Minutes of FPRA Fall Meeting

urbanag_20151026_photoswisschardThe Fresh Pond Residents Alliance held a public meeting on Thursday, October 1, 2015, at the Tobin School, starting at 7 p.m. The minutes follow below.

Urban Agriculture ordinance – Ellen Kokinda, Planner with CDD, discussed a draft urban agriculture ordinance for Cambridge, distributing a handout and asking for community feedback and input. There is a City task force that is exploring developing new zoning and regulations to actively encourage agricultural activities that could work in Cambridge, the aims being:  equitable access to fresh, healthy, affordable food; local economic development; increased resiliency; and increased support of a regional food system. The urban agriculture activities under consideration include: aquaponics (fish in tanks), hydroponics (roots in water), aeroponics (roots in air, sprayed with water), animal keeping (chickens and bees mainly, no roosters), and farms that are ground-level (including in freights) and roof-level (open air and enclosed greenhouse). As pointed out by a resident member of the task force, roof-level farming options may be limited because strong structural supports are required in the building, and mechanicals and solar installations may take up too the space.

Ms. Kokinda has been presenting to different neighborhood groups in the City, and reported that residents have raised questions and concerns around possible noise, public space usage and/or increasing setbacks (for “freight farming in particular”), and health (e.g., clean soil, humane animal practice). Although people at the FPRA meeting echoed the quality control concerns for human and animal welfare, urban agriculture appeared to be supported by those present. Ms. Kokinda said the Public Health Department would provide inspectional services, and quality assurance measures would be part of the ordinance (e.g., certificates of clean soil required of anyone selling produce to show to consumers). A few residents additionally spoke in favor of a farmer’s market in the neighborhood area, wondering about space availability in the Quad.

Petition to change the accessory use housing zoning ordinance – Doug Brown presented this petition that was filed by Patrick Barrett III with the City: http://www2.cambridgema.gov/CityOfCambridge_Content/documents/Barrett%20Zoning%20Petition.pdf . The intention of the ordinance is to allow unused spaces in owner-occupied single and two-family dwellings to be turned into accessory housing units that could provide resident property owners with the flexibility to add income-generating apartments, assisted living units, live-in spaces for childcare providers, or apartments for returning college graduates or older parents. Without adding to the built space in Cambridge, it is estimated that this “accessory apartment provision could create over 1000 new housing units at no additional cost to the City and without expanding the footprints of existing homes, thus fostering neighborhood preservation.” In addition, the proposed benefits of this ordinance are that such accessory units would be more affordable, give rental income to local residents, and not drive up real estate values as much as with new, large residential developments. A concern expressed by a few residents was whether more living units might significantly impact on-street parking options for neighborhoods. Doug estimated that perhaps there would be 300 such units added over the next 10 years, or about 30 per year.

Proposal to convert the prior Tokyo restaurant site to auto repair – Jan Devereux gave updates and continued the neighborhood discussion of this proposal which is going to the Board of Zoning Appeals on October 22nd to seek a special permit for change of use, and variances for raised roof height and provision of 18 parking spaces. A group of FPRA representatives, and Councilor Carlone met with Mr. Elie Al-Lakkis and his architects on September 3rd at the Tokyo site to discuss the community’s concerns for better landscaping, screening, and architectural design and materials. Mr. Lakkis had hired a landscape architect. Residents present at the October 1st neighborhood meeting agreed with submitting a letter to the BZA with the requests, and while not strongly opposing the zoning and special permit petitions, indicate that the neighborhood does not strongly support the change of land use for more auto repair at that Parkway Overlay District location, especially with other auto repair businesses nearby.

Langley Keyes encouraged the neighborhood to be actively involved with the City-wide Master Planning process that is expected to begin in the near future with a focus first on the Alewife area. How the process goes in Alewife will be setting precedent for other areas of the city. The City Council needs to vote on approving the $2 million contract with Utile, the design firm chosen to guide the Master Plan for the city.

Costanza Eggers is seeking volunteers to form a committee to evaluate the city’s tree report and the Earthwatch tree data, and to develop recommendations. Residents expressed interest in this committee, and in supporting the growth and survival of trees in the City. If you wish to join, please contact Costanza directly: jaceggers@yahoo.com.

Meeting adjourned at 9 PM.

Officers and city staff present: Jan Devereux (President), Doug Brown (Vice Pres.), Langley Keyes (Officer), Peggy Barnes Lenart (Secretary), and Jay Yesselman (Vice Pres.); Ellen Kokinda (Assistant Planner, Cambridge Community Development Department)

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One thought on “Minutes of FPRA Fall Meeting

  1. I strongly endorse the mildly stated objection to another auto mechanical/repair business along Fresh Pond. We do not need another: there are already three full-service garages in the space of 2/10ths of a mile There are so many other uses to which this spot–directly across from our beautiful and well-cared-for reservoir could be put. Fresh Pond Parkway is going to look like an Auto-quarter-mile. Is there nothing that can be done?

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