Somerville Residents Voice Concerns Over Local Development and Planning Processes

Amid the growing development concerns in Somerville, residents have voiced their apprehensions regarding the town’s planning and zoning procedures during a recent Planning Board meeting. High among the community’s concerns is a new building constructed on the corner of Davenport and High Street, which, due to its height, is considered out of place and a potential precedent for future development along High Street. The residents fear that without proper control, High Street might soon mirror the densely built-up Main Street. In response, the Planning Board clarified that the building’s approval falls within the Zoning Board’s jurisdiction and that any requests for deviations from the standard building requirements are to be presented to the Zoning Board. Furthermore, the Planning Board assured residents that they are working on addressing master plan zoning and redevelopment plans and acknowledged the urgency to act promptly.

The community’s unease extends beyond specific buildings to the broader planning process, with calls for more public involvement and transparency. Residents expressed a need for an advisory committee that would allow them to provide input on various community issues, including drugs, alcohol, and firearms. The Planning Board recognized the importance of public participation and confirmed that upcoming planning sessions would include public meetings with professionals hired to address the town’s planning and development concerns.

During the meeting, questions were also raised regarding how existing structures and businesses would be affected by new master plans and zoning regulations. The board clarified that current structures and pre-existing non-conforming businesses are “grandfathered in,” meaning they are not required to conform to new standards or reapply for permits, even with changes in zoning. This protection underscores the board’s emphasis on understanding the distinct roles of the borough council, the planning board, and the zoning board, which are all governed by state law. The board encouraged residents to become familiar with these relationships and the statutory regulations that guide them.

The Planning Board’s responses aimed to provide guidance and reassurance about the structured approach to planning and development, which includes adherence to state laws and a commitment to thoroughness and transparency. The resident’s concerns about staying informed and the process for submitting input led to the board’s assurance that all emails sent to the Planning Board become part of the official record and are disseminated to the entire board for consideration.

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Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Mayor:
Brian Gallagher
Planning Board Officials:
Bernard Navatto, Laurence Cleveland, Roger Vroom, Deirdre Rosinski, Lisa Werner, Al Kerestes, Andrea Adair, Jason Kraska, Christopher Adickes, Arthur Akins, Jenna LaRusso (Planning and Zoning Board Secretary), Kara Kaczynski (Board Attorney), Michael Cole (Board Planner and Engineer)

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