CBD Discussion Continues to Be a Heavy Weight on the Town

Resident Nick Tsiotos, lives in the crosshairs of the Center Business District, and has been to meeting after meeting about the Center Business District (CBD)  and the former Middle School. All tallied, Tsiotos has been to more than three years of meetings, through three town managers, three council presidents and several fresh faces on the Town Council.

He’s not the only one living this life, but he summed up how most feel.

“We are tired,” Tsiotos said at the beginning of a Precinct 5 neighborhood meeting last Thursday night that was hosted by Precinct 5 Councilor Peter Christopher at the E.B. Newton school. “Many of us cannot sleep,” Tsiotos concluded.

Eating away at residents in and around the CBD is a confusing zoning issue, the prospect of a developer coming to Somerset Avenue and what the future of the center will be.

“Our lives are upside down. I grew up on that street (Somerset Avenue),” Tsiotos said.

Tsiotos said he didn’t feel there was anyone on the council who advocates for the constituents or a councilor that compliments a constituent when they make a good point.

“Maybe we can build four levels, maybe three levels,” he said. “Instead of the 30 units do 12 – they want to do four stories with air conditioners on top. When I look down my street I see three stories and think that that’s pretty high. This zoning has opened Pandora’s Box to development.”

“The impact has been daunting emotionally,” Tsiotos continued. “I don’t know how seriously anybody takes us, it’s like were invisible. Even citizens petitions have been filed but tabled by the town council. Now there is also a petition from the people on Hill Avenue, a petition regarding the water and sewer rates. I just feel like there’s too much going on, too many people that are upset.”

Tsiotos said that obviously there’s a certain segment of town that wants to make this Somerville or Cambridge.

He also pointed out how a river or stream runs under the building being proposed for development on Somerset Avenue.

“When Pearl had Pearl’s she would run downstairs with her boots on to get the candy,” Tsiotos said.

Resident Jean Coughlin noted how two more businesses have left the center to make way for condos.

“I agree with Nick, I’m getting frustrated too,” Coughlin said “I just wish our town officials would step up. It’s been like three years…I don’t want to give up, but I am drained.”

“We’re pretty sure we know where the center business boundary lines are,” said Councilor Christopher, “You can look at the character of the two buildings (in question) one says this has always been a business and the other side shows it has always been a house. It’s been questioned time and time again. A lot of confusion came with the CBD master plan, there were a lot of houses included there, and it was a visioning document.”

Christopher said two petitions were given to the town council at the same meeting – one that said do nothing to zoning changes and the other was Tom Reilly’s petition that he put forward.

“Nobody, nor did I, feel the two petitions were in conflict. You could not pass one without the other. You can’t change zoning and then at the same time do nothing,” Christopher said. “Winthrop right now is in an identity crisis,” he added, pointing out that there are those who want to see denser neighborhoods and those who don’t.

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