Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

March 18, 2013

Evacuation Day at City Hall – March 18 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,City Council,planning — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:57 am

Evacuation Day at City Hall – March 18 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Here are what seem to be the highlights for this Monday’s City Council meeting grouped by topic:

Manager’s Agenda #7. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appointment of the following persons as members of the Planning Board for 3-year terms effective Mar 13, 2013:
Tom Sieniewicz (Full Member)
Steven Cohen (Full Member)
Catherine Preston Connolly (Associate Member)

Resolution #15. Thanks to Thomas W. Anninger for his years of service as a member of the Cambridge Planning Board.   Councillor Maher

Though the Planning Board has been short a few members lately, it’s been functioning like a well-oiled machine. Tom Anninger’s exit from the Board is a real loss, but the newly appointed members appear to be very qualified and should prove to be excellent additions. They’ll arrive just in time for some serious discussions about possible plans for Central Square and other areas that were part of the recent K2C2 study. It is noteworthy that the recent January 7 Order #4 strongly urged the City Manager to fill the two vacancies on the Planning Board with people "who have a background in, or association with, the skilled labor and building trades." None of the three appointees seem to fit that description, and that’s probably a good thing.

Manager’s Agenda #16. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the block rates for water consumption and sewer use for the period beginning Apr 1, 2013 and ending Mar 31, 2014.

City Manager Order
Agenda Item No. 16A     Mar 18, 2013
ORDERED: That the following block rate for water consumption and sewer use in the City of Cambridge be in effect for the period beginning Apr 1, 2013 and ending Mar 31, 2014.

  Annual Consumption* FY13
Water Rate
FY14 Proposed
Water Rate
FY13
Sewer Rate
FY14 Proposed
Sewer Rate
Block 1 0 – 40 CcF $3.02 $3.02 $7.86 $8.19
Block 2 41 – 400 CcF $3.24 $3.24 $8.32 $8.67
Block 3 401 – 2,000 CcF $3.44 $3.44 $8.93 $9.31
Block 4 2,001 – 10,000 CcF $3.65 $3.65 $9.62 $10.02
Block 5 Over 10,000 CcF $3.96 $3.96 $10.23 $10.66

*All rates are per CcF. CcF is an abbreviation of 100 cubic feet. One CcF is approximately 750 gallons; and be it further

This marks the 4th straight year for these water rates, i.e. no increases for three years from the level set for FY11. This is the first increase in the sewer rate after two consecutive years of no increases.

Manager’s Agenda #17. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the Planning Board recommendation on the MIT-Kendall Square Zoning Petition.

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 Feb 26, 2013 to continue discussions on the petition by MIT to create a new Section 13.80 Planned Unit Development 5 (PUD-5) District; specifically to discuss the built form, including FAR, Height, Footplates, Open Space and Parking.

Committee Report #6. 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 Mar 7, 2013 to continue discussions on the petition by MIT to create a new Section 13.80 Planned Unit Development 5 (PUD-5) District; specifically to discuss Uses, Incentive Zoning, Community Fund, Housing and Sustainability. A presentation will be made by the Executive Director of Historical Commission on historic building.

Order #11. That a one-time suspension of Council Rule 23B be allowed, for the broadcast of the Fri, Mar 22nd, 9:30am Ordinance Committee Meeting (a meeting to discuss issues relating to the MIT PUD-5 zoning petition).   Councillor vanBeuzekom

As a group, these are probably the most significant items on the agenda. The Council will most likely pass the MIT/Kendall petition to a 2nd Reading in order to get it in the queue for possible ordination in a few weeks. The Ordinance Committee is still deliberating the issue, and it will surprise no one if there are additional tweaks to the zoning language before the matter comes to a final vote.

One yet unresolved issue is the matter of how MIT will respond to demands for additional on-campus and near-campus housing for graduate students and post-docs. It’s a legitimate question, and the MIT administration is seriously analyzing this now. The question of whether this housing should be intertwined with the zoning petition is somewhat unclear, especially since MIT has numerous other options for where such housing could be constructed if their analysis proves the need. It’s unfortunate that this issue has been latched onto by at least one new Council candidate who has about as much familiarity with MIT as a fish has with a bicycle.

Applications & Petitions #6. A zoning petition has been received from Charles D. Teague, et al., requesting the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance to clarify existing law so that said law can be enforced by inserting text after Section 7.20 Illumination, with the existing text to be retained and labeled as Section 7.23 Lighting Restrictions for Residential Districts.

Yup, another zoning petition, and a pretty anticlimactic one after the Forest City petition and the MIT/Kendall petitions that some have used to define their political campaigns.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council and the Cambridge community on the current status, to the extent that it is possible, of the investigation into the June 3, 2012 murder of Charlene Holmes.   Vice Mayor Simmons

I am grateful to Vice Mayor Simmons for bringing this issue back into public view. It is incredibly disturbing to think that this cold-blooded murder in front of witnesses is still unresolved almost a year later.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Department of Public Works as to the feasibility of installing fiber-optic conduits when doing sewer reconstruction and report back to the City Council.   Councillor Cheung and Councillor vanBeuzekom

The fact is that these fiber-optic conduits are sometimes run inside the sewers. Don’t worry, you won’t see that stuff and it won’t get all over your data.

Order #9. That the conversion of further soccer fields at Danehy Park to artificial turf be delayed until further study of the impact of artificial turf on player’s health be completed along with a report which quantifies the decreased use of the more fragile grass playing fields throughout the city as a result of the installation of artificial turf playing fields be prepared by the Recreation Department.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair of the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning Committee, for a public meeting held on Feb 5, 2013 to discuss the long-term impact of grass versus artificial turf at Danehy Park.

Though I have not been following this issue, the committee report makes clear that this is a Big Issue for a lot of people – especially the soccer crowd. It does seem a bit weird that Councillor vanBeuzekom is bringing up the concern that "this infill material may contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phthalates, benzene, benzothiazole and other toxic derivatives that may present a health risk to residents" as justification for delaying the installation. Is this out of concern for health risks or just opposition to replacing natural grass with artificial turf? I’ll go with the majority of soccer players. If they’re OK with it, then go for it.

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to offer City of Cambridge engineering expertise to the City of Belmont so that both cities may work together to ensure that the residents of Cambridge, Belmont and Arlington be protected from the impacts of flooding in Alewife SubWatershed and report back to the City Council.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

On the surface, this certainly seems like a good idea. I always wonder whether the real intention of Orders like this is to delay development proposals or whether there are serious environmental concerns. In matters such as this we also get a clear view of how lacking the regional planning can sometimes be in these parts. Instead, we talk about loaning our expertise to neighboring towns.

Committee Report #2. 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 Feb 6, 2013 to receive a briefing on the recommendations of the C2 Report.

There’s also a Roundtable City Council meeting coming up on Wed, Mar 27 at 5:30pm on the report of the Central Square Advisory Committee 2011/2012. This is pretty important stuff. Some choose to see only danger and fear of change; while others see opportunity. I count myself in the latter group. The actual zoning recommendations yet to come out of CDD are eagerly awaited. – Robert Winters


Quick Notes on what went down at the Mar 18 City Council meeting:

1) Many people showed up to protest the impending termination of the Longy School’s Preparatory and Continuing Studies program. The City Council’s University Relations Committee will address this at a meeting on Wed, Mar 20 at 2:00pm in the Sullivan Chamber of City Hall.

2) Throngs of soccer players, parents, and coaches came out to question Councillor vanBeuzekom’s Order #9 that recommended delaying the installation of artificial turf on soccer fields at Danehy Park. The Order was subsequently withdrawn. (It would likely have been defeated.)

3) Open Houses on the MIT/Kendall Square Initiative (zoning petition) are scheduled for Sat, Mar 23 from 10:00am to noon and Tues, Mar 26 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at One Broadway, 1st Floor, next to Firebrand Saints. Look for the blue windows.

MIT/Kendall Open House

4) There was a somewhat disjointed discussion on the appropriateness of a proposed Ordinance Committee roundtable meeting this Fri, Mar 22 at 9:30am to discuss the details of the MIT/Kendall petition. The debate centered on whether it should be televised and whether public comment should be permitted. The procedural compromise was to change this to a City Council roundtable meeting (which are not televised and where public comment is not permitted). Ordinance Committee Chair David Maher promised that there would be another Ordinance Committee meeting on this topic prior to a final vote on ordination. It was also stated that this petition will expire on April 15 rather than April 24 as previously established. Apparently even though state law sets the deadline at 90 days after its first Ordinance Committee hearing, section 1.52 of the City’s zoning ordinance sets the deadline at 90 days after its initial Planning Board hearing (who knew?). The Law Dept. recommended the Apr 15 deadline. After the discussion the City Council passed the petition to a 2nd Reading. This puts it in the queue to be voted for ordination after Mar 28 and before the Apr 15 expiration date.

5) Councillor Decker announced that the state has designated Homeowners Rehab, Inc. (HRI) as the agency to negotiate the sale of the 2 Mt. Auburn St. housing currently owned and managed by Harvard University. She indicated some hope that good news may follow regarding the long-term affordability for tenants of this building. – RW (additions and corrections welcome)

1 Comment

  1. My comment is regarding the artificial turf. I’ll preface my comment by saying I have never been to any of the parks in question as I am relatively new to Cambridge. My question revolves around access to the field. Is the field fenced off? Is it easy for youth to gain access to the field?

    I ask this because its very well documented about how hot these fields get. Turf fields absorb the suns heat. The temperature of a turf field surface in direct sunlight on a 85 degree day has been measured to be as high as 174 degrees. High heat on turf fields is retained by the rubber fill for hours.

    So back to the question of access.

    A sports league should not be a concern. They normally have more than one adult present to make sure youth hydrate. But if there’s even a a remote chance that 16 kids can access the field to play a game of pickup football/soccer, then the odds of someone suffering from a heat related incident are high.

    Comment by Luis — March 20, 2013 @ 11:40 am

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