City of Somerville
Massachusetts

Agenda Item
207460
Placed on File
Feb 13, 2020 7:00 PM

18 registered voters submitting a proposed Zoning Ordinance amendment to add a new Section 17.8 re: open space requirements for mid-rise and high-rise buildings.

Information

Department:City ClerkSponsors:
Category:Public CommunicationPurposes:Public Ordinance

Attachments

  1. 18 Voter Petition re SZO

Official Text

See attachment.

Meeting History

Jan 24, 2019 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting

Also referred to the Planning Board.

RESULT:REFERRED FOR RECOMMENDATION
Jan 29, 2019 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee Meeting

Dan Bartman, Senior Planner, shared the work plan for the ordinances that will be discussed via Public Hearing on March 12th. Staff are working to reconcile various proposals. The goals are to increase the open space requirements in a variety of areas in the city, specifically the Transit Oriented Districts and Assembly Square Mixed Use District to get from 8.77 to 82 acres. The newly proposed ordinance covers an additional 1,092 lots. Of these, the team found 4 potential sites between 1/2 and 1 acre. Transform areas are the areas of largest land availability.

The voter petition included another metric that functioned as a fee, which would be a double fee for Transform areas and thus seems an unfair requirement. Additionally, there is a proposed Payment in Lieu option.

The proposed new zoning ordinance permits setbacks in mid-rise districts to add spatial definition. Often, the spaces produced are not meaningful and we want to find a way to apply a metric to small lots that will help create viable public space. It may be more helpful to allow buy-outs in areas where usable public space cannot be achieved.

Alderman Ballantyne asked whether requiring multiple design options before allowing a buy-out might be a potential requirement. Mr. Bartman responded that there should be a minimum amount of space available for that option to be helpful.

Mr. Bartman continued to share that an overlay district, "civic space" would require parks, commons, or plazas, rather than a generic definition of open space. A Public Space linkage fee would also be an option that would help encourage developers to create usable public space. This would need to occur through a Home Rule petition and is something that is being researched further. Medford also has this type of linkage fee in place, which was adopted in 1990.

Alderman White expressed concern that the current legislature might not approve the linkage fee idea and the zoning ordinance should be sure to address the open space needs without those assumptions.

Mr. Bartman then focused on two big questions - what share of the remaining 88.25 acres still needed will be required of new development? And how will the cost of the remaining need be funded?

He shared some potential future scenarios for requirements, along with the percentage that would be provided through development. The different Transform areas and their remaining acreage were also shared, including the cost of constructing the additional acres needed.

Alderman White asked whether a linkage fee would defray the city's costs and whether we could estimate the potential revenue from such a fee. Mr. Bartman responded that it is a lot of speculation, but there may be resources to inform how many sites could produce either space or money.

Alderman Hirsch clarified that it only creates additional funds if not in a Transform District, as otherwise it is simply an exchange of space for money.

Mr. Bartman shared a concern from completed an exercise to measure available acres, that the areas framing the open space still promote urbanism and are not incongruous. Some of the Transform Areas may be able to support more open space due to their shape.

Alderman Hirsch asked why one big section of land was chosen rather than smaller parcels. Mr. Bartman responded that it could possibly be smaller parcels and may be in some areas, but he was trying to determine whether sites could support larger fields, as there is a significant need in the city for field space. The Payment in Lieu fee may vary, as goals in some areas, such as Transform Districts, are to produce space, whereas in other areas, the goal may be to produce funds.

Alderman Ballantyne asked whether acquiring the space over the MBTA in Union Square might be an option. Mr. Bartman replied that due to structural support, it's economical to build either 1 floor or 11+ floors, but the instances of building over tracks are minimal and would need more research.

Chair Davis asked for clarification about whether 0 stories, e.g. a park, would be feasible. Mr. Bartman noted that it would come at a cost to the city. Alderman White noted that the MBTA would also be looking for air rights and offered some other options to consider, including writing the zoning to require square footage or a fee, and whether the city can consider levying a fee of some sort without a Home Rule petition. Alderman White noted that it would be helpful for other departments, including the Solicitor, to give input.

Chair Davis noted that he is hopeful this work will result in a better petition than any submitted independently, but he wants to move forward with a more coherent proposal quickly.

Alderman Hirsch shared the members of the Open Space Task Force and that they will be meeting tomorrow and she will share updates from that meeting, as it will help inform a collaborative proposal.

RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Mar 5, 2019 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee of the Whole

See item #206481

RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
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 www.SomervilleZoning.com

Speakers at the public hearing were each given two minutes to make their comments.

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

RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
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.

See discussion under item # 207332.

RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Apr 2, 2019 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee of the Whole
RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Apr 22, 2019 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee of the Whole

Councilor Ewen-Campen motioned and it was accepted to replace the previous draft ordinance with the draft before the committee tonight.

The chair asked Mr. Bartman to work with the city solicitor’s office to provide clarification on Section 2.2.110 Open Space on driveways and parking areas.

Councilor Rossetti motioned and it was accepted to replace all references to the Planning Board in proposed draft to "SPGA".

Councilor Rossetti motioned and it was accepted to delete Section 16.10 B.

Councilor Scott motioned and it was accepted to insert a column in Section 8.5 Table of Dimensional Requirements line L for BA at 15%.

Councilor Scott motioned and it was accepted to add line M in Section 8.5 Table of Dimensional Requirements for Useable Open Space minimum percent of lot adding IA, IB, BB and IP all for 20% to match TOD standards. All other columns would be N/A.

Councilor Scott motioned and it was accepted to amend of table 6.5 F Transit Oriented Districts TOD-55 from NA to 20 with footnote.

Councilor Scott motioned and it was accepted to revise amendment of table 6.5 F Transit Oriented Districts TOD-55 Row O to add footnote 7.

Councilor White motioned and it was accepted to send this draft back to the City Councilor as amended without recommendation.

RESULT:DISCHARGED W/NO RECOMMENDATION
Apr 25, 2019 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
RESULT:REFERRED FOR RECOMMENDATION
Apr 30, 2019 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee of the Whole
RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Jan 30, 2020 6:00 PM Video Land Use Committee Committee Meeting
RESULT:PLACED ON FILE
Feb 13, 2020 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
RESULT:PLACED ON FILE