Zoning and Planning Committee talks funds for restoration of Second Church in Newton

Newton City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee (ZAP) voted on Monday to approve an appropriation of funds to the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) for the restoration of the Second Church in Newton, located at 60 Highland St. in West Newton.

“The proposed project involves restoration of the masonry and replacement of the roof and drainage system at the main entrance to the building,” Eliza Datta, chair for the CPC, said. “The church has received a matching grant of $50,000 from the Massachusetts Historic Commission, which has reviewed and approved the proposed scope of work for the project.”

The Second Church of Newton was initially built in 1916 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, meaning it is eligible to receive CPA funding, according to Eliza Datta, chair for the CPC. 

If the CPA funds are approved, the church is prepared to complete the work by June of this year, according to Datta.

“This is clearly not maintenance,” Ward 1 Councilor-at-Large Alison Leary said. “It’s a major capital improvement that would be eligible under the CPA. What I’m looking at is its historic value, and its value to the public, and I would say that this church offers a lot of public services.”

The vote to approve the appropriation of funds received seven votes in favor, and one abstention.

The council moved on to discuss the proposed adoption of a new electrification ordinance which would require new construction and larger renovations in Newton to go electric. 

“So what this ordinance does, pursuant to the state’s 10 communities program, is to say all new constructions—not existing construction, all new construction and substantial renovations—need to be all electric,” said Ann Berwick, Co-Director of Climate and Sustainability for the city of Newton.

The 10 communities program, officially known as the Municipal Fossil Fuel Free Building Demonstration Program, is a Massachusetts pilot program in which ten cities and towns will be authorized to require all new construction and large renovations favor cleaner electric options within their borders.

Exceptions to the electrification ordinance’s requirements would include hospitals, medical offices, laboratories, freestanding outdoor cooking and heating appliances, propane emergency generators, as well as a number of other appliances, according to Berwick.

Berwick added that the proposed ordinance was already approved unanimously by the city council in a prior meeting, but needed approval from the state’s Department of Energy Resources before it could be finalized. 

Due to new progressive regulations on building codes, many professionals in the area are already challenged to meet the required standards, according to Berwick. Newton’s Climate and Sustainability team is, however, willing to roll out the ordinance without an immediate implementation, she added.

The City Council set the date for a public hearing Feb. 26, with the voted-upon date of electrification implementation being Jan. 1, 2025.