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Council Tables Plan To Rezone Alewife

By William E. Mckibben

The Cambridge City Council last night tabled a controversial proposal to rezone the Alewife industrial section of the city to attract more business, a move officials said will delay the rezoning for at least a month.

The vote to table means the rezoning petition--which proponents say would bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in taxes to the West Cambridge neighborhood--must be refiled, City Solicitor Russell B. Higley said after last night's meeting.

David Vickery, assistant city manager for community development, said last night the council may act on the refiled petition within a month.

Council opponents of the plan, all of whom said they objected to specifics of the plan rather than its goal of attracting more industry to the city, promised to work with the community development department to redraft the legislation.

Iron Out

"It's not that I want to kill this proposal--I just want time to hone it, to smooth it out, to refine it," Councilor Thomas W. Danehy said yesterday. "A delay of 30 to 60 days is not going to substantially change the development prospects for this area," he added.

The council defeated the proposal two weeks ago and reconsidered that decision last night.

Backers of the rezoning argued that the plan will attract light industry and research and development firms by encouraging limited development.

"The increased tax base from this proposal will support the kind of city services the taxpayers of Cambridge have learned to expect and indeed deserve," Councilor David Wylie said.

"To duplicate this opportunity elsewhere in the city we would have to destroy an existing residential neighborhood," he added.

Opponents of the plan said provisions should be included to guarantee that many of the jobs created would attract blue-collar workers.

"The tax base must be expanded, but I believe that goal must be subordinated to other goals," Councilor David Sullivan said. "I believe this zoning proposal can be reformulated to meet not only the tax needs but also the employment needs of our neighborhood."

The rezoning may also increase property values in the area, "distorting, upheaving and totally changing the composition of that neighborhood ethnically," Danehy said.

Wylie said the increased development would create blue-collar as well as white-collar jobs. "A large number of these employment opportunities could be made available to Cambridge youths," Wylie said.

The Community Development Department will work with councilors to amend the plan, Vickery said. Under state law, a joint planning board/city council hearing could review the plan within two or three weeks, Vickery said.

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