The Concerned Watertown Homeowner’s Association is a group of Watertown residents concerned with losing our property rights if the Town adopts the additional residential design guidelines and plan review that they are currently pursuing.
What is Watertown pursuing?
The Town of Watertown has hired architecture firm, Gamble Associates, to begin researching ways to implement additional design review. They call it “preserving our neighborhoods.” We call it an infringement on our property rights. In October 2015, Watertown held three listening sessions over a period of 9 days. The agenda for these meetings was:
- Discussion of the components of a strong neighborhood
- Watertown style inventory: What makes a good building, what makes a bad one?
- Interactive Dialogue (small-group format) – residential development pressures
Then, on November 12, they hosted a community forum to share their findings from the initial research and feedback from the listening sessions. Watertown is now pursuing Residential Design Guidelines that will – according to the Town’s website – “clarify expectations about what is permitted (and why) in order to maintain the existing neighborhood character and promote a more harmonious relationship between the existing neighborhood fabric and new construction.”
How will this affect me, the homeowner?
They paint a pretty picture, don’t they? These guidelines are simply to promote harmony and neighborhood character. So what’s the downside? If adopted, your neighbor or the Town could determine that your renovation or construction plans do not fit in with the existing aesthetic of your neighborhood and decide that you must change your plans or abort them entirely. According to David Gamble, Principal of the architecture firm the Town has hired to assist them in this endeavor, the proposed residential guidelines will cost Watertown homeowners more money. Any increase in building cost should be the homeowner’s choice, not mandated by the government.
The Concerned Watertown Homeowner’s Association believes that we already have enough rules and regulations in place in the form of over 120 pages of Zoning Ordinances which are managed and enforced by the Building Department, Zoning Department, and Department of Public Works.
We support good design but “good” is subjective and will vary among individuals. No government or neighborhood group should be able to dictate architectural style, design, or building material of any property that is in compliance with current zoning rules or regulations.
Most Watertown residents we have spoken with are unaware that this is happening and, when informed of the Town’s plan, strongly oppose these additional regulations. The sessions were poorly attended – with only 20-30 people in attendance for each listening session and approximately 100 for the community forum. With a population of over 34,000, that represents less than 1% of Watertown residents. The Town has done little to further publicize these plans that will have a profound impact on every homeowner in Watertown.
Some may say that this Association is jumping the gun by informing the public of our opposition to these plans since they’re still in the research phase and nothing has been proposed yet. We respectfully and strongly disagree. If we wait until there is a formal proposal, we will have lost our opportunity to have any impact on the process before it becomes official.
What can you do to fight this infringement of your rights?
Become better informed and make your voice heard. Call your Town Councilor and tell him/her that you do not want to lose any more property rights. Check back for updates on this ongoing issue. We anticipate Gamble Associates will be publishing their recommendations in the next few weeks and we will post our response on our website, facebook and twitter pages.