Zoning and Planning Committee approves VCOD

Newton’s Zoning and Planning Committee has approved the Village Center Overlay District plan, clearing the way for a full City Council vote in the coming weeks.

“After almost three years of deliberation and some excellent work by our staff and consultant—really long hours, all the life changes we went through, maternity leave and whatever—we’re ready to vote this forward to the full Council,” Zoning and Planning Committee Chair Deb Crossley said.

The vote was five in favor, while Councilor Pamela Wright voted against it and Councilor Lisle Baker abstained.

The state set a Dec. 31 deadline for cities and towns to comply with the MBTA Communities Act, a new state law requiring communities with MBTA stations to re-zone the neighborhoods around them for higher density housing.

When the Massachusetts legislature passed that law in 2021, Newton’s Zoning and Planning Committee was already at work reimagining the city’s village centers with more housing and bustling street-level shops.

The Village Center Overlay District plan has been controversial. Advocates say it will bring much needed housing diversity to the city. Opponents say it will cause more traffic and won’t bring truly affordable housing.

There were 13 amendments proposed Monday night that would have down-zoned certain lots in the VCOD plan, but only a couple of the changes were approved.

You can watch the entire meeting on the city’s YouTube channel.