Category: Opinion

What’s Up in Newton this Week? – COVID-19 confirmed cases rise slightly and an additional Newton death, City Clerk looks to relocate polling locations – Ward 2 Precinct 2; Ward 2 Precinct 3; Ward 6 Precinct 2; Ward 5 Precincts 3 & 4; City Council to vote on a 4,532 sq. ft. 2.5 story addition and a three-car garage greater than 700 sq. ft., Plastic Bag Ban Back into Effect, Councilors request discussion regarding impact of fuel-burning outdoor fireplaces, firepits; School Committee to meet in Executive Session this Tuesday to discuss strategy relating to Collective Bargaining and Fall Planning; Council on Aging and Advisory Board to discuss and vote on one of two site locations for the NewCAL (Newtonville – existing site or Newton Centre parking lot); Riverside Special Permit – closing in – review of Draft Council Order and Conditions this Tuesday; Local building community will continue to provide input on Zoning Redesign, and more……

COVID-19 Update: Although there is no longer a special highlighted COVID-19 link at the top of the Homepage on the City’s website, the City continues to report COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths. As of Sunday, July 12th, the City is reporting 776 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of July 9th and the number of COVID-19 deaths has increased to 119 as of July 7th.

Speaking of COVID-19… Newton’s State Representative Ruth Balser was successful in passing a bill requiring reporting of COVID-19 related data from elderly housing facilities – including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and congregate housing facilities that house the elderly and disabled. That bill was signed into law by Governor Baker – but now Governor Baker and some affordable housing advocates are trying to undermine the bill and are requesting exemption from the reporting requirements – see S.2753 and see the testimony of CHAPA.

More COVID-19 Impacts: The City Clerk has filed a request to relocate some of the City’s polling locations. Included in this list are polling locations currently at Cabot Park Village, the Newton Senior Center, Weeks Housing Senior Apartment Facility, and the Waban Library Center. The proposal is to move each of these polling locations to nearby elementary schools.

A 4,532 sq. ft. addition? Yes, the City Council will be voting on a Request for a Special Permit/Site Plan Approval to approve a 4,532 sq. ft. addition and a three-car garage greater than 700 sq. ft. See Land Use Committee Report here. No worries, though….the Zoning and Planning Committee will certainly be addressing issues related to the new Zoning Ordinance on Thursday at their Zoning and Planning Committee meeting along with “local building professionals who will share observations on applying the proposed code to local residential projects”. See Zoning and Planning agenda here.

Plastic Bag Ban Back in Effect: The Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health rescinded the order that placed a moratorium on plastic bag bans. The order can be found here. The original order can be found here.

Will Firepits be banned? Some City Councilors are looking to discuss the impacts of fuel-burning outdoor fireplaces, chimneys, fire pits, pizza ovens, etc., including setback and maximum lot coverage requirements, air quality/pollution, and fire protection in relation to permitting, zoning enforcement, fire code, and Newton’s Climate Action Plan. See New Docket.

Collective Bargaining and the NTA: The School Committee will meet in Executive Session this Tuesday, July 14th at 5:00 p.m. to discuss strategy relating to Collective Bargaining with the Newton Teacher’s Association regarding Fall Planning. See Meeting Notice here.

NewCAL site determination – imminent? Well, the Council on Aging will be discussing and voting on two potential locations to site the proposed NewCAL. The Programs and Services Committee met jointly with the Public Facilities Committee last week and discussed the two options: the existing site in Newtonville and the parking lot (the Triangle) in Newton Centre. See Programs and Services Report here for that discussion.

Riverside Review: The Land Use Committee will review the Draft Council Order for the proposed mixed-use development of the Riverside MBTA Station. The Committee’s agenda can be found here. A clean version of the Draft Council Order can be found here; a red-lined version of the Draft Council Order can be found here; and a memo from the Law Department regarding the Draft Council Order can be found here.

Zoning Redesign: Local Building Professionals will continue to provide input at this week’s Zoning and Planning Committee as they continue their discussion about their experiences building in Newton. The next meeting will be on Thursday, July 16th at 7:00 p.m. See agenda here.

Weekly Construction Schedule: This week’s road construction schedule can be found here.

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What to watch in 2019 and beyond….

Things to look for in 2019:

Municipal Elections:

Yes – it’s that time again. Some candidates have announced, committees have formed, and citizen advocacy groups are gearing up – keeping a careful eye on voting records and policy stances – preparing to support candidates.

School Committee: So far, two open seats: Ward 4 and Ward 5

City Council:  So far, one open seat:  Ward 5 City Council

Challenges….The Ward 2 Councilor seat is currently being challenged.

Issues to watch (IMHO):

On the School Side:

  • Teachers Union Contract
  • Implementation of Full-Day K
  • Late High School Start Times
  • School Facilities – Upgrading and Renovations
  • High Density Development and School Enrollment Projections
  • Equity policy

On the Municipal Side:

  • City Planning and Development – Large Scale/High Density Projects – Northland, Riverside and most of the Washington Street corridor 
  • Revisions to the Zoning Ordinance
  • Implementation of Municipal Aggregation
  • Recreational Pot Shops
  • Solar Panel rollout
  • Trash Contract – PAYT, Recycling, Composting
  • Employee Health Insurance – is GIC in the City’s future?
  • OPEB – will we be more aggressive in paying down the debt?
  • Override?
  • New CAL – where will it go?