December News

Zoning, home values, police data, traffic calming, and city hall golf

11/29/20234 min read

I hope you enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving. There’s a lot to catch you up on—Councilor Humphrey took on Ward 5 road safety improvements--new sidewalks on Chestnut, pedestrian crossing signals and upgrades to Pettee Square--in his newsletter Sunday. More traffic calming news below.  


Home Values

Police Data

Traffic Calming

Golf City Hall

Office Hours  


Council has been wrapping up a busy term with votes on zoning and work on strengthening our tree ordinance. While we are unlikely to pass the entire package of village center zoning that the Zoning Committee and Planning Department spent over 5 years developing, the work is not lost. A straw vote this month showed a majority support compliance with the MBTA/Housing Choice law.  That law requires Newton to allow a “unit capacity” of 8,330  units, which probably will result in no more than 20% of that—or roughly 1,600 units in the next 5-10 years.

The package of zoning amendments is more than just allowing more homes near transit stations--the state mandate. It includes best practices for mixing uses to make quality car-light living possible, design review and historic preservation. It includes strict storm water infrastructure requirements, space for trees and street furniture (and more outdoor dining), and will allow for the slow but steady revitalization of our small commercial and community centers. It will allow steady growth in our tax base-helping to spread the costs of maintaining roads and parks among more people.

Compliance is important, because if Newton does NOT pass compliant zoning before Dec. 31, Newton will lose out on grants which make it easier to balance our budgets.

I also hope that Council will pass zoning for Auburndale. This would signal to the MBTA, the governor and the Federal Government that Newton is willing to put more people near the stations in which we are asking them to invest. Failing that, Newton's stations with two-platforms for future regional rail  will not be competitive for this funding. Our state and federal representatives have said as much. And Newton does not qualify as either low-income or Economic Justice, and there are plenty of communities across the state and nation that do and will.

The work on those village centers that are not in the final vote before the new year can be used in the future as neighbors see the benefits for our MBTA villages. And I expect further tweaks to this zoning as we watch the market and see what gets proposed and built.  

Home Values and Taxes:

In 2024, the median single-family home in Newton is $1.7m, up from $925 in 2014 and $1.5 just a year ago, according to our Assessor, James Shaughnessy. He looks at sales over the last year and uses that to estimate Newton’s value for taxation purposes. Last year, 33% of single-family homes sold for over $2m. More than half went for over $1.5m. The cost of housing is clearly skyrocketing. Indeed, the lowest priced homes shown us by Mr. Shaughnessy were torn down shortly after purchase to be replaced by new, much more expensive homes. The most affordable neighborhoods were, in ascending order, Upper Falls, Lower Falls, and the northern flats of West Newton.

Our tax rate is low, because our values are so high—and so are our taxes! Newton ranks 14th among the 351 communities in Massachusetts in the average tax on single family homes. That’s in part because over 90% of our tax revenue comes from residential real estate—condos, apartments, 2-families, and, predominantly, single-family homes. Non-residential (commercial, industrial, and personal) property represents less than 9% of Newton’s overall value.  

Police data & more

We will once again be meeting with Chief Carmichael or Superintendent McMains Dec. 6, 7 pm, to review this year’s updated statistics on crime, crashes and other incidents. This is part of a regular review the Public Safety committee implemented in 2020 to bring more transparency and public trust to policing here.

Also on the agenda is a discussion with Disabilities Coordinator Jini Fairley about how she helps people with placards during the winter overnight parking ban and possibly temporary parking permits for contractors and tradespeople. We will also ask questions about safety around our schools.  

Traffic Calming-Albemarle near Day Middle School

Some parts of the traffic calming project on Albemarle northbound are in place—new pavement markings and a new head-out angled parking (to protect cyclists using the median bike lane) are already installed. Speed cushions and flex posts will be added in the spring—along with the return of flex posts at Crafts and Albemarle, which reduced crashes there while they were up. I am hoping DPW can find a way to keep our flex posts up during the winter, since the need remains all year.  

Washington Street Pilot

And finally, the Planning Department is holding a public meeting on pilot traffic calming, including protected bike lanes, between Chestnut and Lowell. This would make the bike commute to Newton North and Day sooo much safer! I am looking forward to seeing it implemented. The virtual meeting is Thursday, Nov. 30 at 6:30. Register here.

City Hall Mini-Golf, Again!

This weekend, come to City Hall to play 18 holes—an unwrapped toy for ages newborn-10 or a gift card for groceries is the entry fee. It was a blast last year, and is sure to be again. Details here.