Alewife Study Group > other Alewife events > Jan.4 2000, Planning Board on Linear Park area zoning Search 

Planning Board recommendation
- Industrial A-1 zone around Linear Park

(This page created Feb. 4 2000)

January 4, 2000

To the Honorable, the City Council:

Subject: City Council Petition to create a new Special District 2 for that area currently zoned Industry A-1 on the zoning map abutting the Linear Park, Whittemore Avenue and Harvey Street; and the Brown, et al Petition to also create a new Special District 2 that in contrast to the Council Petition proposes a wider range of uses, higher density of dwelling units and FAR, and greater height.

Recommendation As it has in the past, the Planning Board recommends adoption of the Special District 2 as proposed in the City Council Petition with one modification: retaining a portion of the current Industry A-1 district zone along Harvey Street. Text to accomplish that modification is attached to this recommendation.

The Planning Board does not recommend adoption of the Brown Petition as the height, FAR, and range of uses proposed are more intense than the Planning Board considers appropriate at this location. Nor does the Board support the extension of the Business A-2 district zone along Massachusetts Avenue into adjacent areas now zoned Industry A-1 as is also proposed in the Brown Petition.

That said, the Board feels that it is not unreasonable to explore some greater degree of flexibility in a new Special District 2 with regard to the permitted range of uses and the allowable dwelling unit and building density (e.g. that provided between the Residence B and the Residence C-1 districts) than is provided in the Special District 2 regulations of the City Council Petition. Should the City Council be amenable to exploring such additional flexibility, the Planning Board would not object and would be available to assist in achieving it with some guidance from the Council as to its judgment on the matter.

Provisions of the Special District 2

The City Council's Special District 2 uses the Residence B district's use and dimensional provisions as its base. Modifications are then made to those base provisions to encourage the conversion of non residential buildings to residential use and to permit a very limited number of non residential uses to occupy existing non residential structures. The major provisions of the new district are as follows:

1. The FAR limit is set at 0.5 and the unit density of one unit for each 2500 square feet of lot area is applied to an entire lot, no matter its size.

2. Some additional uses are permitted. Multifamily dwellings, not allowed in a Residence B district, would be permitted, with a special permit required for six or more units as is the case now for townhouses in a Residence B district. Limited non residential uses would be permitted where an existing building is currently used for non residential purposes: general offices, medical offices, arts and crafts studios, and commercial greenhouses, as well as institutional uses that would otherwise be permitted in a Residence B district.

3. To encourage the conversion of non residential structures to residential use, limited bonuses in terms of floor area and dwelling units are allowed above that which would normally be permitted in a Residence B district.

A chart comparing the major provisions of the existing Industry A-1 District, the City Council Petition and the Brown Petition is attached.

Findings

1. It is the Planning Board's strongly held view that it is appropriate public land use policy to encourage, over time, the conversion of property from industrial and commercial use to residential use in this Industry A-1 district.

2. The Industry A-1 district was created in the late 1970s as a device by which that policy objective could be achieved. In general terms, the district was designed to permit housing uses at a density sufficient to encourage owners of non residential property to phase those activities out in favor of townhouses or apartment buildings. With the increased demand for housing in the 1980s and 1990s, that conversion has begun to occur in IA-1 districts.

3. Recent experience with new housing construction in the IA-1 district, particularly in North Cambridge and Neighborhood Nine has suggested to the Planning Board as well as to the abutting neighborhood, that the scale of housing development allowed in the IA-1 district results in new building that is somewhat bigger and denser than is generally desirable. When the demand for new housing was more modest, the incentive for conversion to housing that the additional density provided may have been necessary; in the current real estate climate such generous dimensional provisions may be unnecessary.

4. The City Council Special District 2 uses Residence B district regulations as a starting point, while introducing some additional flexibility with regard to uses and density to reflect the existing non residential character of the district. The Board finds this approach reasonable. However, as indicated above, somewhat higher densities and a wider range of uses can be justified and would serve equally the objectives for which the current City Council Special District 2 proposal was created.

5. The Planning Board believes that the Cornerstone CoHousing project, which has been granted permits on property at 171-273 Harvey Street, should not be made non conforming as a result of adoption of the Special District 2. The project has been the subject of much review by the Planning Board as a townhouse and multifamily development. A special permit by the Planning Board has been issued for one plan and a building permit issued for a variation on that development plan, both meeting the standards of the Industry A-1district. The Board believes that this project has been subject to sufficient public review, is appropriate in its design and is appropriate to its location. The Board considers it appropriate public policy not to require further review of the project or make the resulting development non conforming. Therefore the Board has recommended that a portion of the current IA-1 district wherein this project lies be retained and not rezoned to the new Special District 2.

6. With regard to the Brown Petition, the Planning Board finds that, while it does recognize the need to make adjustments to current Industry A-1 development standards, the petition's specific proposals still permit densities that are excessive when spread over the entire Industry A-1 area.

Respectfully submitted for the Planning Board,

Scott Lewis, Vice Chair

Enclosures:

City Council Petition text with amendment to retain a portion of the existing IA-1 district.

Chart comparing provisions of the IA-1 district, the Brown proposal, and the City Council proposal.

Planning Board Recommendation - City Council Petition, Special District 2

A. Amend the Text of the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge by creating a new Special District 2 as follows and inserting it in the appropriate location in Article 17.000

17.20 - Special District 2

17.21 - Scope

This Section 17.20 regulates development in Special District 2 as shown on the Zoning Map of the City of Cambridge, as amended. Except as herein provided this Section 17.20, all requirements of and regulations applicable to the Residence B District shall apply equally to the Special District 2.

