Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

February 11, 2013

Marijuana and More – Feb 11, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge Redevelopment Authority,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:41 am

Marijuana and More – Feb 11, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda highlights

Here are a few items that drew my wayward attention:

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation on the Medical Marijuana Interim Zoning Petition.

It would appear that Cambridge is approaching this with the same caution as many other Massachusetts cities and towns. It’s an interesting dilemma that marijuana sales may be legal at such dispensaries, but transporting it to the dispensaries may not be. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a zoning petition received from the Planning Board regarding bicycle parking modifications. [Report]

Accommodation of secure bicycle parking for residents and patrons should be required of all property owners. This zoning petition will essentially apply only to new buildings containing more than three units, but all property owners and managers should really be providing this. It’s a little bizarre that the report requires 38 pages to convey this simple idea. The proposal would be better if it also applied to existing residential and commercial buildings. I say this as a person who accommodates bicycles for tenants of my building, yet my two commercial/residential neighbors provided barely any such accommodation during recent renovations and, in fact, made their structures less inviting for bicycles.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appointment of D. Margaret Drury to the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority for a 5-year term, effective Apr 12, 2013.

This is a great reappointment and certainly leads you to wonder what role the CRA will play in future Cambridge development.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to work together with the appropriate city officials including the City Solicitor and report back to the City Council regarding modification of the ordinance (10.12.030) that links the awarding of a one yearlong Visitor Parking Permit per household to the purchase of a $25 Cambridge Resident Parking Permit. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Decker on Order Number Eight of Jan 28, 2013.]

This is a pretty simple idea and a fair one. The Resident Parking Permit fee was recently raised significantly with the acknowledgement that the $25 fee was still very reasonable for the right to park anywhere in Cambridge. At the time when the fee was raised, nobody talked about the fact that this would also apply to Visitor Parking Permits which are used infrequently and which only apply in the immediate neighborhood. It seems very reasonable that a lower fee (or perhaps no fee) should apply for getting only the Visitor Permit. It was a little strange to hear Councillor Decker at the previous meeting characterizing this proposal in terms of potential loss of revenue. Relatively speaking, this is pocket change.

Resolution #33. Resolution on the death of Andrew Jackson Spears.   Councillor Reeves, Vice Mayor Simmons, Mayor Davis

Andrew Spears was the husband of former Election Commissioner Artis Spears. Together they operated the A.J. Spears Funeral Home, a community institution in the Riverside neighborhood of Cambridge. He was a friend to many Cambridge families.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to meet with NSTAR company officials to establish a firm timeline for maintenance and replacement plans for the transformers and electrical systems that serve the city to ensure that local businesses and residential communities are fully serviced   Councillor Cheung and Councillor Reeves

It’s unusual to see City Council orders that speak so directly to potential limitations of the essential infrastructure of the city and the need to maintain and enhance this infrastructure in anticipation of future growth. I expect there are some people who would actively oppose this as a means of limiting growth – the same people who would likely advocate cobblestone roads to limit traffic. I recall not so long ago hearing someone speak against renovations of Cambridge’s water treatment facility because he thought this would only lead to more development and more people living in Cambridge.

Order #6. That the City Council call upon members of the Cambridge Congressional Delegation to reject any proposal that seeks to balance the federal budget at the expense of state and local governments.   Councillor Cheung and Mayor Davis

This Order refers to a truly frightening proposal to remove the tax exemption on municipal bonds. I can’t believe there are people in the U.S. Congress who would advocate such a city-killing idea.

Order #10. That the City Manager is hereby requested to appoint a special task force of real estate and engineering professionals to assess and evaluate the current condition of the Foundry property and projected capital needs as well as anticipated expenses of maintaining the building.   Councillor Toomey and Councillor Maher

The battle lines over the future of this building are being drawn with some very different points of view among city councillors. This is just the next round in a continuing tussle.

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to work with the appropriate city staff to provide a report to the City Council detailing how the City of Cambridge working in conjunction with the DCR will insure that oversize vehicles not be allowed travel along Memorial Drive so that accidents similar to the sad crushing of the tour bus of prospective Harvard Students do not occur again.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

They can start by making sure those heavy rubber hanging mats are all in place as a warning system for oversized vehicles on these DCR roads. Needless to say, it doesn’t help when the bus driver is paying more attention to his GPS than to the road in front of him. This, of course, is a problem everywhere. We have become a nation of robots.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public meeting held on Nov 20, 2012 to continue discussions on security cameras in the City.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public meeting held on Jan 23, 2013 to continue discussions on security cameras in the City.

