Future Planning

Issue summary

What will Waban and Newton look like 5, 10, 25, 50 years into the future?  Please join us as we enter the next chapter in our future planning.  Learning from previous meetings, we've made some changes that will lead to productive results: 

  • In 2017, a series of online surveys were sent to the WAC email list April/May 2017. The results are in the PDF in the archives on this page. 
  • In 2016, we combined with our sister village in Ward 5, the Highlands, and Srdjan Nedeljkovic (pronounced "Serge"), president of the Highlands Area Council and one of the authors of the Comprehensive Plan, joined us for sessions.

If you have any questions please send email to cpitts@newtonma.gov  To be notified, please sign up for the WAC alerts at the home page. NHNAC Approval 1/7, WAC Approval 1/14


Included in the archive are various documents generated withing the last few years that are worth looking over to see what has been examined before. We invite everyone to forward any materials that would be of interest to this issue.

Issue full description

Timeline:

  • January 2016: Organizational Meeting
  • February 2016: Village Centers and Commercial Zones
  • POSTPONED March 29, 2016: Residential Neighborhoods
  • Monday April 25 2016: Residential Neighborhoods
  • Fall 2016: Decision to create Village Surveys
  • Winter 2016: WAC review of surveys
  • May/June 2017 : Online surveys and review period

 

Current conditions of each Village

  • Inventory of places
  • Land Use, Density, and Zoning
  • Transportation: Rails, roads, buses
  • Open Space, Recreation, other Public Spaces

 

Goals and objectives

What is the Newton that we want?

  • Defining place excellence
  • Broadly applied or village centered

 

In our village centers? In our residential neighborhoods?

  • Mixed use zones
  • Residential neighborhoods
  • Transition zones

 

Renovation or replacement?

  • Zoning code: what can and can’t be built
  • The issue of large houses on small lots
  • Multifamily housing

 

Transportation, our streets, parking, transit, and sidewalks

  • Improving our mobility for cars
  • Improving our transit
  • Improving our school transportation system
  • Improving our mobility for bicyclists
  • Improving our mobility for pedestrians
  • Complete streets and context-sensitive design

 

Landscapes and open spaces

  • Do we want to preserve our open spaces
  • Cold Spring Park
  • Crystal Lake
  • Needham Street corridor

 

Can we increase opportunities for housing, work, and recreation?

  • How much growth is good growth?
  • Where do we want new growth and density?
  • What kind of growth: commercial, residential, or both?


Planning for a Better Newton - 2016 (A project of the NHNAC and the WAC)

Intended outcome:

We intend to develop a set of documents to reflect the diversity of views of our residents and business owners on “Planning for a Better Newton”

  • Village centers and commercial zones
  • Identifying our mixed use and commercial zones
  • Do we want “transition zones” that allow for extension of mixed use
  • Vitality of our villages and proactive planning
  • Zoning reform: what kind of density is the best?
  • Historic preservation
  • Elderly programs and aging in place
  • Design guidelines for new development in village centers

 

Residential zones

  • Concepts of place excellence
  • Architectural and design guidance
  • Local Historic District and preservation recommendations
  • Inspectional Services regulation adjustments
  • Zoning code changes to enhance community vision

 

Transportation system

  • A policy on Complete Streets and Context Sensitive Design
  • A policy on Design Classification of Roadways
  • A policy on Transit Improvements

 

 


The first meeting took place November 20th at the WLC 2014.

Ongoing Document

Brainstorm Topics: some items grouped

Community trust, Village Center, community buildings, retail, historical preservation, housing diverse city, multi units

aging in place, emergency services, low income services

green space, trees preservation and maintenance, River access, Parkland improvement

transportation, traffic, parking, sidewalks, bike lanes, street maintenance, signage, streetlights, ADA compliance, streetscapes,

sustainability, zero carbon, climate adaptation, recycling, gas leaks, flooding, power outages, infrastructure

community building, intergenerational gathering, tree lights, adult learning, art, recreation, sports facilities, library, pets

political engagement, town hall meetings, communication technologies

community assets: library, hospital, churches, schools, playgrounds, trails

 

4 main topics were selected for further discussion in following sessions

Meeting Audio and Visuals

Audio and pictures of the whiteboards from the launch meeting are available here

Audio from Sustainability Session 1 with Newton Director of Sustainability Robert Garrity

Audio from Housing 1 Understanding What We Have with Historian and Newton Community Preservation Program Manager Alice Ingerson, Architect Henry Finch and Newton City Planner James Freas

Housing 1 Historical Presentation


Sustainability

GOALS: Get "off the grid" with net zero community and sustainable energy sources. Recycle as much as possible.