17.22 - Purpose

It is the intent of this Special District 2 to encourage the establishment of residential uses in the district in a form and density compatible with the adjacent residential neighborhood. However, given the significant presence of non residential uses in the district, provision is made for the conversion of those existing non residential uses to other non residential uses more compatible with their residential neighbors, with the intent that all non residential uses will, over time, be replaced by permitted residential uses.

17.23 - Use Regulations

The uses allowed in the Residence B District shall be equally allowed in Special District 2 except as modified by the following additional provisions.

17.23.1 - Additional Permitted Residential Uses

Multifamily Dwelling, Section 4.31 g, shall be permitted, subject to the special permit requirements for Townhouse development in a Residence B district. .

17.23.2 - Permitted Non Residential Uses.

17. 23. 21 The following non residential uses, not otherwise permitted in a Residence B district, shall be permitted as-of-right in this Special District 2 provided the conditions set forth in Section 17.23.22 are met. Nevertheless, for purposes of the Zoning Ordinance, Special District 2 shall be considered a residential district.

(1) Section 4.34 - Office and Laboratory Use, Paragraph a (medical professional), Paragraph b (non medical professional), Paragraph c (agency office), Paragraph d (general office)

(2) Section 4.35 - Retail Business and Consumer Service Establishments, Paragraph q (arts and crafts studio).

(3) Section 4.36 - Open Air or Drive-In Retail and Service, Paragraph a (sale of flowers, garden supplies, and commercial greenhouses).

17.23.22 The above non residential uses shall be permitted to occupy a non residential building in existence as of September 1, 1998 provided the current use of the building, if occupied, is any use described in Section 4.34 (office and laboratory use), Section 4.35 (retail business and consumer service establishment), Section 4.36 (open air and drive-in retail and service), Section 4.37 (light industry) or Section 4.38 (heavy industry). Where the building is unoccupied it may be so occupied with permitted non residential uses provided the building has not been occupied by a residential use in the five years immediately preceding the time of application for a certificate of occupancy for the new non residential use.

17.24 - Dimensional Requirements

The dimensional requirements of the Residence B district shall apply to the Special District 2, except as modified by the provisions set forth below.

17.24.1 - Maximum FAR

(1) The FAR applicable in the Residence B district (0.5) for the first 5,000 square feet of lot area shall apply in the Special District 2 to the entire lot regardless of size. Footnote (j) in Table 5-1 shall not apply in this Special District 2.

(2) Notwithstanding the limitations of Paragraph (1) above, where it is proposed to reuse a non residential structure in existence as of September 1, 1998 for permitted residential uses, the following Gross Floor Area shall be permitted:

(a) The Gross Floor Area that is the result of the application of the FAR generally permitted in the district, or the existing Gross Floor Area of the structure itself, whichever is greater.

(b) Additional Gross Floor Area may be added to the non residential structure without limit provided all construction creating additional Gross Floor Area occurs within the limits of the existing structure.

(3) Where it is proposed to demolish an existing non residential structure that has a Gross Floor Area greater than that permitted by the application of an FAR of 0.5, for the purpose of converting the site entirely to permitted residential uses, the total Gross Floor Area contained in the non residential structure shall be permitted in the new residential structures up to a maximum FAR of 0.75.

17.24.2 - Minimum Lot Area for Each Dwelling Unit

(1) The Minimum Lot Area for Each Dwelling Unit applicable in the Residence B District (2500 square feet) for the first 5,000 square feet of lot area shall apply in the Special District 2 to the entire lot regardless of size. Footnote (j) in Table 5-1 shall not apply in this Special District 2.

(2) Where it is proposed to reuse a non residential structure in existence as of September 1, 1998 for permitted residential uses, the number of units permitted in the structure shall be that number permitted in Paragraph (1) above or that number of units which is the Gross Floor Area of the structure as permitted in Section 17.24.1(2) above divided by 1200 square feet, whichever is greater.

(3) Where it is proposed to demolish an existing non residential structure that has a Gross Floor Area greater than that permitted by the application of an FAR of 0.5 for the purpose of converting the site entirely to permitted residential uses, the number of units permitted in the new structures shall be the Gross Floor Area of the structure as permitted in Section 17.24.1 (3) above divided by 1200 square feet.

17.24.2 - Other Dimensional Requirements

(1) The provisions of Section 5.53 related to multiple buildings on a lot in Residence B districts shall not apply in Special District 2.

(2) Where it is proposed to convert an existing non residential structure to residential use, and where that structure covers 50% or more of its lot, the Minimum Ratio of Useable Open Space to Lot Area would be reduced to the ratio existing on the site at the time or conversion, if any. However, if the land area required for provided parking outside the building, including required setbacks, is less than the area of land that has no structure on it, the remainder of the open land shall have any paving material (asphalt, concrete, or gravel) removed, topsoil of a minimum two-foot depth shall be added, and the space shall be landscaped with trees, shrubs, and/or grass up to the maximum percentage of the lot required to be Useable Open Space in the Ordinance. .

B. Amend the Map of the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge by striking the existing designation Industry A-1 (IA-1) and substituting therefor the new designation Special District 2 (SD-2) for that area in North Cambridge bordered on the south by Harvey Street and on the north by Whittemore Avenue, Madison, Avenue, Magoun Street, Brookford Street, Cottage Park Avenue and Edmunds Street as shown on the accompanying Map except that the following described area shall retain the Industry A-1 designation:

That area bounded on the south by the centerline of Harvey Street, which is the current Industry A-1 zone line; on the west by the existing Industry A-1 zone line; on the north by the northerly sideline of the Linear Park; and on the east by a line extending from the northerly sideline of the Linear Park to the centerline of Harvey Street, which line runs along the easterly sidelines of lots #243, 246, 248, 209 and their northerly and southerly extensions, Assessor's Plat #190, all as shown on the accompanying map.


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