I don’t expect to see anything sensible happening as a result of these hearings. It seems obvious to many of us that judicious use of cameras on major roads and potential problem areas is just common sense use of available technology.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public meeting held on Jan 24, 2013 to discuss a zoning petition by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to amend the Zoning Ordinance and Map by creating a new Section 13.80 – Planned Unit Development 5 (PUD-5) District, which includes several parcels totaling approximately 26 acres in the area north of Memorial Drive, east of Ames Street and south of Main Street and Broadway, and would also include a parcel at One Broadway. The new Section 13.80 PUD-5 is intended to allow mixed use developments with increased development densities and heights.

I was recently on an MIT panel that addressed the substance of this petition. Some thoughts on Housing and the MIT/Kendall Petition can be found at http://cambridgecivic.com/?p=2436.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public meeting held on Jan 17, 2013 to discuss the zoning petition filed by Zevart M. Hollisian, Trustee of Garabed B. Hollisian Trust and L-Z Realty Trust and Seth D. Alexander, President, MIT Investment Management Company to amend the Zoning Ordinance and Map by extending the Cambridgeport Revitalization Development District from Green Street out to Massachusetts Avenue in the area adjacent to Blanche Street; said petition includes a map and a commitment letter.

Committee Report #6. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Administrative Assistant, Office of the City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public meeting held on Jan 30, 2013 to continue discussions on a zoning petition filed by Zevart M. Hollisian, Trustee of Garabed B. Hollisian Trust and L-Z Realty Trust and Seth D. Alexander, President, MIT Investment Management Company to amend the zoning Ordinance and Map by extending the Cambridgeport Revitalization Development District from Green Street out to Massachusetts Avenue in the area adjacent to Blanche Street; said petition includes a map and a commitment letter.

The Planning Board delivered its report at the last Council meeting and now the City Council has the report from the Ordinance Committee. The City Council may now be in a position to pass the petition to a 2nd Reading and get this petition in the queue for ordination in a few weeks. All the ducks appear to be in a row, but election year politics could still be a problem. Those of us who have followed all of the Central Square conversations over the last couple of years know that the really interesting zoning deliberations are yet to come. This petition was never more than a minor revision to the Cambridgeport Revitalization Development District (CRDD) with the potential to improve a long-neglected block of Mass. Ave. It will be good to get a few other benefits out of the process, but this is really just a warm-up to something much more interesting. – RW

Post-meeting update: The City Council passed the Forest City petition to a 2nd Reading at this meeting on a 7-2 vote with Councillors vanBeuzekom and Kelley voting NO while saying this would be "premature". It was Councillor Reeves who then correctly noted that this is the 2nd time the petition has been submitted and that it’s been batted around now for nearly a year. There’s no way to logically conclude that advancing this petition is "premature". The petition could come to a final vote as soon as Mon, Feb 25.

2 Comments

  1. Re: Bicycle parking

    In a news report about oxycodone abuse, it was mentioned that law enforcement sometimes place small lojack-type tracking devices in oxycodone containers to track movement as they go in and out of suspicious drug stores.

    All too often over the last 15 years, high end bikes have been stolen from the bike rack behind my building. Only the most sturdy and robust heavy locks can keep a bike safe. One single bike rack = many stolen bikes. Multiply this for all of Cambridge.

    Because medium level locks are being repeatedly foiled and only certain bikes are being targeted, it is probably the work professionals — a long time operating ring.

    It would be a great service if the city would do a “bait bike” operation and use these small lojack devices with desirable bikes locked up to bike racks located at frequent trouble spots around the city with the aim of putting the bike theft ring out of business.

    Personally, I suggest this as a non bike owner. I have always been a walker in Cambridge, but it is no fun seeing heartbroken neighbors who had a new bike stolen not realizing how overboard one must go with a locking system if using an outdoor bike rack in Cambridge.

    Comment by jchase — February 12, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

  2. How could Minka and Kelley conclude the need for more time? This is their third time at the plate. Minka was all but counting the money at the table during the last two sessions. I find this kind of posturing unacceptable. The least Kelley and Minka could have said was, “I do not like this plan I will never vote for it.” or the less popular though probably more accurate, “I can’t vote for it because my base won’t let me.” You’d think we were in Washington.

    That being said, I like the lojack idea. Whilst walking to CRLS last week I saw a kid running after a fellow who was long gone having just made off with his bike. The pizza parlor in front of the library and CRLS would probably make a great location to try this out. I would also add that I too am not a rider, for I feel those that do ride are daredevils in whose company I would seem to meek.

    Comment by patrick barrett — February 12, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

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