HOW:

  • Getting off the grid is possible within the next 5 years. Recycling waste into energy.
  • With changes in policies and current technology, the cost of solar power can be brought down to 1.50@watt.
  • Obtain Waban wide solar panel assessment and notify homeowners of eligibility
  • Following the example of Boston, Newton/Waban should have a survey of potential solar placements and create a community investment pool/trust which would allow for community wide cost savings and power homes that are not candidates for solar panels. This action could also cut down or eliminate brown outs. Examples include installing parking ports to generate solar power installed in various locations including the MBTA stop, behind the market, the schools, the hospital. Robert Garrity, Newton's former Director of Sustainability says the RFP for a citywide survey will go out in 2015 and the assessment of municipal buildings has been completed. Demand for sustainable implementation as part of the city's plan must be lobbied for by citizens as the initiative is not being driven by the current administration. Ideally, schools would be demonstrating energy production, savings, and usage with computer dashboards showing panel production, classroom and building consumption, etc.

For Solar Panels, there are currently 2 paths for Waban residents: Best case, take advantage of current monetary advantages and technology maturity to install solar panels on home. http://www.newtonsolarchallenge.com/  National Council for Solar Growth should be consulted before funding stops.

Current figures show amortization of full cost in 5 years. Finance costs of panels and installation either through local bank e.g. Village Bank or be referred by manufacturer of panels to another financing source. In 2014 Sunpower, a US-based manufacturer enabled financing of 2.99% fixed rate for at least one Waban home installation. http://us.sunpower.com/home-solar/save-with-solar-panels/

If your home is not a good candidate for panels, take advantage of community shared solar (CCS) which for Waban participants can guarantee a 5% savings on the electricity rate the electric utility charges residential customers. Grants from the US Department of Energy support growth of CSS. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/54570.pdf Angier and Zervas will be receiving Solar panels but Zervas has much more favorable geographic characteristics.

For Electric Cars: List of available autos http://www.plugincars.com/cars Currently the cost of charging an electric vehicle at home is minimal when electricity is produced from a rooftop solar array. This is because the electric utility will apply delivery charges if electricity to charge EV is drawn from utility grid. New EV batteries enabling larger storage are under development and will allow home electrical power to be drawn from battery for use in home. More content to come. Boston College is currently conducting a survey to understand user needs for expanding electric vehicle usage in Newton and to identify potential locations for public charging stations. The survey consists of multiple choice and open-ended questions that ask about your driving habits and vehicle usage. It should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete. Click here to take the survey.

  • To come: section on insulation, windows, etc
  • Hydro power from the Charles is currently not seen as viable.
  • Geothermal energy could be utilized efficiently for larger buildings such as the hospital and schools. Cambridge NETZero initiative being examined.

- Angier opted not to do geothermal as it would require digging into the playground which was a pauper burial ground and would caused incalculable delays while archaeological and forensic specialists identified remains and arranged for reburial.

  • Gas leaks must be addressed. Nathan Philips Earth & Environment Professor at BU - Newton resident
  • As climate change occurs, flooding presently experienced by residents will get worse without serious mitigation. Smarter to prepare than react. Ideas that would fall under preparation category:support the staging and maintenance of emergency equipment such as sand bags, generators, etc. and educate residents as to location. Explore reasons for flooding and whether actions such as riverbank reinforcement might lessen the lateral flooding in neighborhood, if so, lobby for funding.Respond to observation that silt has built up in the river over time and exacerbates threat, look for opportunities for funding study.
  • Community Investment Group: Invest in Solar panels for parking lots and other public and private areas to increase community self reliance.

