The Cawley Stadium Site

You know, if Lowell’s Board of Parks were to lift the open-space restrictions on the lots near Cawley Stadium to allow the Cawley Option for the new Lowell High School to go forward in the decision-making process, and the City ultimately decided to keep Lowell High downtown, that would produce an excellent opportunity to address a serious issue that has been plaguing Lowell for decades: the severe imbalance among neighborhoods in the location of affordable housing units.

Occasionally, the Planning Board is tasked with reviewing a proposed change to the zoning map. Almost always, this is at the behest of some developer or property owner who wants to build something that is not allowed under current zoning. Every time, the process involves the applicant showing the plans for the wonderful project he intends to build. The Chairman then has to explain to the assembled multitudes that a zoning change is not a project permit, and that changing the zoning wouldn’t mean that the applicant can only build the project presented at the meeting. The owner of a rezoned parcel would have the right to develop all sorts of buildings and uses that are allowed under the proposed zoning. The initial intent behind the request to rezone provides no guarantee that the project as presented will be built.

And so, every time this happens, we have an applicant and a public who came to talk about what they think about the project, while the Board discusses the merits of this residential zone vs. that commercial zone, keeping in mind the full range of possibilities that are allowed under both.

It might be wise for the Board of Parks and the City Council to think in similar terms here. The removal of the Article 97 restrictions is not a choice between open space and a new high school. It’s a choice between open space and ???.

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