Somerville’s Union Square Plan approved

On October 10, 2012, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

By Jim Clark

A special meeting of the Board of Aldermen was held last week to work out details of the proposed Union Square Revitalization Plan.

Once the dust cleared and the debate was ended, Aldermen approved the Plan, clearing the way for the redevelopment process to proceed.

The program, outlined in the 150-page document that the Board approved, will call for acquisition of certain properties in the D2 sector that will further facilitate the Green Line Extension effort.

Alderman Lafuente, in addressing the Board, said, “This is another opportunity to grow our tax base, which will allow us to maintain our public safety, city services, and keep our tax rate low. As a small business owner, I am mindful of what we do here today, and how it will impact other small business owners in Union Square.”

In questioning the $31M figure that had been mentioned as the price tag for this bond, Lafuente asserted that his understanding was that the cost would actually be $8M. “I think that we have a responsibility and an obligation to use real numbers when making arguments,” Lafuente said. “Everything else that may be in the Revitalization Plan, as I read it, will come before this Board again. The potential new library being one of them.”

Board President Taylor said that he felt the plan would put small businesses in Union Square at a disadvantage. “I just don’t see the reason for doing this extensively so quickly,” said Taylor. “I think we’re moving too quick too soon.”

President Taylor sponsored a group of Union Square business owner who were allowed to present their concerns about the Plan to the Board. Speaking for the group, Mike Peterson, owner of Mike’s Automotive Services, said, “My concern is that a lot of businesses are going to be displaced, a lot of people are going to be put out of work. I don’t see the need for all the property being taken that’s been proposed.” Peterson went on to express concern that, since the planning process had been ongoing for a considerable amount of time among city planners, there was no forewarning for business owners regarding the city’s intentions when they were getting permits for their businesses. After spending a considerable amount of money rehabbing the property that his business occupies, and quite possibly losing it now, Peterson said, “I never would have moved down to Union Square. I would have moved outside of the city. Some place that’s more business-friendly.”

In addressing the Board on the matter, Mayor Curtatone said, “I think the misconception, and I think it’s very unfortunate, is that we’ll make comments that will mislead the public.” The mayor went on to indicate that zoning in these areas had expired and that the city had given all the legal notices required.

Further discussion centered on relocation costs, and the role that the Board should play in planning and implementing changes in the Union Square area.

The vote at the end of the meeting saw the adoption of the Plan succeed, with Aldermen Connolly, Desmond, Sullivan, Roche, Heuston, Lafuente, and O’Donovan voting for the Plan. Voting against the Plan were Aldermen White, Taylor, and Gewirtz. Alderman Trane was absent from the meeting.


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