The “public” part of the hearing is closed, and the Land Use Committee is now discussing the Board Order, which is a set of conditions that Northland will have to abide by if the project is approved.
We have spent a considerable amount of time reviewing the conditions related to traffic, as this is one of the neighborhoods’ key concerns.
We found the conditions deficient in a number of ways:
- Only residential and office traffic is counted; not retail traffic, Uber/Lyft-related traffic, or visitors to the site.
- Northland is not being held to the traffic numbers they provided as part of the review process when they promised to reduce the percentage of residents and office employees that drive to/from the site to 60%.
- Traffic is only monitored at morning and evening “peak hours” on weekdays, ignoring weekend peak hours.
- Traffic counts are to initially be performed every 6 months, but the frequency is reduced to a year after only 1 year of compliance and eliminated entirely after 5 years.
- Traffic traffic data is to be collected during a predetermined 3-day period; all other data collected during the collection period is ignored.
- The traffic counts rely on “intercept surveys” — when some one asks the driver their reason for being at the site to collect some of the information.
- If Northland exceeds the mandated traffic maximums, the only penalty is for Northland to spend more on its mitigation plan (there is no suspension of building permits or withholding of certificates of occupancy).
You can see the letter we submitted to the City Council’s Land Use Committee here: RSN – Land Use Committee Letter – Board Order Comments (#426-18) – 10-25-2019
You can see our proposed changes to the traffic-related Board Order Conditions here: Board Order (#426-18) – Traffic Conditions (Right Size Newton) – 10-25-2019
Our proposed changes marked against the original Board Order draft are here: Board Order (#426-18) – Traffic Conditions (Right Size Newton) – 10-25-2019 (marked to original)
We also have provided some comments to Northland’s lawyer’s letter from last Friday: RSN – Comments on Schlesinger Memo dated 10-23-2019
Overview of the proposed development:
Northland Investment Corporation (https://www.northland.com/) has proposed a 22+ acre development on land it owns at the corner of Needham and Oak streets in Newton Upper Falls (shaded in red in the image above).
Northland’s massive proposal, which REQUIRES both a ZONING CHANGE and a SPECIAL PERMIT is currently being reviewed by the Newton City Council Land Use Committee.
The information submitted in connection with the zoning change and special permit applications can be found here: http://www.newtonma.gov/gov/planning/current/devrev/hip/needham_st_permits.asp
The proposal calls for:
- Almost 2,000,000 square feet of development
- 800 rental units (80 studios, 360 1-bedrooms, 320 2-bedrooms, and 40 3-bedrooms)
- 180,000 square feet of office space (in the existing Mill building)
- 115,000 square feet of “retail” space
- Only 1,550 parking spaces (total)
- 17 buildings, 7 of them currently at 7+ stories and 96 feet high
And this is just PHASE 1. Northland has also purchased 14+ acres across Needham Street (the area shaded in yellow in the image above). Those 14+ acres are certain to become PHASE 2 once Phase 1 is approved.
While we WELCOME appropriate development of this site (it has become a concrete wasteland during Northand’s 15+ years of ownership), this proposal is simply TOO BIG. The HEIGHT and DENSITY of the buildings is completely OUT OF SCALE with the surrounding neighborhoods of Newton Highlands and Upper Falls.
- Northland’s incorrect enrollment projections VASTLY UNDERESTIMATE the financial impact on our schools
- Northland’s INSUFFICIENT number of parking spaces will cause narrow neighboring streets to become overwhelmed with cars from the project, causing emergency vehicles to struggle to navigate them
- Northland’s INACCURATE traffic projections DRAMATICALLY UNDERESTIMATE the impact of the proposed development on Needham Street and NEIGHBORING STREETS (especially Winchester St, Oak Street, Saco St, Williams St, Christina Rd, Rachel Rd, Roland St, and Charlemont St)
- Northland’s proposed shuttle service is WILL NOT solve the TRAFFIC ISSUE
- Northland’s proposal calls for the BARE MINIMUM “affordable” units allowed by law
WE ARE NOT ANTI-DEVELOPMENT. WE WELCOME APPROPRIATE DEVELOPMENT OF THIS SITE!
This website started as an effort by 8 area neighbors with no “activism” experience shocked by the lack of public awareness of this MASSIVE proposed development. We wanted to help inform our neighbors and our friends. We have grown to 250+ neighbors and counting.
Our goal IS NOT to prevent Northland from developing this site; it is to make sure that the way in which the site is developed BENEFITS EVERYONE, not just Northland’s investors’ profits.
To stay informed or to get involved, please click the Join Us link to the left to be added to our mailing list.
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To voice your concerns directly to the city council, please email the council at email@example.com.