Monday, March 26, 2007

Proposed Planned Business District

New England Development, the folks that are going to bring you Chestnut Hill Square, have proposed amending the Newton zoning ordinance to create a new district, called a Planned Business District.

In essence, the ordinance change would allow a developer (or developers) who gets control over 10 acres to create a very dense multi-use development. Call it instant village.

There's a public hearing tonight.

Multi-use development is, in most cases, better than not, though there are a load of issues with this particular proposal to create multi-use development. But, multi-use development is particularly appropriate around mass transit service. It's called smart growth.

Yet, the proposal lacks any requirement related to mass transit.

It's understandable. The creation of the Planned Business District is intended to grease the skids for Chestnut Hill Square, which will be notably underserved by mass transit. So, the New England Development-controlled property would not qualify as a Planned Business District if there were any meaningful transit requirement.

That doesn't make it acceptable. Before we go allowing the creation of new villages that are not served by mass transit, let's allow -- indeed encourage -- mixed-use development in our existing villages, each of which is well-served by some combination of bus, trolley, and commuter rail.

Or, let's make sure that creation of a new village is coincident with real extension of our transit infrastructure. Route 9 might be a pretty good place for a new urban village, just not without some new transit, which the Route 9 corridor desparately needs. In the case of Chestnut Hill Square, that might mean creation of a bus rapid transit route down Route 9.

The way to focus attention on the villages or to catalyze new mass transit is to make transit use -- 30%? 50%? -- a requirement of a Planned Business District.

Wiki page: Arguments Against Planned Business District

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