Development Debate Draws Political Lines in Massachusetts

A Boston Globe columnist comes down strongly in favor of a mixed-use project in a Boston suburb, and laments the obstacles facing smart growth in this and other, similar, communities.

December 9, 2015, 2:00 PM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Dante Ramos begins an op-ed with no uncertain terms in expressing a rational, pro-development ethos: "If a real estate project is thoughtfully designed and fulfills genuine public needs, it deserves to be approved. But in Massachusetts, faulting projects for their failure to achieve perfection is a time-honored way of blocking them."

The development in question would "replace a city-owned parking lot on Austin Street in Newtonville with a complex that would include 68 housing units, a public plaza, and ground-floor retail." Ramos also says the project "exemplifies the kind of smart growth that communities across Massachusetts should be pursuing."

Yet, mixed-use projects face an arduous process in Newton and other suburban communities, according to Ramos. In this case, the "proposal would require special permits from the Board of Aldermen because it’s taller, and has fewer parking spaces, than what zoning rules allow by right."

Ramos also responds to the case of the project opponents, which includes a member of the Board of Alderman who also happens to be the director of the state Sierra Club. The message to the project's detractors: "Blocking new development won’t preserve the status quo; it just guarantees, amid rising demand for housing, that the city will keep getting pricier."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015 in The Boston Globe

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