3/5/15 Joint Planning Board / Land Use Committee Hearing on New Zoning 1

3/5/15 Joint Planning Board / Land Use Committee Hearing on New Zoning

Thu. Mar. 5 6:00 – 9:00 PM

Somerville City Hall
Aldermanic Chamber
93 Highland Ave.
Somerville MA (map)

Public Notice (PDF)

This is a special joint hearing of the Somerville Planning Board and the Somerville BOA Land Use Committee that will be held with the regular Board of Aldermen meeting. It was rescheduled from its original date, 2/10/15.

Agenda consists of a hearing on the new, building-type oriented zoning ordinance to replace the current zoning ordinance.

The Planning Board holds public hearings, provides recommendations to the Zoning Board of Appeals and Aldermanic committees, and grants permits for special districts, such as Planned Unit Developments. For more information, see:

WITI?

One comment

  1. Testimony to OSPCD

    March 3, 2015

    Directory Michael Glavin
    Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development
    93 Highland Ave.
    Somerville MA 02143

    Re: SOMERVILLE ZONING ORDINANCE, January 22, 2015 BOA Submittal

    Dear Director Glavin:

    This letter is with regard to the new building-form-oriented zoning.

    In many respects, this zoning is an advance upon the previous zoning. It is shorter and easier to understand. It does not force the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals to hear dozens of small changes every year, for things like new dormers. The base districts are well sized for Somerville neighborhoods.

    That being said, this zoning does not well serve the purposes laid out in the Comprehensive Plan. Specifically, it provides too much incentive for housing and too little incentive for office and R&D.

    The base districts include mixed-use and commercial building types, and that is good. However, the definitions of these building types are too narrow. I quote:

    Mixed-use building: A multi-story building type with ground floor commercial uses and upper story residential with six or more dwelling units.

    Commercial building: A multi-story building type with ground story commercial uses and upper story nonresidential uses.

    In other words, it would not be legal in Somerville to construct a building with a mixture of retail, office, and residential uses – a building type that is commonplace in cities like Boston and New York. A building type that is desirable for us because it provides jobs, tax base, and an incentive for developers to build office and R&D.

    I propose the following change, to define an “Office Mixed-Use” type, to replace the current 7 story and 10 story “Residential” mixed-use types: For mixed-use buildings taller than 5 stories, at most two stories on top can be residential and at most 2 stories on the bottom can be retail. The middle stories must be office or R&D.

    This has two effects:

    1. “Residential” mixed-use (the current definition) will be at most 5 stories tall. Such buildings will work well at the edges of infill developments, abutting small residential developments. Because there is less residential development in these locations than with taller residential buildings, the draw on city services will be lower than with taller residential buildings.
    2. “Office” mixed-use will be 7 to 10 stories tall. Such buildings will work well in both transformational and infill developments. The draw on city services will be lower than with pure residential development. The top residential stories will give developers a way to pay for their development while they, and we, are finding an office tenant to provide jobs and tax base.

    Over and over, I have listened while Assembly Square Limited Partnership, Federal Realty, and now US2 tell us that developers will not build office without a tenant lined up in advance. I ask in return, why would a tenant want to go to a location if there were no office space being built there?

    It is plain that we cannot depend on market forces to solve this problem. Let us solve it by planning and zoning instead.

    Thank you for your attention.

    David Dahlbacka

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