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Land Use Committee Meeting 3/12

Northland is slated to present a slightly modified version of its proposal for its 22-acre parcel at the corner of Needham Street and Oak Street at the Land Use Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 12th at 7pm.

Meetings are held in the city council chambers (second floor of city hall).  Please come and voice your concerns so that we can get this project sized down to what makes sense for this location.

By way of reminder: the Land Use Committee is a group of city councilors who review and either approve or deny applications for special permits (which a project the size that Northland is proposing requires) before the entire city council votes on the proposal.  Our best chance of getting Northland to meaningfully change this massively outsized project that will overwhelm our roads and overburden our schools is now!

While Northland claims it has listened to feedback from the council and the community, the slightly modified proposal it is planning to present does nothing to alleviate any of the concerns raised.

Northland’s estimate of the number of students that the project will generate is too low, and reducing the number of apartments from 822 to 800 is not meaningful enough to address this concern.

Northland’s proposal has inadequate parking for the number of residential and commercial (including retail) units requested, and the updated proposal actually reduces the number of parking spaces that Northland is proposing to build.

Northland’s proposed bus shuttle routes are insufficient to mitigate the added traffic that a project of this scale will bring to the area, are too infrequent to be useful, and are, overall, evocative of the old nexus bus service (that, as we all remember, was an abandoned failure).

If Northland is serious about listening to our concerns, they need to significantly change the size of this proposed development — as proposed it is simply too big and should not be approved.

Traffic Meeting Recap

The meeting room was full last night and many, many residents were able to share their views on traffic and parking associated with the proposed Northland development on Needham Street.

The city councilors, and everyone in the room, including Northland and their consultants and lawyers agreed that the traffic on Needham Street is already bad.  Everyone also agreed that the development would make it worse.

The disagreement is largely over just how much worse.  While Northland’s consultant cherry-picked specific intersections and glossed over the most negative impacts, the peer reviewer hired by the city (BETA) did a good job of showing that traffic at 20 of the 27 analyzed intersections would get worse.  How much worse? From 10 seconds to over 2 minutes worse! Many of the intersections would also degrade into a level of service that is considered inadequate or failing.

BETA also made it clear that these delays and degradation of service would happen even with Northland’s ambitious “robust” shuttle plan, which would aim to get 30% of area residents to use the shuttle system (currently, less than 13% use public transportation).  In their analysis, BETA assumed that this goal would be met, but also made it clear that they did not think the goal of more than doubling public transportation usage was achievable. Northland’s own transportation consultant (128 business council) was unable to predict the success of the shuttle (due to insufficient data) and instead has asked us to “take a leap of faith” that it will work.

Councilor Auchincloss (contact here: jauchincloss@newtonma.gov) took some time to demand that Northland lower the number of parking spaces that they would build as part of the project (without suggesting a reduction in the overall size of the project!).  Northland is already requesting a waiver to build fewer than the 3,400 parking spots required by Newton’s zoning (they are asking to build only 1,900 spots).  This is despite the fact that Northland’s request is already below the average that would be required in surrounding communities (even if we count Boston, which as a much more urban space than Newton, requires much less parking).  This is also despite the fact that, as we point out on our traffic and parking page, there will simply not be enough parking for the residents, employees, and shoppers that Northland anticipates using the development when it is built.  Reducing the number of parking spaces without reducing the size of the project will either cause the project to fail (retail and office space will be left vacant due to lack of shoppers and lack of companies willing to commit to a car-free workforce and residential use that leans heavily on Uber and Lyft, which would further increase traffic) or it will cause the surrounding neighborhoods to be overwhelmed with parking related to this development.

The bottom line is that traffic on Needham Street is already bad, spilling out onto neighboring streets and causing narrow residential streets to be used as throughways; this will only get worse (much worse) if Northland’s massive proposed project is allowed to proceed. Parking, not currently an issue along the Needham Street corridor will become a scarce resource that residents and workers fight for, as is the case in much denser locales such as NYC.

TRAFFIC AND PARKING MEETING TOMORROW!

Just a reminder the next Land Use Committee meeting to discuss the traffic and parking impacts of Northland’s proposed development is scheduled for TOMORROW (TUESDAY), JANUARY 15th AT 7PM at city hall (second floor council chambers).

If you are concerned about additional traffic on Needham Street and surrounding areas and are able to attend, please join us at the meeting!

Newton Tab

We had a chance to discuss rightsizenewton.org and overall outsized development in Newton with Julie Cohen of the Newton Tab; the online version of her article on rightsizenewton.org can be found here: http://newton.wickedlocal.com/news/20190110/newton-neighbors-create-website-to-address-needham-street-project

PLEASE REMEMBER TO JOIN US ON TUESDAY, JANUARY 15th AT 7PM ON THE SECOND FLOOR OF CITY HALL FOR THE LAND USE COMMITTEE’S NEXT MEETING; THIS MEETING WILL COVER TRAFFIC, PARKING, AND TRANSPORTATION.

 

REMINDER: ZONING AND PLANNING MEETING TONIGHT

REMINDER: The Zoning and Planning committee is holding a meeting tonight to discuss whether a proper visioning process should be followed for the proposed development at Riverside.  The meeting is in the council chamber at city hall at 7pm tonight, Monday, December 10, 2018.

PLEASE JOIN US in supporting the Lower Falls Improvement Association’s request for a proper visioning process!

We have been told that due to scheduling constraints, there may not be time for public comment at the meeting tonight.  If you agree that any large-scale development requires the completion of a visioning process (as was the case for Needham Street and Washington Street), please contact the city council to let them know: citycouncil@newtonma.gov

Zoning and Planning Meeting (for Riverside)

While the proposed Northland project on Needham street is, of course, our primary concern, and we hope to see YOU at the next Land Use Committee meeting (discussing financial impact and commercial/residential mix) on December 11th, there are other outsized projects proposed for the city of Newton that are in various stages of the permitting process.

You may have heard of Robert Korff and his Mark Development LLC (the Washington Place / Washington Street corridor developer).  This developer has also proposed a 1.425-million square foot development on a 12-acre parcel near the Riverside T station (see: https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2018/05/09/developers-look-revive-riverside-project-newton-much-bigger-scale/chGzLKlh7aW7XncIaE2ojL/story.html).  As you can see, the scope and scale of this project is very similar to Northland’s proposed development on Needham street.

The developer has not yet submitted his request for zoning changes and special permits, but there is nevertheless a meeting in front of the Zoning and Planning committee on Monday December 10 at 7pm.  While the agenda for this meeting does not yet show it, we are told that the first item to be discussed is whether the city should create a Vision Plan for this area (like they had for Needham street) prior to allowing the proposed development.

Notwithstanding the concerns we have with how the Needham street Vision Plan was discussed and prepared, it goes without saying that having a vision/plan prior to approving any large-scale development is better than ad-hoc building without any vision or direction.

If you are able, please join our friends from the Lower Falls Improvement Association (and us) in attending this meeting and letting the committee know that it should create a Vision Plan for Riverside!

Looking for abutters

While we are all very concerned about the Northland development, the folks who will be most impacted are the direct abutters of the proposed development.

If you live and/or know anyone that lives at the following addresses, please get in touch with us via rightsizenewton@gmail.com.

1-3 or 4-6 Saco Street

135-139, 145, 149,  155, 159 or 173-193 Oak Street

46, 50-52, or 58 Wetherell Street