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Open Letter to the City Council

May 11, 1998

Cambridge City Council
City Hall
Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Honorable, the Cambridge City Council:

Attached for your consideration is a zoning petition which, if adopted, will provide interim protection for the city during the next year while a proposal for a permanent rezoning of the city is formulated.

The Citywide Growth Management Advisory Committee, Community Development Department, Planning Board and the public all need time to obtain and consider the information required as a basis for zoning limits that will serve Cambridge well into the next century. The importance of this petition is that it addresses the immediate need of the city to put prudent limits on large-scale developments while the Citywide Growth Management Process goes forward.

The petition is called the Interim Planning Overlay Proposal (IPOP). Its major provisions are:

From July 1, 1998, to October 1, 1999, to

  1. empower the City Council temporarily as a special permit granting authority,
  2. require all construction of 40,000 sf GFA or more to receive a special permit from the Council,
  3. require all such projects to demonstrate no substantial adverse impact on traffic, and
  4. require that these large projects be in conformance with the City’s Growth Policy.

The termination date of October 1, 1999, is based on the Growth Management Advisory Committee’s proposed schedule and the stated goal of the Assistant City Manager for Community Development to address traffic-related zoning issues in two to three years.

Development in Cambridge is now advancing at the rate of the 1980s when almost 9 million square feet of space was built and commuter traffic to Cambridge increased by over 40 percent. Current zoning allows construction that will substantially increase traffic congestion or deviate from the City’s accepted Growth Policy. It is vital that something be done while a long-term solution is formulated.

By requiring a special permit only for large projects, this petition provides a maximum of control over further development with minimum burden on the Council, which already spends much time considering curb cuts, local zoning petitions, environmental impacts and traffic studies for the same large projects.

We feel that this kind of proposal is timely and well-precedented. Such an amendment will give the Council the authority it needs to guide the growth of the City during a critical period in its history.


Charles T. Hinds

Keren Schlomy

Pamela Winters

John S. Chamberlain

Craig Kelley

Priscilla McMillan