Streets, Parking & Traffic

GOALS: Create the safest possible environment for pedestrians, bikes, and drivers. Walkability - accessibility for all people ALL AGES for all seasons. Keep parking available in Waban Center.

THREATS: Speeding traffic, Increased traffic, Lack of continuity for sidewalks, trash, More cars per home, Non Resident cut-through traffic, increased number of parking spaces

HOW:

All city planning including schools, etc should be prioritized with parity of pedestrian, cyclist, and driver safety. This ensures design and implementation to encourage walking, slow traffic, and reduce danger to all.

  • Parking management - alternative pricing, time limits - space sharing, renting driveways - mobile apps

We had a discussion about parking demand pricing as a way to keep parking available by harnessing the market, particularly if some of the additional cash could be used to create the safety amenities we were most concerned about. Moving parking from Beacon/Angier will be required. Currently there are 3 parking revenue options:

  1. Parking meters that prove to be the most cash generating
  2. Zones with spaces where drivers can pay with cell phone apps according to signage, generates less money than meters but still positive
  3. Zones with Sticker Fees which operate in the negative, costing the City for their administration.

 

  • Zervas, Angier - need to develop w/PTO, Parents and others policy changes for School Committee to implement culture change away from parents driving children to school. Safe arrival & Car tracking, Walking Buses, Window of opportunity with new school builds. Slow traffic on Beethoven.
  • Biking safety - especially for children, new bike lanes on Beacon.
  • Private roads - transition to city maintained streets
  • Overall safety on streets and sidewalks
  • Lighting - more directional, historic, potentially lower streets lights at town center for less light pollution. Example: the lights along the cycle path at Vassar St. in Cambridge
  • Street Trees--for shade and traffic calming, sustainability - diversity of trees - Newton Tree Conservancy - Plantings occur fall and spring - sign up at website form for plantings
  • Village improvement plan - permeable pavements
  • Community owned snow removal
  • Reimplementing Tolls
  • Police enforcement - altering shift change times so does not coincide with school exit times

Housing

GOALS: Preserving important homes and landmarks, allowing for economic diversity, preserving key features of Waban, identifying best method and placement for future growth. Preserve single family homes. Create and/or make available affordable housing.

HOW:

  • Community Investment Group/Land Trust: Purchase of Waban Landmarks to preserve and control future. Potential to purchase and make available properties, preserving assets
  • Recognizing existing stock and identify unique styles through survey and research
  • Preserving existing homes - what can be done? identifying threats and solutions
  • Investment in housing to preserve naturally affordable dwellings and economic diversity.
  • Historic Landmarking: criteria for the National Register of Historic Places and Reading the Land/Massachusetts Heritage Landscapes Criteria can be: places associated with … the broad patterns of our history, places that generate a strong positive reaction from the community for reasons of the heart
  • Influencing the Newton Consolidated Plan [1] and Zoning Code [2] to ensure that funding and policies are available to implement these priorities

Understanding the Impacts of Density:

  • number of units on a lot
  • size of housing on lot
  • stress to infrastructure, traffic, green space, schools, 
  • Understanding elements to economic diversity: $3M to naturally affordable - moderately priced
  • Affordable Housing - for low income, middle income, and fixed income retirees. Extremely complex but perhaps the most important question to current Wabanites. How do people who have invested much of their time - "planted roots" - handle the economic pressures of rising taxes and overrides, the increasing high cost of living, and stay in Waban? Is it possible? Is there a path to downsizing? Do seniors want to move? Is there a spreadsheet calculation that will show how much money is required? VanguardDinky Town What actions can be taken now to help evolve viable solutions? 

Community Building

GOALS: Add events that supplement WIS activities for Multi generational

HOW:

  • Angier will have facilities open to community for rental, - family Sunday nights
  • Library is great resource and must be supported and utilized
  • History of Waban, the more we know, the more we can celebrate and appreciate
  • Skating - takes maintenance and prep but can be done
  • Opening up Quinobequin for community party
  • Soup Social
  • Outdoor Movies and Concerts (Angier field, Warren Lincoln Park)
  • Animal Show/Parade
  • Caring Community - schedule to create year round
  • Newton at Home Beacon Hill type organization
  • Praying Natick Indians event