Ward 5 Alderman Mark Niedergang knows that zoning is not a sexy subject. The current draft of the of the overhauled zoning code, which was compiled through the city’s Zoning Reform Project, is currently 285 pages long.
“It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion,” Niedergang said in an email to constituents. “I’m still learning about what’s in the current draft.”
Niedergang will host a community meeting Ward 5 tonight to discuss his concerns with the zoning overhaul and to hear thoughts from neighbors. Among other concerns, he’s worried that there’s not enough open green space required and that the affordable housing quota is too low. He also worries that the new public process may reduce the influence of community members on large projects.
The overhauled ordinance was submitted to the Board of Alderman by Mayor Curtatone in January. Since then, there have been a handful of public meetings in each ward, the last two of which will be held tonight and tomorrow. Citizens are also encouraged to comment on the ordinance using Somerville’s Open Comment tool. Through this online portal, residents can read through the ordinance and add comments to specific bits of text.
The Zoning Reform Project was introduced under SomerVision, the comprehensive plan to address Somerville’s gravest problems by 2030. The city hopes that by updating the zoning code, Somerville will be able to address growth in a way that “reflects the community’s values” and protects lower income residents and small businesses.
Those curious about the changes can learn more and voice concerns tonight at the Ward 5 meeting (6:30 p.m., 259 Lowell St.) or tomorrow at the meeting for Ward 4 (6:30 p.m., 5 Meacham St.). The Open Comment tool will take entries until March 27.