APRIL: ZONING, COUNTRYSIDE
In this issue:
You may have heard that the new map and description of Village Center zoning and how Newton can meet MBTA Communities zoning requirements. All of the proposed zoning rules are overlay zoning, which means owners can pick whether they want to be in the old or the new zoning when contemplating a project.
I think this is progress, and reflects much of what we heard from the community: preserving older buildings, keeping private open space & trees, adding housing for downsizing or new residents that is green, car-light and supports transit and village economic vitality. We also want to meet the state Housing Choice mandates so Newton is eligible for future state grants.
My concern is that the underlying (old) zoning, which has resulted in many tear-downs and big single- and two-family townhouses fronted by driveways, will be more profitable than more modest multi-family renovations allowed by the multi-resident-transit overlay zoning (in green in the map). That would mean we don’t achieve the walkability, economic vitality and residential diversity goals the rules are meant to meet.
The city Thursday submitted its application for state funding. The vote from the Countryside Building Committee, on which I sit with Councilor David Kalis and Ward 5 School Committee member Emily Prenner, was unanimous. The main decision was siting (we agreed it should move well out of the South Meadow Brook flood zone) and schematic (three stories to reduce its footprint, with doors facing the playground and the corner of Dedham and Walnut). The team is optimistic that the School Building Authority will agree with us.