Apologies for not doing something about this earlier but the Land Use Committee met on Tuesday to discuss the Washington Place Project and the rezoning of the Orr Block.
Land Use did not vote on a request by developer Robert Korff to withdraw his proposal, which would have been the next step towards his recent plans to move forward with the project as a 40B (a move that would not need the City Council’s approval but might result in a building that is taller and denser that Korff had proposed and the Newton Village Alliance was battling).
Instead there will be a discussion of the project among the full council (operating as a Committee of the Whole ) on Monday, March 20 at 7 p.m.
Many supporters of the project (and perhaps even some opponents) are hoping the March 20 discussion will convince Korff to proceed with the project as presently proposed. BUT since the Committee of the Whole is NOT empowered to vote on the 20th — and an added complexity that I will get to in a minute — there will be no iron clad way for Korff to determine if the project has the needed 18 council votes to approve a zoning change and move it forward without taking the 40B path.
Complicating matters, someone correct me if I’m wrong but since Korff’s special permit application remains before Land Use there remains a legal restriction on councilors being able publicly say if they favor this project because, as Councilor Hess-Mahan reminded us on a recent thread:
The special permit review process is a quasi-judicial function, and therefore ethically councilors may not declare whether they support a project or not until after the public hearing is closed. Regrettably, the public hearing has been held open for many months, so there has been no opportunity to publicly take a position on this project. That being said, councilors can take a position on rezoning because it is a legislative function. This is, however, complicated by the fact that the rezoning does not take effect unless and until the special permit has been approved and exercised. So no one should cast aspersions on councilors who have not said in public whether they support the project.
Like I said, it’s complicated.