housing units in the four-year period, Community Development and Planning director Steve Magoon credited the town’s regulatory and elected boards with making the tough decisions needed to allow projects to go forward”. We believe that Newton should also continue to step up to address the housing crisis in the metro Boston area.
The Newton City Council over the past few years made the difficult decisions to approve both the Austin Street and Washington Place projects. With the Northland project, the City Council of 2018-2019 once again has the opportunity to make another tough decision and do the right thing by approving this development.
Northland’s proposal will provide a diversity of housing options that Newton needs, with an alternative to single-family homes, which many people – from young professionals, to seniors looking to downsize, to people who work in Newton – are looking for but cannot find right now.
- It will increase the housing supply overall and provide much-needed affordable units.
- With the newest proposal, 17.5% of the units will be affordable, producing 140 new affordable units, including 120 of affordable units at a blended 65% of AMI and 20 units of work-force housing for persons at 80 to 110% of AMI
The developer is committed to sustainability and is working with Green Newton to maximize environmentally-friendly features, including those listed below.
- Passive House design in three buildings, exploration of Passive House design in the five remaining residential buildings and LEED for Neighborhood Development certifiability throughout.
- The development will create new connections to the Greenway, plant 600 new trees, and will include 10 acres of active open-space available for public use.
And finally, the project will generate increased tax revenue for the City.
Overall, the combination of increased housing diversity, environmentally-friendly design, added green space, and additional tax income provide an opportunity that LWVN encourages the City Council to support.
President, League of Women Voters, Newton
I’m excited to write to you as Chair of the City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee (ZAP) to inform you about the important work our committee is doing regarding zoning changes in Newton. What is zoning? Zoning is the way governments control the physical development of our city. For example, it governs areas where we can have residences of various types, as well as commercial, manufacturing and mixed-use buildings. It also governs the use of properties throughout the city as well as the size of buildings on these properties.
Why does Newton need new zoning?
The City Council’s efforts to reform zoning began with the work of a group of citizens tasked by Mayor Warren and (then) Board of Alderman to develop a plan for reforming Newton’s outdated zoning ordinance. Our ordinance has not been comprehensively reviewed since 1953. In 2011, this group produced a report reflecting citizens commonly voiced concerns such as;
- Why are there so many teardowns?
- Why should people be allowed to build “McMansions” that come so close to my home?
- What can we do to make sure my daughter can afford to live in Newton when she starts looking for a home?
- Why aren’t there any options for places to live in Newton when I can no longer take care of my big home where I raised my family?
- How can we keep our villages full of shoppers with a vibrant mix of shops?
- How can we manage parking and traffic?
- How can we channel growth that we need to thrive and advance to appropriate areas of our city?
- How can we preserve the character of our neighborhoods?
- How can Newton contribute to climate change mitigation?
by Marcia Johnson
In 2013 the Board of Aldermen approved a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) at Riverside special permit. This project stalled and was ultimately deemed not economically feasible and never moved forward. Now fast forward to 2018-19. Mark Development has partnered with Normandy Real Estate Partners (original developer) to move forward with a development at Riverside. This project is larger, denser and more comprehensive in its offerings, to which many Auburndale and Lower Falls residents have voiced concerns. As a result the City Council and Mayor Fuller have taken action by approving and moving forward with Visioning for the Riverside site in order to:
- Gain community input and perspective in the development of a future vision for the site
- Produce a plan with development principles for the site that can be provided to the City Council Land Use Committee
- Develop principles and desired community benefits for future development of the Riverside site.
The TOD at Riverside, though located in Auburndale/Lower Falls, is a city-wide project. Therefore all citizens should take an interest in this project and provide feedback using this link as well as by participating in future meetings.
Washington Street Visioning
“Hello Washington Street!” is the City of Newton’s initiative to plan proactively the future of Washington Street in a community-based process with residents, local businesses, and City Councilors, with the help of the Principle Group, the planning firm under contract with the City of Newton. The thirteen-month process, started in April 2018 and anticipated to go until May 2019, will result in a vision plan and draft zoning recommendations for the areas that link West Newton to Newtonville to Newton Corner.
