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Update ont he City Council Vote on Growth Management I:

Just moments before the September 22nd midnight deadline, the city council voted to pass some sections of the Growth Management petition, tabling the rest, allowing the remaining sections to expire without a vote.

The council essentially supported the Planning Board's recommendations with some exceptions. They took issue with some key provisions and changed certain limits on height and density (see below). Although some of the Planning Board recommendations and subsequent council amendments allow more development than our petition, we see last night's action was a good start in a process.

Monday's vote was a victory -- but by no means have we accomplished our goals. Only a small fraction of the overall petition was passed. Residents remain with few protections against the type of development that has been plaguing our neighborhoods. However, the council has committed to vigorously study the issues we raised for prompt action. We look forward to the fulfillment of this promise and the creation of a "Growth Management Advisory Committee"

The details of the actual vote were complex and required step-by-step guidance from the City Solicitor, Community Development, and the City Clerk.

What the City Council Passed:

What the council did not pass:


Councillor Michael Sullivan insisted on no exceptions to height limits, except by variance. This was our position, and that of many others. CDD had introduced the discretion into the Planning Board response at the request of MIT and others. Michael Sullivan also put in the added height along Hampshire Street.

The Mid-Cambridge park was included in the package. Ken Reeves asked Susan Schlesinger on the impact on library proposals - she replied that an addition would be limited to 49,000 sq ft in the open space district. Since the open space district limits are drawn to exclude the space between the library and the high school, a larger addition would be possible.

Frank Duehay concluded that there were at least 3 opposing votes to FAR reductions, (although no one except Frank publicly spoke against any part of it), and he made the motion to delete these portions. Frank had received a letter from Amgen, a California biotech firm with ties to MIT, saying that they hoped to build at 1 Kendall Square and were concerned that they couldn't get enough space on their lot if the zoning was changed. It is unknown who else on the council opposed FAR reductions.

Kathy Born and Katherine Triantafillou both said they were prepared to vote for our entire package as submitted. Thanks are due to them for their clear and constant support. Henrietta Davis, Ken Reeves, and other councillors also made statements of support for the petition or specific parts of it.

Susan Schlesinger singled out the flood plain downzoning as being most specifically disapproved by the Planning Board, whereas all the rest of the provisions had received some support. There had been an impressive list of speakers from North Cambridge during the public portion of the meeting. Despite the strong attendance by those concerned with the increasing flood damage, the council did not vote on this portion of the petition separately. Please see below for further discussion of the legal-procedural aspects of the vote.

There was discussion about the urgency of addressing back yard development by Anthony Galluccio, Kathy Born, and Henrietta Davis. Kathy Born introduced an order asking for CDD to draft a moratorium on such development. Mayor Russell commented that she was concerned about people's ability to make small additions.

The legalities and nuances of Zoning Votes:

If 20% of the affected property owners file written objections to a zoning petition, it takes 7 votes to pass instead of the usual 6.

A petition, particularly a complex one like "Growth Management I" can be split up by the council and considered separately. It can also be voted on as a whole or in any subgroup the council wishes. In fact, it only takes 5 votes to choose the grouping or splitting up a petition. But this is where there is some danger to the drafters. If 5 councillors vote to separate out a specific portion, such as the floodplain provision, and it fails to get 7 votes, then the petition cannot be legally reintroduced for two years.

Therefore, it is common for councillors to intentionally decide to NOT separate out sections which they believe will fail. There is some disagreement as to what constitutes "reintroduction of the petition", however, the City Solicitor is of the opinion that if a section of the petition failed, it could not be reintroduced.

The council’s action to table the balance of the petition, including the floodplain section, allows reintroduction at any time.

By leaving all of the provisions that weren't passed on the table, rather than acting unfavorably on them, immediate actions on the same subjects are not precluded.