In Somerville, we take pride in our culture of civic participation. From the days of the American Revolution to the modern era of Somerville’s “reform mayors,” our identity is rooted in people power – neighbors working together to guide change in this great city.
Today, I am proud to announce that our open government movement has finally reached the Somerville Zoning Ordinance. For four decades, we have been cleaning up and reforming the way our local government runs. Yet an outdated zoning code has continued to exclude our residents from meaningful participation in land use and development issues. That dynamic changes today.
We know what we want zoning to achieve: conservation of our great residential neighborhoods, enhancement of our funky squares and commercial main streets, and transformation of industrial areas into new human-scaled neighborhoods. This is what the grassroots-created SomerVision Comprehensive Plan calls for.
With community input, we’re rewriting the new zoning ordinance from the ground up, to be transparent and predictable. It uses everyday language, so our residents and businesspersons can understand what they (and their neighbors) can and can’t do. It includes hundreds of pictures, since most people are visual learners. It relies on measurable standards, so that everyone knows what to expect ahead of time.
In the spirit of open government and innovation, we are “Crowd-Sourcing” public comment on the new ordinance. I invite you to browse the draft using the convenient OpenComment app, where you can make and share comments, questions, and concerns. This draft document has been two years in the making, with more than 50 public meetings so far. Even so, we need your ideas to make sure this is the most clear, predictable and user-friendly zoning ordinance in America. After all, this is Somerville.