Alewife Study Group > government > May 10 2000, City Council Ordinance Committee Search 

Yoder Petition to downzone
Alewife Reservation area

by Lew Weitzman (member of the Alewife Study Group)

City Council Ordinance Committee, May 10 2000

The City Council Ordinance Committee considered the Yoder Petition on Wednesday, May 10, from 4:30 to 8 PM in a televised hearing. The committee was co-chaired by Kathy Born and David Maher.

Nearly all of the nine City Councillors participated in the hearing.

The Yoder Petition has three parts. First, it would downzone the area North of the Alewife Reservation up to Route 2 including the Arthur D. Little site plus the bowling alley and other properties along Route 2, second it would change the zoning designation of the ADL parking lot from office-2 to open space and third it would lower the FAR for open space zones throughout the city including this site.

Under the Yoder Petition building heights in this district would be lowered from 85 feet to 35 feet and the FAR would come down from 2.0 to 0.75. Despite these restrictions, landowners within the district could still double the built space on their sites under the Yoder Petition.


Ralph Yoder, Sheila Cook and Lew Weitzman presented the petition and fielded questions from the Councillors. The questions and comments by Councillors were generally of a supportive nature. Several of the councillors went on record in favor of protecting the Alewife Reservation. A letter of support from Alice Wolf was read into the record including her procurement of $75,000 of State moneys to perform a masterplan for the Reservation.

Other testimony in favor of the petition: Stash Horowitz, John Moot and Elie Arden from the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods, Susan Bass (town meeting member from Belmont who told the Committee that Belmont has just passed a moratorium for the Alewife land they possess near the Little Pond), Roger Frymire (who noted the current sewage problems in the Alewife Brook), Peter Cignetti (who described the failure of Wetlands Regulations to protect the Alewife Floodplain from over-development), Vince Dixon (a frequent supporter of neighborhood initiatives at Alewife.

Mike Nakagawa, Aram Hollman and Carolyn Mieth prepared extensive submissions in support of the petition.

The two landowners in the area testified in opposition. Anthony Martinetti (owner of the route 2 properties, bowling alley, Suisse Chalet, Faces Discoteque area) and Steve Corridan (principal of O'Neill Properties new owner of the ADL site) stated that their property values would be lowered. Corridan stated that 5 of his 7 buildings would become non-conforming and argued that if he can't go up then he will go out when he or future owners of his site decide to build. Corridan stated that he might cease his negotiations to give back the parking lot.

Other notes from the hearing:

--Henrietta Davis spoke of her canoe trip down the Little River and concern about the sewage outflows plus. She also noted that much of the land in this district is un-buildable and that many other towns in Massachusetts do not consider this land in FAR calculations.

--Marjorie Decker asked Anthony Martinetti why the Faces discoteque area has looked so shabby for so many years. Martinetti stated that he was "ashamed" and that he and his brothers could not agree on what to do with the property. Decker added that the timing for a housing proposal (presented to the councillor at this hearing) seemed curious given that nothing has happened on this site for many years and in light of the current downzoning proposal. Martinetti had no response.

--Several councillors responded positively to the possibility of housing in this district.. Sheila Cook and Ralph Yoder argued against it siting traffic and environmental concerns. Lew Weitzman noted that housing could still be built within the new district and this discussion could continue after the Yoder Petition was passed.

--Jim Braude had already come to the Planning Board meeting and spoken in favor of the petition .

--Mike Nakagawa's photo of the new Genetics Institute Building towering over the Reservation was introduced and made a strong impression.

--Councillors suggested that coordination between Arlington, Belmont and Cambridge should occur.

Next steps for the Yoder Petition:

--The Cambridge Conservation Commission has endorsed the Yoder Petition
--The Cambridge Planning Board has endorsed many of the principles of the Yoder Petition.
--The City Council has until its July 31 meeting to vote on the Yoder Petition

Contact the Alewife Study Group, North Cambridge Massachusetts, by email at