In Newton, a super Tuesday for pro-growth side

All politics is local, and for some residents in Newton that meant yesterday’s Super Tuesday vote in the presidential primary took a backseat to a question of what would happen in their backyard.

The affluent Boston suburb of 88,000 residents has been riven for months by a proposal for a massive mixed-use development project in the Newton Upper Falls section of town. Residents voted yesterday by a fairly comfortable margin to greenlight the project, which will bring thousands of square feet of office and retail space and 800 apartment units to a 22 acre site near Route 128 and the Newton Highlands stop on the MBTA’s Green Line. The vote to approve the zoning change needed for Northland Investment Corp’s plan was 18,565 in favor and 13,449 against, according to the Globe.

The contest played out along familiar lines, with proponents touting the need for more housing to address a regional shortage contributing to stratospheric prices for homebuyers and renters, while opponents said the scale of the project would bring traffic nightmares and overwhelm schools with new students.

The vote also took place against the backdrop of a continued stalemate on Beacon Hill, where lawmakers have held back a vote on Gov. Charlie Baker’s “Housing Choice” legislation. Baker has implored the Legislature to act on the bill, calling it crucial to the state’s continued economic vitality. A chief feature of the bill is its reform of local zoning rules to allow projects to be approved by a majority vote of the municipal board or town meeting in charge of development reviews. Many major zoning changes currently require two-thirds approval, a high bar that critics say ends up killing reasonable projects that enjoy majority support.

The Newton battle showed the extent to which development opponents will go to block projects. Zoning for the Northland plan cleared the two-thirds support needed with a 17-7 vote of the City Council, but opponents then mounted a signature drive to put the question on the citywide ballot.

The pro-growth side was aided by heavy campaign spending by Northland and enjoyed the support of Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, business leaders, and housing and environmental advocates.

In December, the president of the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce called the opposition a classic case of the NIMBY — not in my backyard — mentality that has fueled the state’s housing shortage. “That’s why we have a housing crisis — because the suburbs have refused to step up,” Greg Reibman said. “There is a legitimate concern about the congestion, but that congestion is a legitimate concern for all of Eastern Massachusetts.”

Reibman said last night that the vote to approve the project sent “a loud message that the city’s residents want to be a community that is more welcoming and part of the solution to the region’s housing crisis and climate change.”


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Development executive Kathryn Burton was named Mayor Marty Walsh’s new chief of staff, becoming the first indigenous person to hold a cabinet post in Boston City Hall. (Boston Globe )


The Democratic presidential race turned into a two-man race between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. (CommonWealth)

In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren suffered a devastating third-place finish in the Democratic primary and former governor William Weld was defeated handily by President Trump. (CommonWealth)  After his victory, Biden said Massachusetts sent a message to the rest of the country. (MassLive) Michael Bloomberg was a flop in his electoral debut. (NPR) Peter Kadzis at WGBH takes a deeper look at how Biden’s campaign was revived.

Gov. Charlie Baker won’t say who he voted for in the presidential primary. (State House News Service) But he was very active in state Republican committee races that are key to controlling the state party and a super PAC with which he is aligned saw mixed results in special elections for the Legislature. Kate Lipper-Garabedian of Melrose, who the PAC backed, won the House seat vacated by Paul Brodeur. In two Republican primaries, the Baker-affiliated PAC had one victory (Catherine Clark of Lunenburg in the race for Jennifer Benson’s old seat) and one defeat (Jesse Brown of Plymouth was defeated by Jay McMahon of Bourne in the race for Viriato deMacedo’s old Senate seat).

Northampton overwhelmingly approved a $2.5 million tax override. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Gannett takes a look at how the polls compared to reality in Massachusetts’ vote.

Poll workers in Cape Ann stocked up on new pens and wiped down voting booths to prevent the spread of disease. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Paul Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance says Citizens United is gaining lots of super PAC adherents. (CommonWealth)


The Dow sinks 2.9 percent despite an unusual rate cut by the Federal Reserve Bank. (AP)

Peter Pan bus lines will continue to let federal immigration agents search its buses without a warrant, after Greyhound said it will not. (MassLive)

The UFCW union is criticizing Worcester marijuana shop Mayflower Medicinals for trying to block workers’ efforts to unionize. (Telegram & Gazette)

A major seafood expo  scheduled for mid-March was postponed due to coronavirus. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Kelly’s Roast Beef is expanding to Natick and other locations. (MetroWest Daily News)


MassLive publishes a “what to know” guide about coronavirus. Massachusetts airports take steps to prevent the spread of the virus. (Eagle-Tribune)


Alumni react to the closure of the New England School of Photography, which moved from Boston to Waltham just two years ago. (DigBoston)


A consulting firm led by the son of Gov. Charlie Baker’s 2018 reelection campaign chairman is getting $5.5 million to “humanize the brand” of the MBTA as it embarks on a massive capital projects plan—and deals with bad publicity on a near-daily basis. (DigBoston)

The MBTA said new Orange Line cars pulled from service yesterday due to problems with “bolsters” on their undercarriage should be back in service by the end of the week. (Boston Globe)

MassDOT is working to start a study that will look at the possibility of bringing rail service to Buzzards Bay as part of the South Coast Rail project. (Cape Cod Times)

Tracy Corley of MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute urges the Legislature to adopt regional ballot initiatives to help fund transportation improvements. (CommonWealth)


Massachusetts’ members of Congress ask the Department of Justice to divert settlement money from Merrimack Gas to Merrimack Valley first responders. (The Salem News)


The Supreme Judicial Court overturned the 2013 murder conviction of Jean Carlos Lopez. (AP)

The State Police have issued nearly 600 warnings so far to drivers for using handheld cell phones while driving. (AP)

Convicted rapist Benjamin LaGuer, whose profession of innocence once attracted a slew of high-profile supporters, was arrested and sent back to prison a month after his release on medical parole after multiple alleged parole violations. (Boston Globe)


Days after suing the New York Times for defamation, President Trump’s reelection campaign files a lawsuit against the Washington Post. (WBUR)