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Zoning changes for Kendall begin to gel

At tonight’s meeting of the Cambridge Planning Board, the City’s Community Development department presented a draft recommendation of planned zoning changes for Kendall Square.

Copies of the current recommendations are available at http://tech.mit.edu/V132/N29/kendall/. The presentation should be available by noon today at http://cambridgema.gov/k2c2, city staff said.

The meeting was one of several steps along the process to zoning changes that may support MIT’s future vision for more development on the east side of campus, and other property owners’ version for the future of Kendall Square.

The process began with the city’s Kendall-to-Central study in July 2011. Since then, an advisory committee has met repeatedly and its recommendations, along with those of city staff and the city’s consultants have lead to the recommendations before the board. It will conclude with city staff finalizing their recommendations to the Planning Board and translating them from bullets points into both a report as well as finalized zoning language.

The finalized zoning recommendation will go before the city council for approval.

City staff hope to have an early draft of the zoning language and more detail available at the Aug. 7, 2012 meeting of the board.

The meeting consisted of a 2-and-a-half hour discussion presented by Iram Farooq, a senior planner in Community Development. Farooq presented to the board, while encouraging discussion and taking questions from board members.

Board chairman Hugh Russell submitted written comments on the current proposal. An issue he identified is that the proposal that buildings meet the aggressive LEED Gold standard for stainability was likely in opposition to having middle-income rental pricing. Russell noted that only ten residential buildings in Massachusetts currently meet the LEED Gold standard, and suggested $3000–4000 rental prices would be required to support that standard.

Other board members provided oral comments, generally supportive of the process but seeking additional information and clarification on many points.

Many board members commented on the differences between the city’s proposal and a study funded by the East Cambridge Planning Team, a neighborhood group. The study was produced by CBT Architects in March after members of the ECPT expressed concern about the direction of Kendall Square advisory committee meetings.

Board members said they look forward to how city staff will integrate the CBT study with their own planning work.

John A. Hawkinson