Two controversial proposals designed to alleviate Cambridge's housing crunch may come to a vote before the city council tonight, city councillors said this weekend.
The proposals requiring property developers to build lows and moderate-income housing are now eligible to be voted on or can be passed to further discussion and amendment. The council must act upon the legislation by March 4 or the proposal die.
The two inclusionary zoning/linkage amendments to the city's zoning ordinance, one sponsored by Councillor David Sullivan and the other by the Cambridge Rent Control Coalition would require that 20-30 percent of the units in new housing developments be set aside for low-income dwellers. Builders of commercial and institutional facilities would have to provide housing with the number of units depending on the size of the project.
"I'm optimistic about the bill's passage," said Mayor Leonard J. Russell. "It's about time these developers put something back into the city.
Russell and other councillors favoring the idea of inclusionary zoning and linkage are expected to put their weight behind the Sullivan proposal instead of the CRCC one, which is more restrictive on developers In addition to the mayor, Sullivan, Councillor Alfred Velucci and the three other Cambridge Civie Assocation (CCA) members reportedly will vote for some modified form of Sullivan's bill.
But despite Russell's the proposaly face an uphill battle on their way to passage. A host of legal and technical in addition. to an outpouring of landowner opposition many the bills, according to city officials and private developers.
Ordinarily, six votes would be enough to pass the amendments. But under city law, if 20 percent of affected landowners oppose a change in zoning laws, the proposals require a seventh vote, something Sullivan acknowledged might be tough to get.
David A. Hughes, executive Vice-President of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, which has opposed the bills from their inception, filed a petition with the city clerk bearing what he said--was the necessary number of signatures.
"I hope the city council has come to realize that neither of the petitions are feasible," Hughes said, "I think the bills have been in deep trouble since the beginning because they weren't well thought out."
"If it needs a seventh vote, things get dicier," said Sullivan.
In addition to the petition, the city solicit or is expected to give testimony tonight claiming that the proposals, which would require developers to obtain a special building permit from the city before going ahead with construction, are illegal.
Under the state constitution, cities requiring builders to obtain special permits must grant in exchange incentives and bonuses to developers. Usually, such incentives come in the form of zoning relief and the relaxation of building restrictions.
The city planning board will also recommend against the proposals as they stand. Both the board and the Cambridge Development Department have voiced concern that the assessment on developers--in the form of housing units--will greatly increase the cost of building in Cambridge and drive potential business away
"The proposals will send a salvo to the development community that, once again Cambridge is not encouraging the private sector, "said David Clem of the Athenaeum Group, a development "it is a developers are not welcome" sign."
Supporters of the bill counter that companies will still find Cambridge attractive because of its access to universities and transportation.
"Cambridge isn't being developed because It's cheap. It's being developed because it's Cambridge and that won't change," said Sullivan. "They say they would go somewhere else but I don't believe it. Cambridge is the place to be in the 80's. "Russell added
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