The month-long window to comment ends Sunday, Dec. 2. I have been so busy with Newton Tree Conservancy activities, work, and other Newton issues, that I only started commenting two days ago myself. The large document, split into four parts, will seem overwhelming, but you may find once you get started commenting, you won't want to stop. Here's a brief guide:
Main page on city website: http://www.newtonma.gov/gov/planning/lrplan/washington_street_vision.asp
Where you'll find the document links. Note: at the request of some who attended Russell Preston's October 24 presentation at NNHS, the Planning Department has added the video of the Q&A session, which they did not originally post. This is where you will see pushback from the public.
Part 1 http://principle.civicomment.org/washington-street-vision-plan-part-1
Introduction & how to use the documents
Sample redevelopment scenario
West Newton Cinema Block
West Newton Cheesecake Blocks
Part 2 http://principle.civicomment.org/washington-street-vision-plan-part-2
Newtonville McGovern Site
West Newton Station Area "incremental"
Part 3 http://principle.civicomment.org/washington-street-vision-plan-part-3
West Newton Station Area "lined bridge"
West Newton Station Area "decked park" (pictured above)
Newtonville Square "lined Walnut Street bridge"
Newtonville Square "Walnut Street decked park"
Washington St Curb-to-curb (cross sections of street including lane reductions, etc.)
Price tag estimates for public improvements
Part 4 http://principle.civicomment.org/washington-street-zoning-toolkit
Note: Unless you have a large screen, you'll have to manage two scroll bars - the one on the right to see the whole web page, and the scroll bar of the embedded document. You can comment anywhere by clicking on the screen (and it's easy to click accidentally, in which case just close the box). You can view others' comments, and reply, by clicking on the yellow circles. You can also view the most recent page of comments by clicking on the Comments tab at upper left instead of the View tab. (Unfortunately I could only get the most recent page of comments to display.)
Getting a handle on the scale of what's proposed
In order to better compare the various options presented, I created this table of maximum stories, expected residential units, and retail and office space, for each option presented. I think these must be seen as estimates, not a guarantee of what would be built. In particular, besides the massive scale of development envisioned, I'm concerned that developers would want to quickly build the residential components, while the commercial development we do need would lag behind or never materialize. Please read what Somerville ward alderman J.T. Scott wrote in 2017 about what happened there: http://jtforward2.com/skin-in-the-game-a-risk-assessment-story-of-somerville-and-union-square/ There are striking similarities between Somerville and Newton.
It should also be noted that the numbers in my table do not include residential units that might occur under new zoning in other areas in and around Washington Street - the residential areas in between the village centers.
More public input is needed!
I made the following comment on page 2 of Part 1 of the document:
Newcastle, Maine, just voted down the proposed zoning code developed with the Principle Group there. The vote (on Nov. 6) was 623 No, 488 Yes, in a town with a population of 1,752. They had a four-year process, time to thoroughly consider it. Why are we rushing this through in 13 months? The purported reason was to 'get ahead' of Korff, but the vision presented in these documents varies little from Korff's vision. Massive, mostly residential buildings, configured somewhat differently from one alternative to the next but all much bigger and more dense than the preferences expressed in the Newtonville Area Council survey, the most detailed and documented survey of what the residents of Newton want. At this point, with about a week left to comment on this document, I see on the order of 25 commenters here, and probably half of us are the usual policy wonks. I'm told two people have commented on the hard copy at the Library. 99.9% of the city probably has no idea this is going on, don't have time to comment because they're busy with work and family, or feel their comments won't make any difference. This process has failed at public engagement.
Since I wrote that two days ago, the number of individual commenters has increased to at least 40, but this process is still bypassing the vast majority of Newton residents. If you have friends or neighbors who you think would want to be informed, and comment, please send them a link to this page.
And if you haven't seen the results of the Newtonville Area Council survey, read it here: http://www.newtonma.gov/gov/neighborhood/newtonville/default.asp and contrast the results with what's in the Principle Group's draft.