Yes! We the undersigned petition the Cambridge City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance to allow for City Council Project Review.
As we move forward with a process to create a citywide Master Plan, this procedural change will enable the City Council to impose reasonable conditions on large, new development projects as part of the ongoing planning process.
Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 40A, Section 1A, the Cambridge City Council may act a "special permit granting authority" — but as stands, the council has delegated this oversight to the Planning Board, an unelected body.
To be sure, the professionals who volunteer to serve on the Planning Board deserve our gratitude and respect - but when it comes to the big decisions, such as redevelopment of the Sullivan Courthouse, or large-scale development along the Alewife floodplain - we think elected policymakers ought to assume a more meaningful role in the process.
Under Article 19 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance, Project Review enables the special permit granting authority to encourage the production of affordable and middle-income housing, mitigate against the impact of added traffic, promote the use of alternative modes of transit, apply strong Urban Design criteria, and more.
Perhaps most importantly, City Council Project Review will create a better system of "checks and balances" — we will continue to draw on the expertise of the Planning Board and the Community Development Department. But with this change, the City Council will also have a say on projects that are likely to have a significant impact on abutting properties and the surrounding urban environment.