Waban Area Council
MEETING AGENDA – September 2023
Isabelle Albeck, Dinah Bodkin, Bill Bracken, Rena Getz, Sallee Lipshutz, Drake McCabe,
Megan Meirav, Chris Pitts, Sumukh Tendulkar
Ex-Officio City Councilor: Bill Humphrey
When: Wednesday, September 13, 2023, 7:30 pm
Where: Virtual Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 868 4752 0630
I. Opening (5’)
A. Confirmation of quorum
B. Issues from the Community
II. Substantive Topics (10’)
A. Area Council Debates Update - Election 2023
III. Zoning Updates (60’)
A. Village Center Rezoning Update
B. WAC Survey of Waban residents on Village Center Overlay Districts - Version 3
for the ZAP VCOD Public Hearing to be held - Tuesday, September 26, 2023
C. WAC participation in NAC Catchment Areas Resident notification of VCOD zoning.
D. City of Newton’s compliance with the MBTA Communities Act
IV. Administrative Items (10’)
A. Reminder/Update of timeline for submission of NAC nomination papers: 2024 - 2026
B. Review & approval of Meeting Minutes
C. Treasurer’s Report
IV. New Business (5’)
Please note: Agenda order and discussion length is at the President’s discretion.
Next meeting will be in a hybrid format at the WLC - Thursday, October 12, 2023, 7:30pm
Draft Meeting Minutes:
Waban Area Council (WAC) September Meeting
September 13th 7:30pm
Prepared by Drake McCabe
James (last name unknown)
Issues from the community:
One community member was concerned about the new zoning in Waban village center.
Sallee reminded everyone that they can pick up their papers at City Hall.
Rena Getz reached out to the new owners of the Waban Market to see if they would like to join us for an area council meeting and give us an overview of their intentions and their plans. Rena said based on initial conversations that they plan to renovate and fix the ceiling tiles and other things, in what would be mostly a facelift, internal renovation consisting of things like new shelving. The new owner is Patel Brothers.
Chris Pitts discussed some of the difficulties faced working with the landlord of the Strong Block. Specifically citing the building’s clock.
MBTA Communities Act:
A community member thought that it was naive for the new owners to do anything to the building until the new zoning. Rena Getz explained that the landmarking process will protect the building so that even if the property gets rezoned then it would still be protected. Sallee explained that the Waban market is less protected than the main building, but changes would still have to go through the Historical Commission.
Another community member asked if any city or town has challenged the validity of the MBTA housing bill. Councilor Humphrey explained that the law was not created by the MBTA and briefly explained how it was originally passed. The same community member felt that the sponsors of the bill should be responsible for creating the housing and that the MBTA should do more to support passengers.
Rena Getz explained that the bill was passed and signed by Charlie Baker in 2021 and explained how Newton is complying but trying to combine the overlay district with the village center zoning. Rena explained that at this point, the most effective place to send comments is to the city council.
Chris Pitts gave a brief update on the debates the WAC helped put on. Rena Getz explained which wards were voting in the preliminary election because the whole city was not voting.
Updates on the Village Center Zoning Proposal:
Rena Getz shared a presentation highlighting the new changes in the version 3.0 draft maps and zoning ordinance. This change included the most recent draft and amendments to the map which were based on straw votes that occurred in prior Zoning and Planning Committee meetings.
The VC1 has been removed as a proposed district on route 9.
VC1 designated lots shifted to MRT on route 9.
In Newton Center, Allerton Rd parcels were removed and some MRT lots were changed to VC2 designation.
In Newton Corner, some lots changed from VC3 to VC2 designation, also some changed from VC2 to MRT designation.
In Newtonville, additional lots were designated as VC2.
In West Newton, the Border St. lots were removed from the overlay because it is in a flood zone. The commuter rail lot was designated a VC3.
In Waban, two lots were up zoned to VC3 designation. Councilor Humphrey explained that these were proposed by other councilors outside of Waban.
Waban is predominantly upzoned with the MRT designation (81%).
Chris Pitts asked Councillor Humphrey about the group of architects who had proposed upzoning across the city. Councilor Humphrey explained that they did not reach out to councilors ahead of time.
One community member asked specifically about the version 3.0 changes in Newton Highlands. Rena Getz explained that there were not many changes in this version, but that some MRT lots were shifted around.
Another community member asked what was trying to be accomplished with the MBTA communities act. Councilor Humhprey stated that it was better to focus questions on the Waban village center since there is not a real opposition to complying with the MBTA communities act in the Newton City Council.
Salee asked about plans for upzoning and urbanization after the Village Center Zoning is completed, pointing to the 8000+ units targeted for MBTA Communities Act compliance. Councilor Humphrey explained that many of MRT zones included in the overlay district already included multi-family housing and that the way units are calculated for MBTA compliance is as if you are starting from zero and not what is already allowed there. For those reasons, Councilor Humphrey thought that the numbers of units being proposed were not likely to actually be built to the full number of units.
