I was approached by someone from Right Size Newton today at the entrance to Whole Foods Market who I’m sure had the best of intentions, but what I heard concerned me. After being asked to sign a petition to stop Northland, the conversation went something like this:

me: What outcome would you expect if this petition succeeds and the referendum wins?
rsn rep: The neighborhood would get a smaller development.
me: How would that happen?
rsn rep: People who live there would propose a smaller development.
me: But the people who live in the neighborhood aren’t the ones building the development. Wouldn’t that be up to the developer? What incentive would the developer have to negotiate? Have you heard of a 40B? Why wouldn’t the developer go that route?
rsn rep: It already is a 40B. The current proposal has affordable housing.

Of course, the current proposal is not a 40B. A 40B is what proponents of the project believe the developer will fall back on if a referendum succeeds, and that will mean a much larger development, with more affordable housing, but no meaningful concessions to the city. Whether that’s good or not depends on your point of view, but it certainly doesn’t seem like what Right Size Newton would consider a good outcome.

I’m curious if my exchange with the RSN petition drive matches what others have experienced. I’m very worried people will be making endorsements based on faulty information. I’d also genuinely like to understand what RSN’s strategy is, if there is one.

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