This week’s election saw three incumbents lose their seats—at-large councilors Deb Crossley and Alicia Bowman and Ward 8 Councilor Holly Ryan—and all three supported the Village Center Overlay District proposal.
Several new candidates were elected—David Micley as Ward 2 councilor; Randy Block as Ward 4 councilor; Stephen Farrell as Ward 8 councilor, and Alan Lobovits and Rena Getz as councilors-at-large—all of whom opposed the Village Center Overlay District plan and were endorsed by the “Save Newton Villages” group that formed in opposition to the Village Center Overlay District proposal.
So now that the opposition won, how is the Village Center Overlay District plan likely to be affected?
In the short term, not much.
The MBTA Communities Act mandates cities and towns comply with MBTA station area up-zoning by Dec. 31, which is before the new City Council members take office.
The VCOD was approved by the Zoning and Planning Committee last month and is set to go before the full City Council for discussion on Nov. 14.
“The plan is good and designed for the benefit for the city of Newton, and what Newton needs because of its unique pattern of development,” Crossley, chair of the Zoning and Planning Committee, said.
Amendments discussed next week could include eliminating the village center overlay maps and focusing just on MBTA Communities Act compliance. But that would bring the village center revitalization effort back to the drawing board.
Crossley didn’t say how she thinks the full Council vote on the VCOD will go or what changes she anticipates will be requested, but she said she wants a plan that allows the city’s village centers to grow and evolve.
“If the rules are preventing that from happening, the rules are wrong and we have to loosen them up,” she said.
There’s already talk of a referendum to repeal the VCOD if the current City Council approves it. If that happens, the city would be out of compliance with the MBTA Communities Act. would lose state grants and would be open to housing discrimination lawsuits filed by the Massachusetts attorney general.