WAC August Meeting
Waban Area Council
MEETING AGENDA – August 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: Thursday, August 10, 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 (5’)
A. Update on Waban Village Center Landmark considerations
III. Zoning Updates (60’)
A. Village Center Rezoning
B. City of Newton’s compliance with the MBTA Communities Act
C. WAC Survey of Waban residents on Village Center Overlay Districts - Version 2
IV. Administrative Items (20’)
A. Area Council Debates - Election 2023
B. Discussion of Area Council Election process for next term: 2024 - 2026
C. Fundraising Event - Fall 2023
D. Review & approval of Meeting Minutes
E. Treasurer’s Report
V. New Business (5’)
Please note: Agenda order and discussion length is at the President’s discretion.
Draft Meeting Minutes:
Waban Area Council Meeting Minutes
Date: Aug 10, 2023 07:30 PM Eastern Time
Compiled by WAC Secretary, Drake McCabe
Waban Area Councilors:
Ex Oficio Ward Councilor:
Update on the Strong Block landmarking
Rena Getz shared a presentation on the Strong Block landmarking.
The actual hearing in front of the Historic Commission is scheduled for Thursday, August 24th at seven o'clock. Mollie Hutchings at the planning and Development Board meeting mentioned that their staff is supportive of the landmarking.
Standards for rehabilitation
Planning department arguing for the standard to be rehabilitation. In these standards, a focus is on preserving the original and the pieces that are significant in the sense of conveying the historical, cultural, or architectural values of the original property.
Potential redevelopment and adaptive reuse
Councilor Humphrey stated that the planning and development board was right to highlight Idea that in order to be able to preserve this property and its historic features, it also needs to still be, a financially viable property as well, because you don't want to get into a situation where nothing can possibly be changed and no businesses can, you know, open there because then there's not going to be any investment incentive to maintain the historic structure.
Concerns about landmarking
Councillor Humphrey continued to address concerns around historic preservation, saying that there's some concern with a lot of churches in Newton that if we don't change the rules for their tenants like daycares and things like that and certain other potential tenant uses that a lot of those church communities are going to have to dissolve and sell off those buildings, in which case then there would be significant redevelopment pressure. So by legalizing new standards and new uses for those types of properties, that allows us to maintain the historic character of those particularly significant buildings.
Historic Commission and Review Standards
A community member asked if the part of the block that houses the Waban Market were included in the landmark, if It would have a different level of protection and almost sounded like it would be sort of a preferably preserved type of protection.
Surprise News about Waban Market which is in the process of changing ownership.
Protection of Strong Block additions
Councilor Malakie asked if the later date additions to the original Strong Block building were going to get equal protection to the main main historic building. Rena Getz felt that sentiment for that was positive but urged people to attend the public hearing.
Next Steps and Timeline
The vote for the designation of the local landmark will take place at the meeting later this month after a public hearing. Rena Getz said that the WAC will post more info on the website and via email.
Concerns about Waban Market Corner
A speaker was worried about the fragility of the corner and the potential negative impacts of increased use, such as more trucks, accidents, and bikes. They are also concerned about the process and whether the environment is being taken into consideration.
A presentation was shown with the new VOD designation for MRT districts in Waban. An example from the planning department was shown which compared existing zoning to the proposed zoning.
Work from Councilor Wright was shown that looked at the possibility of subdividing lots which would enable more units to fit on the same MRT lot.
Zoning Envelopes and Building Parameters
The presentation showed some new visualization for zoning envelopes within a MRT district using a subdivided lot. The presentation showed several zoning envelopes on a lot off of Beacon Street. Rena Getz explained that the WAC is starting the process of visualizing these.
Two lots in Newton Highlands were shown with zoning envelope visualizations. A VC2 and VC3 building next to the Women’s Club were shown.
Tool for Changing Zoning Parameters
The tool created by John Oliver and Pam Wright allows users to change parameters within the system and see how it impacts the outcome of zoning, giving the city council a sense of what variables can change and how it affects the number of units allowed.
Parking Requirements in MRT Zone
A community member asked about the zero parking space requirement for the MRT zoning. It was explained that because the market is likely to provide housing even if it is not required, removing the parking minimums allows the city to count more units towards MBTA communities compliance.
