Is the zoning change adopted for the proposed North Quincy MBTA station development in the city’s best interest?
Thomas P. Koch
Mayor of Quincy
The Transit-Oriented Development District for the North Quincy MBTA station proposed by my administration and approved by a two-thirds majority of the City Council creates the kind of zoning framework that gives the city more input, more professional oversight, and more flexibility to attract the kind of private investment and development that will create a long-lasting benefit to the surrounding neighborhood and the city.
Under the prior zoning, more than 800 units of housing could be built as of right without any strict permitting process that includes design and aesthetic requirements and allows for the kind of mixed commercial and residential project that is at the heart of transit development.
The new district, which largely mirrors similar changes implemented around Quincy Center, requires any developer to follow a thorough permitting structure through the Planning Department, the city agency specifically equipped to shepherd major development projects. Previously, a developer would be required only to submit to a base-level review to maximize square footage usage, and mixed-use developments could only proceed through the variance process at the Zoning Board of Appeals, which is not designed to provide the same kind of oversight as permitting through the Planning Department.
The new permitting structure allows the city to better facilitate appropriate development, while at the same time requiring a developer to address vital infrastructure issues such as parking, traffic, and pedestrian and bicycle access to the station. In other words, it allows the City to guide development rather than the City being forced to react to the development.
The proposed development at the North Quincy T station represents a great opportunity to improve an area of the city in need, provide much-needed private investment into the T, and address a number of our infrastructure needs. If we believe that no development at the T station is the best way forward, then perhaps these changes would not be necessary. But if we acknowledge, as I do, that development at the site is an eventual reality, then the city needs to have in place the permitting structure that will foster a well-designed, well thought-out project.
Quincy Ward 3 City Councilor
Quincy has been aware of its rights to approve development over MBTA properties for decades. The zoning change should have been adopted long before this particular project was proposed, and not approved solely for and in light of it.
I support transit-oriented development, zones, and guidelines. I support the project in concept, which was first unveiled to the public in November. But I do not support an ordinance providing zoning relief for a project that has yet to be submitted to the Planning Department. I do not support what this document does, which has, in effect, put the City Council’s stamp of approval on a project that has not yet been vetted, and fast-tracked this development.
Eliminating the involvement of the Zoning Board of Appeals, as the City Council did, circumvents the traditional zoning and public input processes. Furthermore, this ordinance sets a precedent for future development of MBTA property in Quincy, and we need to make sure it is done right. These properties are some of the most valuable open parcels in the city, and there would be no risk in giving more careful consideration as to how they are developed.
On Nov. 15, a colleague and I held a community meeting allowing 70 residents to see preliminary designs for this project. It was received with mixed reviews. Some were negative -- the usual concerns about the burdens it might place on city systems and on services, including the MBTA, and parking and traffic issues. Some were positive -- including the opportunity to realize new needed retail areas in the city, and to brighten up a downtrodden MBTA property.
I regularly hear from constituents about their concerns with over-development in the city, and with traffic and parking issues. While I am generally for growth and development in Quincy, especially around the areas where we can best leverage multimodal transportation, it makes no sense to rush through zoning changes.
The ordinance was presented only a few weeks ago. It would be doing a disservice to my constituents if I didn’t challenge the changes, and to advocate for more scrutiny and care.
Last week’s Argument: Should Hingham require that dogs be leashed at Bare Cove Park?
Yes: 47 percent (766 votes)
No: 53 percent (852 votes)