ACTION ALERT: Protect Fair and Impartial Planning in Cambridge

We need your help to protect the fair and impartial administration of zoning law in Cambridge.

A few weeks ago I wrote to you about a petition submitted by one City Councilor that would shift the Special Permit Granting Authority for certain large developments from the Planning Board to the City Council. This is an arcane proposal, but could seriously hurt our ability to create new housing at the scale needed to meet the needs of all Cambridge families.

Please join A Better Cambridge in speaking against this proposal at tomorrow’s City Council Ordinance Committee meeting (PLEASE NOTE that the meeting will be held in the School Committee Meeting room at CRLS due to renovations in City Hall):

Wednesday, July 30th
4:00 P.M.
School Committee Meeting Room (CRLS)
459 Broadway

A Better Cambridge is steadfastly opposed to this proposal because:

  • It politicizes the administration of our law by subjecting applicants for project review special permits to the will of elected officials, rather than to the expert-informed analysis of an appointed administrative planning board;
  • It favors insider deal-making, rather than good urban planning, by encouraging developers to negotiate the details of projects with individual City Councilors in order to ensure they win the councilor's support and ultimate approval;
  • It risks Cambridge’s legal obligation to administer the zoning bylaw impartially and consistently, and may open our city up to litigation by applicants who feel they were treated unfairly by the council during the permitting process;
  • It increases uncertainty in the Cambridge planning process and may encourage developers to go with “safe-bet” large, luxury developments -- rather than engage our community in discussions that lead to the creation higher density developments that can provide affordable housing for all families in our community.

For more information check out this letter from ABC member Seth Zerenan urban planner with experience working in a local community where the Special Permit Granting Authority is controlled by elected officials.

If  you cannot make it to tomorrow’s meeting, I encourage you to send your comments directly to all members of the city council:council@cambridgema.gov. Please address your comments to the Ordinance Committee co-chairs: Vice-Mayor Benzan and Councilor Carlone, and be sure to note your opposition to the “Carlone petition for City Council Special Permit Granting Authority.”

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