Amending State Law
A community member expressed concern about the state law that prohibits including residential units over commercial spaces, as most people she talks to think it doesn't make sense. She wondered if the state reps are being asked to consider amending the law, which might be worth debating. Another participant suggested that Brookline has already taken steps to address this issue.
Priority Streets and MBTA Compliance
Some areas in Waban would now be designated as VC2, which means that anything built on this lot will not count towards MBTA compliance, but it will be required to have retail on the first floor and can have three stories above it with residential units that will not count towards MBTA compliance.
Rena Getz suggested that the community write to the City Council and State Representative to change the interpretation of state law here by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
A community member wanted to discuss parking and concerns that increased parking would occur on city streets. Another speaker noted that the area around Beacon St is already lacking parking because people park there during the school day.
Using The Tool for Changing Zoning Parameters
Rena Getz showed how changing inputs such as the special permit threshold for lot size could change the number of VCOD units that would be allowed.
Zoning Amendments and Public Hearing
The public hearing on the map changes will be discussed by the zoning and planning committee next Tuesday, which is an important stage in the process before it is deliberated on the full floor of the council.
Rena Getz urged community members to attend and make comments.
Chris Pitts thanked Newtonville Area Council for their work on their zoning survey which influenced the WAC zoning survey.
Reaching people for the survey
The WAC plans to send out another survey around village day and promote it with posters.
We were able to analyze the preferences of both new and long-term residents to determine what is important to them.
The participants are not required to provide their age, but they must be over 18 years old.
Jeremy's comment about connecting with younger people and encouraging their input is crucial. One suggestion is to reach out to high schools and ask for their opinions, as someone mentioned living across the street from where the high school bus picks up.
One speaker suggested that the four area councils would get together and devise a letter that, you know, that we could mail out to all our zip codes and give them the bullet points of what's urgent that the people should know.
Rena Getz suggested that the first step should be updating the WAC website to include an issue that is specific to the letter and provide a QR code to go straight to that page.
There were some concerns with the cost of distributing such a letter, but the Newtonville Area Council noted that they had additional funds for such a project.
It was suggested that the letter be a joint effort between multiple area councils to produce a simple letter to educate people on the new zoning.
The letter would go out to the combined catchment areas of each participating area council. The WAC is also planning on sending out a survey via email, but that would be a different project.
Isabelle Albeck was concerned about the cost of sending such a letter.
There was some discussion about the number of households in Waban.
Area Council Debates
Highlands and Newtonville have secured the Druker Auditorium and the Newton Public Library for the meeting, which will be held in person and via Zoom to involve more people.
Debate Format and Questions
The schedule for the debate, process for coming up with questions, and moderation was discussed.
AV Setup for Debates
There is uncertainty about the AV capabilities in the library and about who would help out with AV needs.
Rena mentioned that election papers are out for those area councilors who are running for reelection.
AI solutions for meeting minutes
There was discussion around looking into AI solutions to help with production of meeting minutes for WAC meetings. There was some concern about such a solution working when multiple people are speaking and around the creation of a summary instead of just a transcript.
Past fundraising efforts
It was noted that in 2015, the WAC held a silent auction during village day to raise money. The WAC also did an insert for the Waban Improvement Society mailing which was cost effective. Chris Pitts mentioned that the WIS no longer sends out letters but does plan on doing it in the future.
A councilor talked about people putting their yard waste out on Friday morning even though the pickup is on Tuesday. It was suggested that 311 be used for those issues.
Next Week's Programs and Services
The agenda will come out tomorrow, so we'll know where you are in the order. Councilor Malakie noted that the tree ordinance will be discussed as well as an opportunity for public comments.
City Council and Voter Input
The speaker is emphasizing that the advisory question is about whether the city council wants to take advice from the voters on village center zoning, and they are being serious about it. This will be discussed in the committee meeting on Wednesday.
Adjournment and Pet Parade
One person expressed uncertainty about whether 64 degrees is an acceptable temperature, but another person mentioned that in New England, people are used to going outside in the winter.