City of Somerville

Agenda Item
Placed on File
Feb 13, 2020 7:00 PM

Submitting proposed amendments the Zoning Ordinance to establish new open space requirements in the Assembly Sq Mixed Use District, Transit Oriented Districts, and Planned Unit Developments.


Category:Mayor's RequestPurposes:Zoning Ordinance


  1. 20180109 Useable Open Space Amendment

Official Text

To the Honorable Board of Aldermen:


I hereby submit for your consideration proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinances in response to comments and concerns expressed in public hearings with respect to #205054, an amendment to Zoning Ordinance 6.4 to establish new open space requirements for certain buildings in the Assembly Square Mixed Use District.


My staff will be available to answer any questions you may have.


Respectfully Submitted,

Joseph A. Curtatone


Meeting History

Jan 10, 2019 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting

Also referred to the Planning Board.

Alderman Davis reported that this proposal was the Planning Staff's response to the requests of the Committee on Land Use at its December 4 meeting. He reported that Planner Dan Bartman said that this amendment would require certain developments to include minimum amounts of open space, or, if not included on site, to make payments to an open space fund. He said that the two key differences are 1) the original citizens proposal (#206481) would apply to any building over five stories, while this new proposal would apply only to specific districts, and 2) the undefined in-lieu-of payments of the original citizens proposal have been limited in this proposal. He said the original citizens proposal expires tonight if it is not acted on, and would have to re-advertised, with another public hearing held, if the Board wanted to consider it. But he said that it could be re-advertised next week, and re-submitted to the Board at its next regular meeting on January 24, and City Solicitor Frank Wright confirmed that advertisement before formal submission could be done. Alderman Davis then said his intent was to deliberate this new proposal as well as the re-submitted citizens proposal at the Committee on Land Use’s next meeting on January 29, including public hearings on each. Alderman Niedergang sponsored Bill Shelton, one of the authors of the original citizens proposal, to speak. Mr. Shelton said that Mr. Bartman's proposal bears no relationship to the citizens proposal. He said the main intent of the citizens proposal was to create open space or generate revenue for open space, and that has been removed from the new proposal. Alderman Scott then moved to adopt a Resolution requesting the Planning Department to re-advertise the citizens proposal at the earliest opportunity (tomorrow), sufficient to hold a public hearing on it on January 29, and the motion was approved by voice vote. (See #207347.)

Jan 15, 2019 7:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee of the Whole

See item #206481

Jan 29, 2019 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee Meeting

See 207460

Mar 5, 2019 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee of the Whole
Mar 12, 2019 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee of the Whole

Mr. Bartman gave an update, along with a slide presentation regarding the status of Administration discussions with the drafters of the citizens petitions reflected in items 205054 and 206481/207460 to work toward a unified proposal for a zoning amendment to establish new open space requirements. Chair Davis noted that the slides and video of the presentation would be available at

Speakers at the public hearing were each given two minutes to make their comments. Councilor Niedergang stated that open space should be the priority for discussion.

Chair Davis agreed to keep the period written comment open until 12 noon, Friday, April 12th.

Mar 19, 2019 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee Meeting

Items 206481, 207460, 205054 and 207332 are related to the same topic and were discussed together.

Mr. Bartman gave a presentation based on a slide deck and noted that it was already available to the public at <>. He addressed the need to find an additional 88.25 acres of publicly accessible open space in order to meet the SomerVision goal. Mr. Bartman talked about the continued priorities to balance between open space, commercial development, and affordable housing. There have been challenges for the planning department to plan new neighborhoods and Mr. Bartment stated that it would be difficult to set a percentage of required open space before specific neighborhood plans were completed. Mr. Bartman presented maps showing hypothetical commercial buildings, using what he stated were the likely minimum floor plate, fit with the Boynton Yards neighborhood to demonstrate the challenge of incorporating both significant commercial development as well as meaningful open space. Mr. Bartman discussed the exercise of trying to determine what percentage of the Transit Oriented Districts the City might require to be set aside as open space. He discussed numbers with a hypothetical number of 25%, as a starting point for discussion.Mr. Bartman then presented detailed examples the planning department has reviewed from Boston Seaport District and Cambridge Research Park and the percentage of open space that they were able to accomplish, most of which was less than 25%, with variations depending on how it was calculated.

Councilor Rossetti suggested that the Committee set the percentage in the proposed amendment at 27.5%. The Committee expressed concern that the period for written public testimony was still open and that there was a desire to receive that, as well as the Planning Board recommendation, prior to voting on specific amendments. There was additional discussion regarding the merits of setting a percentage as a “stretch” goal, as well as the importance of balancing the need for affordable housing.

Chair Davis noted that the period for written public testimony will not close until April 12. He then stated that he would allow members of the public to speak if they wish.

President Ballantyne sponsored residents Tori Antonio, Bill Shelton, and Bill Vallettato speak on the matter.. Bill Shelton received the draft late that afternoon and had been working with planning and city staff. He endorse remarks about housing goals and impacts of policies. Open space advocates think commercial is top priority. Housing is how the city loses money. Three years ago the city hired a fiscal impact consultant whose report was not widely shared. It claimed that residential development is a net loss to the city due to the need for additional services. He further talked about the difference between neighborhood residential and mixed use residential. He stated that neighborhood residential have one child per unit vs. Mixed Use residential have one child per every 12 units. He talked about if the city continues with this path, we could have increasingly childless communities.

Ms. Antonio spoke and she supports the proposal. She said that the city should act on it and not wait for an alternative approach. Transformative areas should produce the majority of needed open space acreage. She also supports in lieu fee. Ms. Antonio is an advocate for both green space and affordable housing.

Bill Valetta is resident of Brick Bottom has been an urban planner for 40 years. He stated the plan has to guide the city rather than the other way around. He stated that the planning board approved two buildings on Inner Belt Road with the open space being put on roof. The hotel next door has next to no space, and is using a lot for space for Uber and delivery trucks to keep the streets.

Mr. Bartman closed out his presentation stating that the existing ordinance has been amended so many times that the draft proposal has challenges and the version that would go in to the proposed overhaul is much more logical. Additionally, he offered to answer any questions from the committee and community.

Apr 2, 2019 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee of the Whole
Apr 22, 2019 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee of the Whole
Apr 30, 2019 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee of the Whole
Jan 30, 2020 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee Meeting
Feb 13, 2020 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting