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Newton City Council approves rezoning plan ahead of state housing deadline

Newton under pressure to create multi-family housing near green line stop
Newton under pressure to create multi-family housing near green line stop 03:02

NEWTON - After much debate, Newton's City Council approved a proposal to rezone six of its villages allowing for more housing units.

The plan, called the Village Center Overlay District, would allow for taller buildings with housing on top of commercial spaces. Right now, many businesses in Newton exist in one story buildings. The proposal would allow buildings to grow to 3.5 to 4.5 stories.

The vote came as Newton and other communities face a December 31 deadline to comply with a state law called the MBTA Communities Law which requires cities and towns along the Green Line and Commuter Rail to change their zoning laws to allow for more housing within half a mile of train stations. Newton is required to zone for an additional 8,330 units.

The plan has been polarizing in Newton. Some businesses argue that the proposal offers no protection to mom and pops who may be forced to pay higher rents by developers trying to offset their affordable housing units.

"And with nothing in by rights zoning that protects the community from having just banks, and real estate companies, and salons in, my concern is for local small businesses," said Kay Masterson, owner of Johnny's Luncheonette.

Other businesses are worried about a lack of parking or being displaced during potential construction.

"We have not built protections in," said Newton City Council President Susan Albright, "I know the chair of our zoning and planning committee asked the planning department to please come up with a method to help relocate this businesses during construction."

Newton City Councilor Bill Humphrey was in favor of the plan. Standing in front of a vacant, one story business, he said the state's law is the kick start Newton needs.

"I think this is a great example of a commercial location that's a single story, it's vacant, it's right near a T station. We could be having a lot more economic vibrancy here," Humphrey said, "We have more people going into Newton every day to go to work than going out of Newton to work somewhere else. It would be nice if we could have some of those people be able to live right here in Newton and not have to be commuting from places like 128 or even as far away as 495."

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