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October 2015 Minutes

Porter Square Neighbors Association
October 15, 2015, 7-9PM
North Cambridge Senior Center
2050 Massachusetts Avenue

Agenda

  • Urban Agriculture
  • Candidates’ Forum
  • Ears to the Ground

Urban Agriculture

The City has established an Urban Agriculture task force to develop an ordinance concerning zoning and related regulation. Goals include public health, access to fresh food, economic development, resiliency, and support for the regional food system. Areas of interest include ground-level and rooftop farms, both residential and commercial, hydroponics and the like, honey bees, hens and fish farming.

Ellen Kokinda from the Community Development Department presented and led a group discussion and Q&A. Issues we raised include the importance of an ordinance in our dense city, competition for scarce land between agriculture, housing, and other open space, legal liability of the city for explicitly permitted activities, and enforcement.

Candidates' Forum

The PSNA/ANC City Council Candidates’ Forum is scheduled for next Tuesday, October 20, from 6:30 to 9:00 PM at Lesley’s University Hall. Doors open at 6PM. PSNA and ANC members are especially encouraged to attend this public event. We reviewed arrangements, and gathered potential questions for the candidates.

Ears to the Ground

Peter Kroon reviewed the proposed development at 1718 Mass Ave (the parking lot between Changsho and the Cambridge Trust Company.) Almost every neighbor who has looked at the proposal feels that the building is ugly and inappropriate. Peter gathered several hundred signatures on a petition opposing the project and submitted a large package to the Planning Board. The hearing has been postponed several times and the present plan appears to be doomed without major revision.

Two large boxes of electrical equipment (probably transformers) have appeared behind the partially constructed Porter Square Hotel, occupying a significant portion of the planned garden area. This is totally unexpected and inconsistent with commitments made to the neighbors and to the city when the special permit and rezoning that allowed the hotel to be built was granted. Peter Lee, the developer, told me that this is totally under the control of Eversource, and that he is working with his landscape architect to screen what he agrees is an eyesore.

Peter Lee also provided brief updates on all three of his projects in Porter Square:

  • the Porter Square Hotel is awaiting a power connection (from Eversource, with no known deadline.) Once that is done, it will take only 2-3 weeks until a grand opening.
  • 1816 Mass Ave (the Gourmet Express site) is being prepared for the foundation. Scheduled completion is now September 2016.
  • the Beacon Street hotel is considerably delayed due to soil contamination. Construction could start next April or May, if lucky.