Monday, February 12, 2007

Guest Post: Moving Forward to a Standstill along the Charles River

Guest post by former (and future?) Watertown Town Councilor Susan Falkoff. For more information on development along the Charles River on Pleasant St, check out yesterday's article in Globe West or the discussion on H2OTown.

Pleasant Street, Watertown – a rutted road with aging industrial buildings, auto body shops, older single family homes and small apartment buildings plunked down at random. Hidden behind it is the Charles River and a much-loved naturalistic multi-use path that is marred at several points by vistas of crumbling buildings and heavy industrial equipment. Pleasant Street is a fixer-upper -- and its catching on. A Lowe’s is planned for Waltham, with a corner of its parking lot jutting into Watertown. Next to that, a 300+ unit apartment complex is going up and its scale has startled and alarmed some. In my opinion, that project is well-designed and appropriate for the location, but only if future development isn’t higgledy-piggledy all around it.

Town Councilor Jonathan Hecht gets much credit for initiating the common sense idea that the town could plan for future development instead of approving projects piecemeal. Last week, the council wisely approved funding in the range of $40,000 - $55,000 for a six-month planning study. On Sunday, the Globe reported this shocking fact about the funding: in 1993, Stop and Shop agreed to pay the town $35,000 toward a similar study. “The study was never conducted, and town officials say they don't think the company ever paid up.” How often, one wonders, does a developer promise linkage and never deliver? I know of one similar example when, decades later, the Conservation Commission realized that promised plantings were never installed in the Watertown Mall parking lot. Does the town even have a mechanism to track linkage obligations?