Strategies for the future

When one takes a look at the Tab, Village 14, or Newton Forum in the recent months, one thing is clear — change is upon us.  This change has arrived in many forms, from a tear down on your street, to the proposed Orr Block building, to the Mayor’s new development plan.  And it’s not just Newton — take a drive around neighboring cities and towns and you’ll see signs of change everywhere you look.  For example, Wellesley Center now has luxury condos, the former Polaroid building/site in Waltham has undergone a makeover, and last week the Globe reported on the “shrinking American yard.”

The question becomes: whatever the reason may be, if you are against these changes, what do you think the best ways are to insert your voice into the decision making process?  Has anyone looked into successful strategies that have been used in other municipalities around the country?

And just as a reminder, the Land Use Committee is holding the second public hearing on the Orr Block this evening at 7pm, during which the public will have the opportunity to comment.

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Lynne LeBlancGeoff Epstein Recent comment authors
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Geoff Epstein

Newton, under the current Mayor, seems determined to push ahead with increasing the density of housing, with the sole goal of enhancing the Mayor’s affordable housing resume. Sound development is always welcome and these projects outside of Newton show that for sure some developments elsewhere are positive. But for Newton the current strategy will destroy the fundamental village nature of Newton. The ‘flower box city’ might be the future Newton designation as the gardens disappear and the villages, already infested by banks, morph valuable commercial space into residential development. Unless neighborhoods fight back against this, the fundamental nature of the city will change, Residential developments will sprawl across Newton with a huge negative impact on the schools. If Setti wants 800 ‘affordable’ units, then he will visit an additional 4-5,000 households in Newton (roughly a 15% increase in households) which at a minimum means adding another 4-5,000 kids to the school system which will need another $30 million for the school budget and multiple new schools. Multiple operating overrides and debt exclusions are firmly in Newton’s future, as Setti commits us to financial and educational disaster. Setti has not thought through the implications for Newton as he aims for the governor’s mansion. Every high density residential development should be opposed by local area councils and neighborhoods until a plan which makes sense replaces the current one. And watch out for the Chart Commission which, against all best practices, is centralizing power with its 13 member council idiocy, with 5 elected… Read more »

Lynne LeBlanc

Jess, you just asked one of the million dollar questions: “Are you for or against the changes.” It seems inconceivable that such wholesale changes are happening under our very noses without substantial discussion. The RKG and City administration event of November 2015 seems to be the most often quoted data for allowing such changes. The value of that data, however, is negligible as its very premise was flawed and more like a Disney line taking us to the intended destination than an honest discussion.

Very interesting article about the new homeowners in Winchester paving over their front yard and thinking that was fine – who needs green space and who cares about the neighborhood character?
But this is not the wild west and we are part of a community and that’s a great thing! Life was cheap and often quite short in the wild west.
In Newton we can depend on our neighbors help when the going gets tough, to keep an eye on our kids, warn us of important items, and become our friends. That’s part of good citizenship and allows us to strengthen our community.
Here is what applies: Professor of Law, Councilman Baker explained to me there is a legal concept called “average reciprocity of advantage” – basically the limits on our neighbors are also limits on us, and it protects us all. “Reciprocity analysis forces us to disabuse ourselves of the no­tion that land’s primary function is to enable its owner to reap prof­its.” For example: I can’t make a fortune by putting a toxic waste dump on my land, but neither can my neighbor – we preserve the neighborhood we moved into with the expectation that there won’t be any nasty surprises tomorrow.