WOBURN - Mayor Scott Galvin recently vetoed the Railway Overlay District (ROD) legislation that the City Council late last month passed over the objections of area abutters.
Repeating concerns he raised directly with the City Council in the fall of 2019, the mayor issued his veto on Dec. 27, or exactly 10 days after the aldermen passed the zoning measure in an attempt to encourage the redevelopment of various industrial sites around the sections of an abandoned Boston & Maine Railroad line.
In his message to the council, which accompanied his veto decision, Galvin told the city officials he supports the general concept of adopting special zoning regs as a way to incentivize the cleanup and reuse of contaminated land between the South End side of Main Street and the Winchester line.
However, the mayor considers the ROD's housing density and building height thresholds as "excessive" and likely to set in motion a wave of neighborhood adverse housing projects between Green Street and the Winchester line.
"While there certainly is merit to encouraging the clean-up of industrial lots in this area, there are numerous reasons for vetoing these particular amendments in their entirety. The proposed 25 unit-per-acre density authorized by the zoning change is excessive. In addition, the current S-1 zoning regulations already permit residential development at a density of 14 units per acre," Galvin wrote.
"Of greatest concern is the fact that the ROD rezoning will likely set a precedent for similar, future rezoning petitions and Council votes for the industrially-zoned lots in the 50 acres just south of the proposed ROD district between Green Street and the Winchester town line.
The overlay zoning currently in place there allows residential uses at a density of seven units per acre. Because the ROD district offers four times that density, it will be a strong incentive for more zoning map change requests that will be difficult for the Council to distinguish or deny," the mayor further explained.
The City Council, which could override the mayor's veto with a two-thirds vote, is expected to acknowledge the communication from Galvin during a regularly-scheduled meeting tonight in City Hall.
Galvin's concerns about the ROD proposal were well-documented months before he exercised his veto powers.
Taking note of the Planning Board's unusually-long criticism of the ROD legislation, the mayor last October implored the City Council to revisit the proposal and consider whether its adoption would encourage overly dense housing developments that couldn't be supported by surrounding city infrastructure.
Ultimately, the City Council followed Galvin's advice and referred the matter back to committee. However, during subsequent deliberations on the petition, aldermen on the Ordinance Committee found no reason to recommend any major changes.
At least one Green Street landowner has unveiled plans to take advantage of the ROD by demolishing seven industrial warehouse buildings at 8-to-10 Greeen St. and constructing a four-story apartment complex with 54 dwelling units on the 2.17-acre site.
Aware of those plans, residential abutters have roundly criticized those plans for Green Street as well as the special zoning regulations as a whole.
Those opponents contend the overlay district, by allowing 50-foot tall buildings and a housing density of 25-units per acre, could drastically alter the character of the neighborhood and portions of the downtown area by St. Charles Church.