Campaign Week-in-Review: 5/10/19 - Support from Mass Alliance & Community Updates

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer

This week, we have an exciting announcement! Bill was named by Mass Alliance to its Rising Stars Program 2019! Mass Alliance is a coalition of 27 political/advocacy organization and unions that are working together to stand up for civil rights, economic justice, education, environmental protection, healthcare, reproductive rights, workers’ right, and more progressive issues around Massachusetts. Bill is honored to have their support and recognition this year.

On Sunday, Bill held a successful and well-attended Meet & Greet in the home of Ward 5 environmental activist Marcia Cooper and co-hosted by another Ward 5 environmental activist, Helen Rittenberg. Both are very highly regarded in Newton politics, so we are glad to have their support! Voters were able to ask questions about the urgency of climate action in Newton, green energy, and building strong public transportation at the municipal level, as well as any other issues that concerned them about the city.

After having completed knocking doors in Ward 5 last week, Bill kicked off his second pass through on Thursday of this week! Bill was able to knock over 60 doors this week, hearing from voters who hadn’t been home his first time around and getting signatures for his nomination papers.

Friends of Hemlock Gorge

On Tuesday, Bill attended the Friends of Hemlock Gorge monthly meeting at the Emerson Community Center in Upper Falls. The group is currently working with the Department of Conservation and Recreation to install a granite memorial bench for Alderman Yates, the late founder of the organization. Announced at the meeting was that State Rep. Ruth Balser has added a $50,000 amendment to the House budget to go towards urgent repairs to the 19th Century Stone Building in Hemlock Gorge (which is actually on the Wellesley side). The roof is currently leaking, the floor doesn’t drain, and the second floor beams are rotting. Rep. Balser has also introduced a budget amendment for $50,000 for nearby Quinobequin parkland trail improvements. The amendments would need to make it into the Senate budget (which is supported by Senator Cream), into the combined budget, and then through the Governor’s item vetoes.

Waban Area Council

Also this week, Bill attended Thursday night’s Waban Area Council meeting, where the biggest agenda item was a presentation by the developer of the Kinmonth Rd project (the former nursing home in Ward 5). Bill attended a briefing on the project a couple of months ago when it was initially announced. Here are some notes from this week’s public presentation:

  • Kinmonth Rd project

    • One of the presenters of the project was a former Newton Alderman and former Land Use Chair elected in the 1970s. He spoke on the need to reform the parking minimums ordinance in Newton, among other things.

    • The current building will be knocked down, as it is in poor shape and not historic, but will be rebuilt as condos with the same footprint, only a story taller (about 10 feet higher). Impermeable asphalt surfaces will also be reduced in favor of landscaping.

    • The plan is for 24 condo units on 3 levels and 24 underground parking spots (none above ground). The project is relatively dense and right near the Waban T stop.

    • The price estimate for condo sale would be about $8 per sq ft (eg. $800k-1M for a 2BR). 15% of the units would be legally mandated affordable by deed restriction per the ordinance requirements. At the moment, that wouldn’t include any of the 3BR units.

    • The new underground garage entrance would be on Kinmonth Rd itself, rather than the rear parking that used to be there. A neighbor across the street asked for some clarification, and the presenters said that there would be trees planted along the ramp/driveway to the underground garage, to shield neighbors.

    • A pedestrian entrance would also be available on the Kinmonth Rd side approximately where it is now. The developer is planning to bring Kinmonth Rd up to code for conversion to public status and with underground utilities

    • The developer believes that the proposal is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan for Newton and the new density objectives for our village centers.

    • The presenters intended via this and other meetings to get public feedback on the details of their proposal before going through special permit hearings of the City Council. Generally, there were only a couple of comments from the audience that criticized the project as a whole.

    • One concern raised by an audience member was whether there would be enough parking spots for health aides and other helpers for elderly or disabled residents (especially because the projected is targeted toward older residents who are downsizing). The developer said they are planning to lease some parking space from adjacent businesses.

    • Several residents voiced their concern about the visual aesthetic of the project, but other residents voiced their support, and there was no consensus on the point.

    • There was a question about the materials being used and the sustainability of construction. The developer is planning to use cement board, cedar sliding, and some stone facing accents. There will also be lots of big windows on the various building faces.

    • One interesting question from the audience was about short term rental restrictions or non-occupancy by owners for investment property.

    • The projected timeline is to get a special permit by this summer (2019), but since the council schedule slows down over the summer, this may not happen until September. It will likely take two Land Use hearings, and approval by 2/3rds of the full council would be needed. Weather permitting, construction would take 15 months.

    • Traffic is projected to be a fraction of what it was like for the former nursing home on the site.

  • Alban & Waban island play structure

    • This proposed island play structure was brought up last month and there is still some uncertainty over who is the authority that can ultimately approve or reject the island proposal ultimately. Councilor Rice stated that it will come down to whichever city department has land jurisdiction.

    • Rice also said that, regardless of which department the jurisdiction ends up falling under, it is likely that the city council Public Facilities committee will have a public hearing for Change In Use.

  • Community issues

    • More sound is now traveling across the river from the highway to Quinobequin Rd following the add-a-lane project. Addressing this would require state funding from our delegation.

    • Another sound issue brought up is the lack of enforcement of Newton’s leaf blower sound ordinance.

  • Paving

    • Chestnut Street is scheduled for repaving from Beacon Street to Commonwealth Avenue in 2020 (utility problems and sinkholes were some obstacles of the plan to repave Chestnut Street south from Beacon Street to Route 9 this year, if you’re wondering what happened to the plan for that section)

    • The Waban Area Council has been asked to solicit community input on necessary street design changes from the section of Chestnut Street north of Beacon Street.

  • Also at the meeting, Bill gave a brief update as a community member on the presentation from last week in Newton Highlands about the Four Corners retail marijuana proposal.

Looking Ahead:

  • Northland Project

    • This Tuesday (5/14), there will be a hearing on the Northland project concerning design, sustainability, and other related topics. The hearing will be held in the City Council Chambers at 7pm. Audience members should aim to get there early in order to find seating.

  • Waban Village Day

    • Next Sunday (5/19) is Waban Village Day! Our campaign will have a booth set up so that voters can come out to meet Bill and ask him questions. We hope to see you there!

  • DPW Fair

    • The Newton Department of Public Works Fair is next Saturday (5/18) from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Newton City Hall War Memorial. As road repair was the top issue brought up by voters in Ward 5 during Bill's first round of door-knocking, this may be a great opportunity for residents to ask questions directly of the department employees and better understand how the department operates.

Campaign reminders

  • Donations: If you would like to make a donation to help support our campaign to make Newton a community for everyone, you can click here. Or, If you prefer to make a donation by mail, please make out a check to The Humphrey Committee and send it to: The Humphrey Committee, PO Box 78, Waban MA 02468. Any donation amount is always appreciated!

  • Events: If you would like to host a meet & greet event for Bill to meet your neighbors, please let me (Irina) know and we'll set one up.