Petition to blunt development around park heads to council vote
The citizen-written law trying to lighten development around North Cambridge’s Linear Park could be voted on Monday, some six months since its introduction.
Backers of the Bishop petition typically point to the effect two projects in the area might have on traffic, safety and the feel of their neighborhood — the Fawcett Oil site, which could become some 77 apartments, 10 single-family houses and four units on a community garden site; and the Cambridge Lumber site, where 20 condominiums are planned — as part of a wave of development that could bring more than 1,400 announced housing units to the area in addition to 333 built in the area in the past five years.
To give a sense of what’s at stake when the City Council finally decides to vote on the petition, residents of the Linear Park neighborhood got together over about four weeks and built a scale model, development watchdog Charles Teague said Thursday, including some all-nighters when things seemed urgent.
It’s a fairly painstaking, house-by-house scale reproduction of the area, although the model cars ordered from Hong Kong are too small.
At least they’re on there, Teague said.
“I got tired of seeing these architects’ rendering where everything is perfect and there are no cars to show what traffic is like,” he said.
The model is on display in the storefront at 2400 Massachusetts Ave., installed in mid-February, along with others showing variations on the projects. One was going up Friday, Teague said. He hoped people would go by to look at it before Monday’s council meeting, when they are able to give their opinions on issues on the council agenda.
The petition answers residents’ development fears by asking the council to cut back the number of housing units pitched for construction in the area by 30 percent, formally remove commercial uses and protect the Linear Park from being crowded and towered over by new buildings. In the words of an e-mail sent by Teague:
The Bishop petition changes the zoning law to shrink the Cambridge Lumber and Fawcett-Nordblom projects by 30 percent. The Bishop petition must pass as written to keep Cambridge Lumber at 20 units (the original plan was 29). The petition shrinks Fawcett-Nordblom from 104 to 77 units but still allows four-story apartment buildings.
The council opted not to vote on the petition before the November election, saying developers had more incentive to negotiate with neighbors before a vote. But plans haven’t been filed for the Fawcett project, and the Cambridge Lumber developers have held off on applying for building permits for some five months — waiting to see whether they can get back the nine units from their original plan, Teague suggested.
The council meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square.