James Freas, the deputy director of Newton’s planning department, is going to be headed a few exits west along the Pike. He’s accepted a new job as the Planning Director for Natick. 

This is a huge loss for Newton as not only has James been the key driver behind Newton’s zoning redesign, but he is, to quote Steve Jobs “insanely great.” I’ve worked with James on a number of projects and he is thoughtful and direct. He’s the guy I turn to when I have questions about city planning in almost any context. 

The planning department is undergoing some major changes, as James is the fourth big name to leave the department in just the past few months. Lily Reynolds, who handled community engagement, left in the spring, as did Rachel Nadkarni who worked with James on zoning and long-range planning. Economic Development Director Kathryn Ellis left for UMass Amherst in the summer, that role is being filled by Devra Bailin who is joining from Needham. 

We’ll have to see what impact his departure has on the zoning redesign process.