Somerville Speakup Line:Ward 5 Alderman Mark Niedergang’s Reply to Regarding Published Misinformation Regarding Demolition Review

Dear Dr. Rizkallah (cc: Somerville News Weekly. Attorney Joel Rosen, Zone Smart Somerville),

My apologies for not getting back to you in response to your claims on the Demolition Review Ordinance, most of which I think are wildly overblown and simply inaccurate.   I do think the serial demolition 25% is a reasonable concern, which Alderman JT Scott raised three months ago in a public Legislative Matters Cmte meeting, which we discussed in detail, and which Mr. Proakis responded to with a memo with three possible ways to deal with it. We will certainly be discussing this in Legislative Matters in public, and trying to address the reasonable concerns about it that you and Alderman Scott have raised..  If you haven’t seen Mr. Proakis’ memo, let me know and I will forward it to you.

I am working on a date for a Public Hearing on Demo Review Ord but it looks like probably not til early July. BOA schedule is that packed and George Proakis’ schedule is also very tight, and he needs to be there.  It is possible we will discuss it at a Legislative Matters Cmte meeting before that but all Aldermen are concerned about it and want to be at the Public Hearing which makes scheduling a date challenging.

I will not be scheduling a meeting in my ward unless I hear from people that they are concerned about this. So far, I have heard from you and the Chamber of Commerce, who requested the Public Hearing, and otherwise only one person, not in my ward, who simply had a question about the demo delay period and how it works.  I don’t schedule community meetings when it doesn’t seem that there is significant interest or concern in the community about an issue, and so far I have seen no evidence that there is significant concern about the Demo Review Ordinance in Somerville.  There were three public meetings last year, which were well-advertised but poorly attended.  I know you care deeply about this as one of the largest property owners in Somerville and someone who owns, redevelops and buys many properties in Somerville, and as someone who is constantly fighting with the Administration and Aldermen because of how you go about redeveloping properties, but most people here are not in that situation.

I’ll let you know the date once it is scheduled, hopefully this week.



Mark Niedergang

Ward 5 Alderman


Mouhab Z. Rizkallah’s Reply to Alderman Niedergang:

Thank you Alderman Niedergang (cc Alderman JT Scott, All Alderman, The Somerville News Weekly, and Zone Smart Somerville),

A few Responsive Points:

1.  You are inaccurate in stating Alderman Scott’s concern.  Alderman Scott specifically stated (in this very email string) that HE had a problem with  “partial demolition”  (though he probably also wisely has a problem with serial demolition, since it is the accumulation of partial demolitions).  We agree with Alderman Scott that we need to focus our attention on “Partial Demolition”….with “Serial Demolition” being just a derivative of “Partial Demolition.”

2.  You are stating here that my claims are “wildly overblown.”  But they are certainly not overblown, even if you aim to mis-characterize them in that way.   The Somerville News Weekly clearly called it a “Wolf in sheeps clothing” on the front page of the April 3rd 2018 issue.  The Chamber of Commerce requested a public hearing because they are very concerned about what it will cause.  You Calling it “wildly overblown” is dismissive to all of us.  We are HIGHLY sophisticated individuals, and we are not inclined to waste our time Mr. Niedergang.

3.  Sadly, you missed the entire point of why a Ward Meeting is needed.  The purpose is NOT to “respond to people that are concerned about this” (as you stated).  IT IS A DECEPTIVELY NAMED ORDINANCE!  Therefore, they are not concerned about it because they are deceived into a lull.  The very reason that the previous meetings were “poorly attended” (as you stated), is because people trust that “demolition means demolition.”   You see…..the meeting is to INFORM them that “demolition means construction.”  By not having a meeting, YOU are propagating the PRESENT deception….and you owe it to your constituents to not deceive them.  Please have a meeting TO publicize this deception in your Ward.

4.  Thank you for finally being willing to have a public hearing on the matter.  In your April 11th email to me, you were not planning one, despite my repeated request for one.  I am glad we are making progress on this matter.


Mouhab Z. Rizkallah

One thought on “Somerville Speakup Line:Ward 5 Alderman Mark Niedergang’s Reply to Regarding Published Misinformation Regarding Demolition Review”

  1. What is considered well-publicized, and how are notices to the public given? The RB/NR zoning is a huge issue, and extremely damaging. Aldermen may not be getting the level of feedback this issue would generate because many homeowners are uninformed. Because many property owners do not live in Somerville, proper notice would include direct mail outlining the loss of the 3rd unit to RB property owners. The edits added after feedback, are prohibitively restrictive, and would promote dividing up larger units to gain the 3rd unit. The city frowns on dividing larger unit. Also, the feedback in every case the RB to NR zoning was cited, was negative feedback. This feedback was given at a public meeting on the transfer tax. Clearly the BOA need to be more responsible in delivering notice of all these important and extremely impactful proposals to the public. Renters and affordable housing advocates will not be in favor of eliminating a huge number of potential rental units. When will proper notice be given on these issues, and how much advance notice of a public meeting on rezoning would be reasonable?

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