The Boston University professors whose research found that most people who come to public hearings to oppose new housing tend to skew older, whiter, and more conservative than the overall city or town they’re in, took Newton to task in a Boston Globe op-ed this weekend for our entire approval process. They’re particularly concerned that the referendum even happened
It should not require a well-organized campaign and the votes of 18,565 people to get one housing project approved. Representative government requires delegating responsibility to our elected officials. If we do not like how they have approached development decisions — or other matters — we can vote them out in the next election.
The piece also points out that our lengthy (18 month) approval process emboldened the clear minority who were opposition that not only slowed down the process but got the size reduced. The authors acknowledged the advantages (green space, transportation improvements, etc) but noted that this arduous process makes the cost of development that much higher.
They’re not alone in this thought. Amy Dain calls this part of Greater Boston’s “paper wall” that keeps out new housing. Our own Economic Development Study found the same thing.
We must fix our permitting process and reduce the need for special permitting. I believe that city council should hand off special permitting for most properties to the planning board and focus only on those that have city-wide and regional impact.