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Citizens’ Group files Growth Management Petition
Residents Unite to Ask: "Does City's Zoning Make Sense?"

Concerned about out-of-control and oversized, inappropriate development, a group of Cambridge residents has introduced a proposal that would amend Cambridge’s existing zoning law. This group, Cambridge Residents for Growth Management (CRGM), has been meeting with neighborhood and business groups throughout the city.

"We’ve met with just about every neighborhood group, business association, and a large number of residents and businesspeople, seeking their input," said Phil Sego, an Area-4 resident. "The city isn’t a collection of isolated neighborhoods. Development in one area impacts the surrounding communities. In the past 20 years, we’ve been trying to fix this antiquated code just a few streets at a time. Our petition recommends a strategic citywide approach to managing development on a uniform basis."

The Growth Management Plan recommends zoning changes that will have the effect of stabilizing neighborhoods, protecting local businesses, and preventing inappropriate development. It will help alleviate the traffic burdens, slowing the upwards spiral Cambridge has been experiencing in the past few years.

The input for the plan came from hundreds of participants throughout the city. One of the participants and founders, Hugh Russell, got the idea for citywide rezoning after years of sitting on the Planning Board and "hearing people come in from all over the city with ideas that couldn’t be implemented" because they were made in response to proposed new structures or renovations that were permitted by existing law. By the time neighbors sought to rezone the affected area to prevent such a change, it was too late. "There were several unsuccessful citizen-proposed rezonings, even though they were good planning. It was clear that we needed to unite people from across the city with similar interests."

Another member of the group, John Pitkin, said "Residents need to take the initiative to raise these issues because of increasing development in our neighborhoods, commercial squares and former industrial areas. Other legal restraints on development have been or are about to be removed. If we don’t properly manage this explosive growth, it will erode our community, our neighborhoods, our environment, our quality of life."

The last two decades have been a time of change that has brought the zoning law into line with residents’ expectations — but only in specific areas, such as North Massachusetts Avenue and Cambridgeport. Much of the city still has zoning limits near the high levels set in the 1960s. It was during this recession that the city was "upzoned" to promote commercial development.

"Cambridge’s zoning hasn’t has a major overhaul since the 1940s and was woefully out-of-date," says Sego. "We accomplished the goals of the 1940s upzoning long ago."

The principal points of the proposal include:

Once filed with the City Council, there is expected to be 4 to 5-month public review, including hearings by both the Council and the Planning Board, before a possible Council vote in September or October.

For more information, contact CRGM