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Newton

Newton launches public outreach on village center zoning proposals

The intersection of Centre and Beacon Streets in Newton Centre. The city of Newton is considering changes to zoning in its village centers, and is seeking public feedback on the proposals.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

As Newton officials consider changes to zoning regulations for the city’s village centers that would affect issues such as housing and parking, the city is launching an outreach effort to gather public feedback on the proposals.

That outreach includes an exhibit at the Newton Free Library, along with a virtual engagement information session scheduled for Sept. 8, according to a city statement.

“Newton’s zoning for village centers hasn’t been majorly updated for 30+ years,” the statement said. “This set of proposals are based on planning research, recommendations made in multiple City reports, vision and comprehensive plans, and the engagement done” during the summer of 2021.

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The in-person exhibit at the Newton Free Library will be presented in Room C on the second floor. That exhibit will also be presented virtually through the city’s website, newtonma.gov/government/planning/village-centers.

The city’s virtual session on the proposed zoning changes will be held on Thursday, Sept. 8, from 6 to 7 p.m. People can register for the event by visiting the city’s website.

Feedback will be collected through a three-question survey that can be filled out by phone, on a computer, or using a paper form. People can sign up for updates on zoning redesign by filling out a form on the city’s website.

The proposed changes are meant to align with the state’s “MBTA Communities” law, which mandates multifamily zones in cities and towns served by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, according to the city’s Planning & Development Department. They are also supported by more than a decade of plans and policies, the department has said.

The outreach effort will continue until Oct. 16, and feedback will be used as part of a “more developed iteration” of the proposed changes that will be shown to the City Council’s Zoning & Planning Committee in late October.

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City councilors are considering proposed changes to zoning in Newton’s village centers, including the following measures:

  • Reduce parking requirements for residential and commercial uses.
  • Increase the floor-to-floor heights for residential and commercial buildings.
  • Require half-stories to be set back a minimum of 10 feet along the entire perimeter of the building, or have a pitched roof.
  • Remove the limit on the number of residential units that can be built on a site, allowing for more flexibility in unit size, according to the city.
  • Remove the minimum lot size requirement for village centers.
  • Set a maximum by-right building footprint.
  • Require a special permit for new development on properties greater than three-quarters of an acre. This would replace the current requirement, which applies to projects of at least 20,000 square feet of floor area, according to the city.
  • Creation of a new site plan review process by the Planning Board, with design review by the Urban Design Commission. The site plan review process could be used to impose conditions on issues like site layout and pedestrian safety, according to the city.
  • Create new design standards that would be enforced through Village Center zoning.
  • Revise by-right building dimensional standards in Village Center zoning districts, which would allow for more units to be built, according to the city.

More details, including feedback from the city’s eight-member Zoning & Planning Committee, is available on the city’s website.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.