A community member asked if the city had studied the financial implications of the rezoning. Sumukh Tendulkar asked if the realistic and maximum number of units that could be created by this new version of the zoning changes had been released. Rena Getz said that although that question has been asked by numerous councilors, the city has not given satisfactory answers or provided studies that show the financial impact on the zoning changes.
Chris Pitts brought up the Mayor’s Coalition in 2015 that proposed to zone 180,000 new units by 2030. Other community members also asked about the motivations behind upzoning the city and discussed their theories behind the Village Center Zoning and the State law.
Rena Getz urged the community to get involved with the upcoming election and spend time learning more about the zoning changes.
Waban Specific Zoning Changes:
Councilor Humphrey asked for feedback on the map and explained that the VC3 lot on the MBTA parking lot would require a special permit and would require a lot of other
Councilor Humphrey said the Newton Housing Authority (NHA) is not in a position any time soon to be redeveloping their properties and the properties have a lot of restrictions in place.
One community member asked how they would make the zoning changes a referendum. Councilor Humphrey explained that it likely would become one after going through the City Council.
Rena Getz showed the latest draft of the VC3 building dimensional standards and explained the building height requirements for VC3 buildings that would be allowed on the proposed VC3 parcels in Waban.
One community member asked about the height requirements for the Strong Block building and the Kinmouth development. Rena Getz explained what the height would be for VC2 buildings in those parcels and also discussed the elevation changes on those sites in Waban center.
Councilor Humphrey explained that in past conversations with the historic commission indicated that anything built behind the Strong Block would ideally have a height that did not allow it to be seen from front on Beacon St.
Zoning Draft 3.0 Building Standards:
Rena Getz explained the other changes to building heights and requirements between version 2 and version 3 of the draft. One of these included a change to the affordable housing bonus.
One community member asked if the zoning ordinance included a definition of a building.
Another community member asked about the relationship between the affordable housing bonus and the Massachusetts 40B law. It was explained that they are two different things and a developer could choose to use one or another.
Another community member asked about local preference issues for city employees and teachers to get access to affordable housing. Councilor Humphrey stated that it had been discussed. Rena explained how the initial proposals were based on AMI and not specifically city employees for the inclusionary zoning.
Rena Getz shared the sections of the draft on adaptive reuse, site plan review, and regulations surrounding bicycles.
Zoning Draft 3.0 Lot Subdivision in Waban:
Rena Getz shared a part of the presentation on visualizing lot subdivision in Waban. The Google Earth based visualizations showed several lots on Beacon St. by Dorset Road. Rena explained that this type of visualization should be done by the planning department so that it would show contextual development in Waban.
The visualization included zoning envelopes that showed what structures would look like if the lot was split and multiple buildings were built. Each of the buildings on the lot would hold a minimum of 3 families and if the entire visualization was built out, that number reaches 28.
A community member shared that they thought property owners would be highly incentivized to sell because of the increased land value due to lot subdivision.
Chris Pitts remarked that the properties on Beacon St by Dorset rd. would be considered a transition zone from residential zoning into the village center zoning but that the density of the development does not match what is considered a transition zone.
Chris Pitts asked how much taxes would be generated from these zoning changes versus how much it would cost in schools and infrastructure. Sumukh Tendulkar was concerned that the city has not shared any financial studies related to the new zoning changes.
A community member asked about the number of cars that would come with new development at Beacon Street. Another community member mentioned that there are already problems with parking on Beacon St because of the Angier school.
Zoning Draft 3.0 Lot Subdivision in Newton Highlands:
Rena Getz shared some more Google Earth based visualizations of VC2 and VC3 structures in Newton Highlands so that people could get a sense of the building height, massing, and how it fits into the context.
The visualization shows the buildings on Lincoln Street abutting the Women’s Club in Newton Highlands.
There was some concern over the historic Stevens building in Newton Highlands and if it would be protected in the new zoning.
Joint Area Council Mailing:
Rena Getz gave an update on making a mailing to send out to the different catchment areas. A community member suggested that the visualization on Beacon St. be sent out to show people the impact of the zoning changes.
A community member asked if the zoning could make stipulations for senior housing. Councilor Humphrey explained that due to federal law, they could not, but noted that the city has made strides in the last few years to approve new senior housing.
Rena Getz suggested that we have a short meeting to approve and finalize a new version of the survey to send out with the newly proposed version 3.0 changes in the latest zoning. Rena suggested Monday the 18th at 6pm for a meeting date. Rena suggested we could also talk about the mailing.
Isabelle Albeck asked about a status update on the issue of the aqueduct trail being blocked. Rena thought that the city could do something about it via a taking, but the WAC should, as a council, push the issue more by generating a letter or creating a petition by engaging abutters.