Somerville needs a zoning ordinance that requires university, health care and other large multi-million & billion dollar, non-profit institutions to create and maintain publicly accessible, institutional master plans (IMPs). As Alderman, I’ve submitted a legislative order to have an institutional master planning requirement included in Somerville’s new zoning ordinance and here’s why:
As a Somerville resident of over twenty two years, and as an Alderman I’ve experienced both the benefits and less beneficial aspects of living with a large institutional neighbor. I can state from experience that non-profit institutions provide jobs, partner with our city and our schools and they can help create and to attract businesses.
However these large, non-profits also expand into our neighborhoods, taking commercial and residential properties, thereby reducing our very limited supply of commercial space that would be available to local businesses and also reduce the supply of market-rate housing that is generally available. This reduced supply of housing and commercial space puts upward pressure on both residential and commercial rents. Properties owned by non-profit institutions are also removed from our tax rolls, so Somerville loses twice; first we lose housing supply and commercial space, and then secondly we lose the tax revenues that would help us pay for our parks, roads & sidewalks, police and fire departments, our schools and many other essential city services.
Boston Redevelopment Authority’s (BRA) Article 80 requires that institutions maintain master plans that look ahead ten years or more, and the BRA does not approve individual projects that are inconsistent with the current IMP… so there are no surprises in Boston! Any interested party is empowered by Boston’s IMP requirement; neighbors, businesses, community groups and the City of Boson can participate in shaping their future together in an open planning process.
We want to know in advance what the institutions are going to do. Large institutions have their own best interest in mind. We in Somerville need to look out for our best interest; to protect our neighborhoods, requiring an IMP is one very important way to do this.