Cambridge Talks Lighting, Urban Wildlife at Weekly Meeting

Discussing an ordinance that asks Cambridge’s City Manager to review the City’s wildlife management plans, Cambridge residents and City Councillors debated the merits of living among deer and rabbits in an urban environment.

The ordinance attempts to make sense of a new population of wild animals who have found “new habitats in Cambridge’s urban environments" and asks City Manager Louis A. DePasquale to review Cambridge’s current plans for handling such animals. Councillor Craig A. Kelley, who proposed the policy order at Monday night’s City Council meeting, drew joking criticism when he listed bunnies alongside deer as a concern for residents.

Several other Councillors said they are fond of the City’s rabbit population.

“I don’t want to see us rounding up bunnies,” City Councillor Jan Devereux joked.

Councillor Leland Cheung added that rabbits often help manicure his lawn.

“They’re eating my lawn and my weeds perfectly,” Cheung said. “Let’s exclude bunnies, please.”

Also at the meeting, local government officials devised a plan to combat “light pollution” in the city. Both residents and Councillors noted that outdoor lighting from businesses is often too bright and distracting.

In a policy order proposed by Devereux and City Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, the city manager has one week to present a revised and simplified Outdoor Lighting Ordinance so that businesses are aware of lighting regulations for their storefronts.

The councillors wrote that “light pollution and excessive glare from outdoor lighting” present a health risk to Cantabrigians, and that the previous lighting guidelines were unclear and had too much “technical jargon.”

“It’s a health risk, it’s a stressor, and we really need to get control of outdoor lighting in our city,” Devereux said. “We need to do this.”

Councillors also discussed affordable housing initiatives that would place fees on real estate purchases over $2.5 million. Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr., who sponsored the policy order, said the fee would be used to help fund future projects to research and expand affordable housing options in the City.

“As the affordable housing crisis gets greater, we need to take bold steps to approach it,” Toomey said.

The fees proposed in Toomey’s Policy Order closely mirrors Massachusetts House Bill 3512, which also places a fee on large real estate transactions to generate funding for affordable housing. The councillors unanimously endorsed that bill.

—Staff writer Nicholas W. Sundberg can be reached at nicholas.sundberg@thecrimson.com Follow him on Twitter @NickWSundberg

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