Two weeks after Ward 4 Councilor at-Large Lenny Gentile chartered a $500,000 request from the mayor’s office to fund a master plan/rezoning project for the Washington Street Corridor, City Council approved the money Monday night by a 17-6 vote.
At issue was whether the city should have put the project out to bid, rather than immediately sign a contract with the Principle Group, the Massachusetts-based consulting firm that has been recommended by the Planning Department as unique and the only company able to produce a near-finished master plan, zoning map of Washington Street from Newtonville to West Newton Square. The area is being eyed for major mixed-use redevelopment by Newton resident Robert Korff, of Mark Development.
Gentile explained he’s never favored the chartering provision that allows one councilor to delay action on a given item until the following meeting, but said failing to go out to bid for the project would be “making a major mistake in our role as City Council.”
“We are supposed to be a check and balance” on the mayor’s office, he said.
But Ward 2 Councilor at-Large Susan Albright said it is critical to get started on what is expected to be a 13-month project.
“We need this,” she said, noting that the Principle Group would produce a “base code” for zoning by October and has an “unusual ability” to assist the city as it attempts to get out in front of development in the area.
Gentile, Ward 2 Councilor Emily Norton, Ward 3 Councilor Barbara Brousal-Glaser, Ward 4 Councilor Chris Markiewicz, Ward 8 Councilor Cheryl Lappin and Ward 1 Councilor at-Large Jay Ciccone voted against funding the no-bid contract. Brousal-Glaser reversed her opinion from the previous meeting. Councilor Andreae Downs was absent.
Two friendly amendments, by Council Vice President David Kalis and Albright, were unanimously approved. The amendments mandate the Planning Department provide the City Council with a monthly reporting requirement that includes a list of itemized expenses, a timeline and list of “deliverables.”