Thank you to those who provided feedback on the first draft of the vision. Once again, we have an opportunity to promote the need for more diverse housing, and better and safer transportation options in Newton by providing feedback on the second draft by March 13.. The voices of all residents of Newton count even if you don’t live in West Newton, Newtonville or Newton Corner.
The Final Draft is anticipated to be released in late April, so providing timely feedback is critical.
Howard Haywood Celebration
Former Mayor David Cohen once said that Rev. Haywood did more to build community in the city of Newton than anyone he knew. So it was fitting that on December 16th, more than 350 people filled Temple Shalom to celebrate Newton’s “…Beacon for Affordable Housing” Howard Haywood . In planning this event, Reverend Haywood insisted that this not be a simple party but rather there be a focus on educating the community about the hard facts central to understanding the injustices of the recent past and the barriers to equality that still exist in our society. As a result there was some very straight talk about race, prejudice, overt and structural discrimination. Let me highlight just a few thoughts:
- In today’s America, approximately half of all Black persons and 40 percent of all Latinos live in neighborhoods that have no white residents – while the average white person lives in a neighborhood that is nearly 80 percent white.
- Half of the affordable rental housing units in the Greater Boston Metropolitan area are concentrated in just 10 municipalities in the region. Concentrating subsidized and public housing in low-income areas – without providing the resources, amenities and opportunities its residents need to thrive only perpetuates inequality.
- In 134 Massachusetts municipalities in 2016 there was not a single mortgage loan to a Black borrower and in 49 cities and towns just one loan to a Black borrower. Today we are still racially divided, residentially segregated, and the wall that separates us being reinforced by the increasing racial wealth gap.
- Yet, today the economic barriers to affordable housing in Newton denying access to all those in the middle and bottom of the economic ladder requires us to do more. We cannot settle for token development, but must embrace an adequate supply of fair affordable housing as essential for a better Newton.
It was appropriate that on that date in December, Reverend Haywood was honored for his long standing commitment to social justice and especially to fair and affordable housing- as 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) . The two main goals of the FHA were to end discrimination in housing and to take significant actions to overcome historic segregation and achieve inclusive integrated communities
Today, it is estimated that there are approximately 4 million incidents of housing discrimination in the US each year – the majority of which go unreported. In Newton, we have to continue to fight for affordable housing, multi-family housing, and even at times more density in housing that will attract people of diverse backgrounds to our community.
As I was finishing this article, I was saddened to learn of the passing of Reverend Haywood. So now more than ever we need to be guardians of his legacy. That is, to have the courage to be persistent and impatient when confronted by the forces of ignorance and indifference; to be creative in finding new ways to dent and dismantle the walls that divide us; to walk humbly in his footsteps and stay the course -hopeful for a more inclusive Newton.
Thank you to Nadine Cohen, Hubie Jones, and Nancy Zollers for content of this article.
Dear Community Friends & Neighbors,
As you know “Hello Washington Street’s” thirteen-month process which started in April 2018 and is anticipated to go until May 2019, continues. We now have another opportunity to provide feedback on the visioning document. It is important for us to provide feedback that density in village [retail/commercial] areas is what is needed to provide more diverse housing and a vibrant community. So please enter your thoughts, so our voices will be heard. The document is open for public comment through March 13th.
There are three ways to read and comment on Draft Two of the Vision Plan:
1. Online – read and leave a comment directly on the plan by following
the link below.
2. Newton Free Library – read and leave a comment on a hard copy.
3. Newton Planning Department – read and leave a comment on a hard
copy during business hours at City Hall.
You can also come to a Drop-In Office Hours to discuss and provide feedback.
So we ask that you please take a moment before March 13th to provide your valuable feedback.
Marcia Johnson & Tamara Bliss
Hello Washington Street Community Connectors
Riverside Visioning Community Open House, February 10th, 4:00, Williams School
This is the opportunity for you to give input on what gets developed at Riverside. The City of Newton Planning department, and their consultant, Civic Moxie, invite you to attend an open house to create the future vision for the Riverside Station site. Please see the attached flyer. The intent of the vision plan is to assist the City in evaluating future development proposals as well as how to better integrate the site into the community.Riverside Visioning Community Open House – Feb 10