City Administration Submits New Zoning for Commercial Triangle

It’s been a long time in the making, but a significant zoning change package has been submitted to the Planning Board for the Commercial Triangle and Parkway areas of the city.

City Planner Tony Sousa said they have filed two major zoning change amendments for the Planning Board to hear on June 11, including the Commercial Triangle piece and a change on the north side of the Parkway.

“This is long overdue,” he said. “The existing uses can stay. They are grandfathered, but we’d like to try to make their properties more valuable so they can compete on the existing trends in adjacent communities like Somerville, Chelsea and Cambridge. Essentially what we’re trying to do is create a new district that incorporates the Limited Industrial district and brings in residential and mixed-use uses.”

The Commercial Triangle is bordered by the Parkway, Everett Avenue and the train tracks, coming back up to the residential neighborhood behind Richie’s Slush.

Inside that swath of acreage has long been heavy industrial uses, but that has changed recently with the addition of uses like the enVision Hotel, the upcoming residential development at the old Harley building, the Adams Furniture store and the planned apartment complex at Wood Waste.

Sousa said they believe that is the future of the area, and it can exist at the moment with the businesses that are there – basing all of that on the 2016 Commercial Triangle Master Plan process that took place within that neighborhood.

“We’re not dumping the business or moving them out,” he said. “We’re upzoning. They can still operate, but if they want to expand or change things up significantly, they need to get approvals and can’t do that by right. This change is long overdue in the zoning there and mirrors the changes going on in our city and in the region.”

Sousa said it’s important to keep in mind that cities change and evolve and this is one instance of where that is happing again.

“There are a lot of properties there that could be redeveloped,” he said. “We’re thinking about this area five, 10, 15, 20 and 40 years down the line when there will be significant change.”

One additional hitch will be to protect the residential neighborhood that exists behind Richie’s. That area is made up of homes, but still has some industrial zoning.

“We’re going to go in there and really look at that area,” he said. “You have 60 or 70 single-family, two-family and three-family homes. The existing zoning has slivers that are zoned for industrial, but it’s a residential area. We want to protect the integrity of that residential neighborhood. We want to re-zone it as residential, but retain the business district like Richie’s Slush.”

A final piece would be to re-zone for business use the area on the north side of the Parkway.

The storage facility now being built there was one that snuck up on the City due to the antiquated zoning in that strip, Sousa said.

“That area is zoned for industry, and it isn’t an industrial area,” he said. “I can’t emphasize enough how much that area’s zoning doesn’t fit into what’s around it…It’s a significant area of about 30 or 40 acres that is zoned industrial. If we don’t re-zone that area, we will get things like the storage facility and other industrial uses that can go in by right.”

Specifically, that Industrial District would be replaced by a Business District.

The matters will be before the Planning Board on June 11, and will then be sent to the City Council for review.


New affordable housing ordinance to be considered

Another zoning change that will be considered on June 11 is a change to the new affordable housing ordinance – known as inclusionary zoning.

Currently, developers have to made 10 percent of their units affordable in any development in the City, but apparently for large developers, there has been a problem with those numbers. The development community has expressed to the City that for projects over 200 units, they would like some relief.

The Planning Board will consider the idea of relaxing the affordable housing requirement on any numbers of units above 200 in one development.

That means the first 200 units would be required to follow the 10 percent affordable, and then any numbers above that would be subject to 5 percent affordable.

The ordinance requiring affordable housing was put into place by the City Council last year.

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