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ICYMI: Council refuses 'missing middle housing' due to traffic concerns

Proposal to build a 39-unit townhouse development at Wayne Avenue and Pinebush Road denied by council
A rendering shows the back of the townhomes proposed for three properties on Wayne Avenue and Pinebush Road.

The following article was published previously on CambridgeToday.

The recent death of a pedestrian on Pinebush Road added fuel to concerns about a stacked townhouse proposal at the corner of Pinebush Road and Wayne Avenue and the idea it would add even more traffic to an already "dangerous area."

Council denied the project Tuesday, citing issues with traffic volume and speed along Pinebush near Franklin Boulevard and the roundabout Mayor Jan Liggett considers among the worst in the region.

Before voting against the 39-unit project that appeared to check all the boxes for density and parking, Liggett was critical of city planning staff for not asking the developer to complete a traffic impact study after concerns were aired at a public meeting last year.

Instead, planning staff returned to council with a recommendation to approve the project, calling it "an opportunity for intensification" and an opportunity to create "more housing options that will help create a vibrant community that supports the City’s growing population." 

"We need housing in Cambridge but it's not housing at any cost," said Coun. Mike Devine before he tabled an alternative motion to refuse the development.

He mentioned the recent fatality among ongoing worries about speed and volume along Pinebush and at the busy roundabout surrounded by a Starbucks, Tim Hortons, a gas station and two plazas.

He wants staff to conduct a transportation study between Franklin and Conestoga to provide increased safety provisions. He also wants the city to close the exit from the Starbucks plaza onto Wayne Avenue.

"This needs to go back to the city, back to the region and see what can be done."

Coun. Corey Kimpson said she has "grave concerns" about the development and was disappointed staff didn't listen to council's concerns about the traffic after the public meeting.

"That would have been the ideal time for some proactive movement and investigation into the area," she said. "There's a gap in the process that is putting the safety of our community and those visiting our community at risk."

Coun. Ross Earnshaw, who visited the site to witness the "Gatling gun" of vehicles exiting Starbucks, admonished staff for its failure to take their concerns into account.

"To simply, blindly apply the rules without paying any attention to the surrounding circumstances seems to me to be foolhardy," Earnshaw said.

All but councillors Sheri Roberts and Scott Hamilton supported Devine's motion.

Roberts said she thought staff took traffic concerns into account and did what they could within their control, but she believes the traffic issue is independent of the development, which would produce far less trips than the 100 required to trigger a traffic impact study.

"Missing middle housing is the type of housing we need," Roberts said. "It's very important that we support these types of applications that are gentle density."

Coun. Scott Hamilton acknowledged it's an extremely busy road but agreed with Roberts that Devine and others were conflating the issues.

"For sure, the region needs to work on this road, but they're two separate issues," he said. "It's not a big development. This is exactly the type of development we need."

"It's fine to say we're missing missing middle housing, but we'd be putting the lives of those residents at risk," Liggett said

Coun. Adam Cooper agreed, saying he came close to supporting the development and believes the traffic concern is a separate issue.

"But regardless of whether they're related, we'd be putting these people in danger," he said. "There's going to be families, there's going to be children there."