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Sure, we support housing....just not, well, you know

Sure, we support housing....just not, well, you know

Over the past two years Newton has been developing a plan that aims to reshape and revitalize the very heart of the city, its village centers.

If you’ve been thinking: “That’s something I should find time to pay attention to someday,” that day has come.

Same deal with the state’s new MBTA Communities Law. The new regulations requires Newton and 176 other cities and towns (including our other three chamber communities) to make it easier to build multi-family homes near transit.

By law, Newton must have its MBTA Communities plan in place by the end of December. And the Village Center plan is very much in sync with that plan, which means that both will be hot topics during this fall’s city council elections. Plus, there’s already been an onslaught of misleading emails, newsletters and social media posts circulating about the proposal and the law too.

So, yes, it's time to start paying attention.

The good news is that this week the Fuller administration provided a super helpful, clearly explained, (mostly) jargon-free presentation to the city council on the both its village center proposals and the MBTA Communities Law. (Okay, it's zoning, so it's still wonky. But, really, it's a helpful overview.)

You can watch it here (and you can stop watching at the 54:30 mark if you're pressed for time). 

But I do recommend watching the presentation. Because it’s time. 

The slides are here. 

And once you’ve watched that video 

The Newton City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed Village Center Overlay District zoning on Monday (June 26) at 7 p.m. both in person and via Zoom. This is your chance to be heard.

Let me know what you think too.

Sure, we support housing....just not, well, you know 
Newton's deadline is end of December. But Wellesley, Needham and Watertown don't have to be in compliance with the MBTA Communities Law until the end of 2024.

But if you're looking for a preview of the difficult conversations ahead, check out last week's three hour community meeting in Wellesley about a proposed condo
development at the intersection of Cliff Road and Rte. 9 that's in walking distance of the Wellesley Hills train station and a number of little shops and restaurants.

Spoiler alert: Abutters don't like it. Not, of course, because they oppose meeting the town’s commitment to expanding housing opportunities.

It’s only, they say, that this particular project is “overwhelming,” “a travesty,” will “plummet home values,” undermine “historic character” and, don’t forget, threaten children’s safety.
At one point in the meeting, Ann-Mara Lanza, a select board member and co-founder of the housing advocacy group Building a Better Wellesley showed compassion for the abutter’s concerns.

But having sat through many similar conversations before, Lanza and others were frustrated too, according to the Swellesley Report's Hannah Landenfeld.

“It isn’t like any of these concerns are unreasonable,” Lanza said. “But the question is, if we as a community support these goals, then we as a community have to figure out where we’re willing to build the housing to help.”

You can view the full three-hour discussion here. But, trust me, you've seen this movie before.

Opioid fatalities have never been worse 
Massachusetts experienced 2,357 confirmed and estimated fatal opioid-related overdoses in 2022. 

That’s a new record high, according to the Department of Public Health.

The fatality rate of 33.5 per 100,000 people reflects a 2.5 percent increase over 2021 and a 9.1 percent increase from 2016, the pre-pandemic peak.

CommonWealth's Jennifer Smith has reaction from state leaders.

Will there be no contested council contests in Watertown?

So far, eight of Watertown’s nine city councilors have submitted papers for reelection. The ninth, Councilor at Large John Airasian tells the Watertown News he’s pulled papers and will also seek re-election.

To date, there are no contested council races. Candidates have until July 31 to collect signatures and submit papers for the November election.

Friday grab bag 
  • Analysts and experts are calling Needham Banks decision to go public a smart move reminiscent of Eastern Bank's 2020 IPO, reports the BBJ’s Meera Raman 

  • Bryan McGonigle, an award-winning multimedia journalist with 20 years of experience covering news at the local and state levels, has been hired by the online news site, the Newton Beacon, as its first full time editor. Look for his reporting to start soon.

  • The MBTA will hold public events this summer to gather community feedback for improving the Route 57 bus corridor (which runs from Watertown Square to Kenmore Square), before implementing changes in 2023 or 2024.

  • It’s opening day for the annual Grecian Festival, which run though this Sunday (June 23-25). Enjoy Greek music and food each day at Taxiarchae/Archangels Greek Orthodox Church.

  • And here's the start of a new tradition: Moldova Restaurant hosts a Drag Bruch this Sunday (June 25) It’s the Nonantum restaurant’s first ever pride celebration event.

  • If it's summer it must be time to shut down the part of the Green Line. The 12 day B-Line closure, July 17-28, is for work that’s being accelerated in the wake of the recent Packard's Corner derailment. (Universal Hub)

  • Newton state Sen. Cynthia Creem is a co-author of a bill that would update food allergy training materials and require restaurants to always have someone trained on the updated materials present during food service hours. (State House News)

  • Chamber friend Josephine McNeil, co-founder and executive director of CAN-DO received a 2023 Community Advocacy Award and award grant from the Eastern Bank Foundation for CAN-DO’s effectiveness in helping low and very low income Newton residents access affordable housing and get access to needed services. (Fig City News

Report documents growth, challenges, for Asian-owned businesses

The payrolls of Asian-owned businesses in Massachusetts grew from $1.2 billion to nearly $4 billion over the 18-year period ending in 2020, according to a new report that gathers information from national and local sources, reports Alison Kunitz at State House News.

However a quarter of Asian small business owners — defined as having up to 500 employees — say business conditions are "bad," compared to 15% of overall small business owners in the state, according to 2022 data from the MassINC Polling Group.

Asian-owned businesses were less likely than other non-white businesses to receive technical assistance and coaching due to a lack of familiarity with resources and programs, Kunitz adds.

Download the full Boston Indicators report here.

This story bears repeating 

Billy Bruin

There have been black bear sightings in NewtonNeedham and Wellesley this month.

That inspired the Needham History Center & Museum’s Gloria Polizzotti Greis to revisit the story of Billy Bruin:

Back in 1874, the 500-pound, 2-year-old black bear belonged to eccentric sewing machine magnate William Emerson Baker (Wellesley Historical Society has a collection of his Grover & Baker machines) for a full three hours before it escaped.

“Billy spent his first night of freedom in Dedham under the porch of the Congregational Church, and then wandered back to Needham where he spent some time in the High Rock woods and other locations around town, and terrorizing John Wing’s piggery on South Street," Greis reports.

"He was then spotted in Quincy several days later, and got as far as Weymouth before he was shot and killed while trying to swim the river. His body washed up in Hull, and was returned to Baker, who had the skin stuffed and put on display.”

But wait, there’s more to the story, including Billy's funeral and what the more than 1000 guests were required to do if they couldn’t attend.

And that's what you need to know for today -- a milestone day in the history of Mount Auburn Cemetery -- unless you need to know why you should take a nap today. And tomorrow. And the next day...

Have a great weekend and, in between naps, please shop and dine locally.

Greg Reibman (he, him)

P.S. Thanks for the memories, Marcus Smart. 
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