Newton, Metro

Residents Question Chestnut Hill Development Proposal at Land Use Committee Meeting

Newton officials and residents debated a petition to tear down a Chestnut Hill property and replace it with five single-family units at a Land Use Committee meeting Tuesday night.

“I’m the only abutter to both 71 Commonwealth Avenue and Algonquin Road,” Newton resident Lisbeth Berman Howe said during the meeting’s public comment period. “At the present time, the proposed development needs work.” 

Cat Kemmett, a senior planner for Newton’s Department of Planning and Development, gave a brief presentation on the development plan, including the required zoning relief the city must approve for construction on the proposed property to begin. 

Newton City Council needs to approve zoning relief—any change, variance, or relaxation of zoning standards or increase in residential density—when a proposed development violates certain zoning regulations, according to Kemmett.

The proposal for the property requires committee approval for zoning relief that would allow single-family attached dwellings and the property’s driveway to exceed the 19.9-foot maximum width required in the city’s zoning restrictions, according to Kemmett’s presentation.

Petitions are applications sent to the Department of Planning and Development regarding planning processes, according to the city’s website.

The petition, which asks for zoning relief, proposes razing the property at 15 Algonquin Rd. to erect attached single-family units that will connect to the existing property at 71 Commonwealth Ave., the document reads.

Kemmett said the Newton Historical Commission notified the petitioners and the city that the property at 15 Algonquin Rd. has no historical significance. Mayank Misra, resident of 85 Commonwealth Ave., presented on behalf of his neighbors Mary Ann Lev and Mark and Amy Nichols, who all live close to the development area.

“The proposal as it states today is really obnoxious in my opinion,” Misra said.

Misra acknowledged the amount of zoning relief needed and the construction that will continue around his and his neighbors’ properties should the project get approved.

“We have lovely views of the city, and those are being curbed,” he said.

Terrence Morris, the petitioner of the project, said he has held three Zoom meetings with neighborhood residents for input on how to proceed with the proposed construction to the property.

“There were at least three Zoom meetings [and] outreach over several months to vet this project,” Morris said.

Ward 7 Councilor-at-Large Marc Laredo, who oversees Ward 7—where the property is located—said that neighborhood residents gave constructive feedback throughout the meeting process and urged those in attendance with comments or concerns to reach out to him.

“My email and phone number are on the City Council website—reach out, and I’d be happy to talk to you,” Laredo said.

The committee moved to hold the proposal for further discussion at a later date, Ward 8 Councilor-at-Large and Newton City Council Vice President Richard Lipof said.

“We will be taking this one up as soon as we can,” Lipof said.

December 8, 2022