by Olivia Middien
In October 2022, the Toll Brothers, a Pennsylvania-based development company, proposed Boylston 528: a luxury apartment complex to be built along Route 9. The project immediately sparked controversy among Newton residents.
The proposed six-story building, which would contain 193 living units, used Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 40B to override local single-family residential zoning regulations.
Typically, development projects are sent to the City Council for approval; however, due to law 40B, developers are able to gain state approval, which Ward 8 City Councilor Rick Lipof said he found frustrating.
“Developers can go to the state, which in the name of affordable housing often allows you properties that the City Council wouldn’t otherwise approve of,” he said.
Newton resident Lisa Tucker said that the project jeopardizes Newton’s most attractive qualities.
“We, like everybody else, moved here because it was a beautiful, quiet suburb of Boston”, she said. “We don’t want to change the character. No one who came to Newton wanted to be living in a city.”
Meanwhile, rising Junior Mary Pierce said that the project would not impact Newton’s image drastically.
“Newton’s character is already deteriorating, just because of how many houses are being torn down and developed into new giant houses,” she said. “Adding a new apartment complex wouldn’t really change the character that much.”
Judy Korzenowski is a member of the Fair Housing Committee, whose mission is to promote and support Newton’s efforts to be a diverse community with housing choices and opportunities free from housing discrimination. She said that updates would need to be made to Newton’s infrastructure due to the new development.
“It would affect a lot of other houses to put up a complex of say 200 units. You have to have plumbing, you have to have electricity and the infrastructure has to be able to handle all that,” she said. “The city of Newton’s very old. They haven’t updated their piping since the 60s.”
Jacob Silber, founder of the petition against Boylston 528, Oppose the Current 528 Boylston (Rt 9) Development – Proposal, said that the likely increase in traffic due to the development can hinder Newton residents’ daily lives.
“I’ve been involved in trying to work with the state about reducing speed limits on Route 9 because there are very frequent accidents on Route 9 in that area,” he said. “The increase of traffic, the addition of some 1,100 vehicle trips a day and 400 parking spaces could really impact Newton residents.”
Pierce said that South could experience both an excess amount of traffic and overpopulation due to Boylston 528.
“Since South is hard to get to, the addition of more cars will only increase student tardiness,” she said. “The apartment complex might overcrowd South, considering we’ve lost quite a few teachers, even if there are around 400 new students. So the class sizes would get a lot bigger, which might be detrimental.”
Ted Med Hassan, a former city councilor and member of the Fair Housing Committee, said future affordable housing improvements will not have a negative impact on our schools.
“I know everyone is worried that when people move in, the number of students is going to be so many that schools won’t be able to accommodate it,” he said.
“Actually, the size of the student population has been decreasing, even as the population is increasing. Only about 20% of Newton residents have children in the public schools. Compare that with Lexington or Concord, some of the outlying suburbs, where it’s more like 50%.”
However, Tucker said that it’s not equitable to avoid affordable housing, especially in the affluent city of Newton.
“It’s not fair that you keep your big house and the big yard right next to the school when the kids in the METCO program have to wake up two hours early,” she said. “They’re spending sometimes two hours one way on transportation, and they’re losing incredible hours of sleep just when they need it the most.”
Moving forward, Korzenowski said that it’s essential for Newton to keep moving toward affordable housing.
“We have to keep trying to work with developers to build affordable housing because we, as residents, don’t want every housing unit in Newton to be above a million dollars,” she said.