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70 Rowe aerialUPDATE AT BOTTOM

Or perhaps I should say the clock is being run out.

Tonight at 7pm in the Aldermanic Chambers, the Zoning Board of Appeals resumes its public hearing on the 135-unit apartment building proposed for 70 Rowe Street. As I noted in a previous post before the hearing opened on December 4, the City and ZBA have 15 days from the opening of a hearing to invoke the 1.5% General Land Area Minimum defense to deny a 40B permit, if they believe we have 1.5% of land area (zoned residential, commercial or industrial, and excluding roads, water bodies, flood plains and conservation land) used for affordable housing.

It has now been over five weeks since the November 10 Land Use hearing on Wells Ave, when the city’s legal counsel told the aldermen we may already be at 1.5%, and would likely know within a week. And over a month since the November 13 public meeting in Chestnut Hill when Mayor Warren said to an audience which included two aldermen, that if the city were at 1.5%, he would take steps to establish 40B immunity as soon as possible.

It’s hard to tell if the Planning Department is working hard, or hardly working on this, because there has been no explanation for why the process is taking so long, or when it will be completed. They appear to be moving “with all deliberate speed.” I.e., slowly. Even interested aldermen don’t seem to be getting any answers.

And it’s a good thing you have Village14, because I saw nothing in either the December 10 Tab or yesterday’s about the December 4 ZBA hearing, let alone the 1.5% issue.

Many questions will be answered tonight: Will Planning have finished their calculation? If we have the 1.5%,will the administration use it, or give up its only sure means to keep this commercial property commercial, or to control the size of the project? If requested by the administration, will the ZBA vote to invoke the 1.5% defense? It could be a very interesting evening.

UPDATE: Newton’s Planning Dept. released this chart and this added document to aldermen Thursday