Back in 2005 when the town first looked to redevelop what is now known as the Pleasant St. Corridor, the vision centered around mixed-use development. The study discussed in great detail the need for commercial space alongside residential units.
However, since 2005 and the subsequent housing collapse, the market has shifted and given a renewed focus and attention to condominium and rental units over commercial space. It is my opinion that with this market shift and our proximity to Boston, the Pleasant St. Corridor has been overly developed for residential use and substantially lacks the commercial space that was once intended.
Since becoming a Councilor in 2012, the district has seen two new proposals, one on Waltham St and the other on Howard/Bacon St. As a neighborhood, we were able to meet with the developers and give valuable community input that quite literally changed what was originally proposed. However, it must be acknowledged that the developers in these two cases were very accommodating. They reduced the quantity of units (when many more were allowed under our current zoning laws), changed the type of units, agreed to add to the surrounding infrastructure, and much more.
We will not always have developers that will meet with the community 4-5 times before the project goes to the Planning Board however, and we will not always have developers that will reduce the legally acceptable amount of units that they have proposed to accommodate the neighborhood.
That is why at the Town Council meeting on January 14, 2014, with the help of Town Council President Mark Sideris, the Council approved a motion to formally request to the Planning Board and Committee on Economic Development to revisit the Pleasant St. Corridor.
I believe the 5 years before I entered the Council, and 2 years since, have clearly demonstrated that the market will not give us the mixed use zoning that was originally intended, and therefore in order to stop any future residential over-development in the area we need to go back to the drawing boards.
Although it has always been the custom in the west end, a recommendation was also made at the Council meeting on the 14th to the Committee on Rules and Ordinances to examine the possibility of adding a rule that requires community meetings for these types of proposed developments.
Now, these recommendations are only the first step in the process, but I believe they are also a step in the right direction. I strongly encourage members of the public to be active as the Committees start to address these concerns, and to participate in the upcoming discussions that will look to potentially reshape the Pleasant St. Corridor. These steps will help ensure that these new developments will not only add to the tax base but will complement and contribute to the history, environment, and culture we have created in Watertown and continue to give a voice to the neighborhoods that will be affected.
As always, if anyone has any questions please feel free to reach me at any time through my website at kennethwoodland.com or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
District D Town Councilor