Editorial: Revere tests the brakes

It’s easy to glance at the numbers and conclude Revere’s proposed four-month residential construction moratorium makes sense. Since 2015, new developments have added more than 650 apartments to the city’s housing supply; 500 more are included in developments now under construction and an additional 500 units are in the permitting stages.

But numbers have a way of getting bent and twisted to suit any argument or point of view. Moratorium proponent and City Councilor-at-Large George Rotondo claims the apartment numbers speak for themselves in Revere.

He wants a 120-day moratorium in place during which time city officials could study the impact of new housing units on schools, traffic, public safety response time, and water and sewer services. The four months could also be used to hold hearings on residential expansion in Revere and conduct a community survey on development.

Those suggestions sound good. But Rotondo’s fellow councilors, for a number of reasons, decided to treat Rotondo’s idea the same way they treated a similar suggestion Rotondo made last year: They deep-sixed it.

In 2017, Rotondo recommended putting the brakes on residential construction of 40 or more units. The idea went nowhere. This month the council sent his new moratorium suggestion to the zoning subcommittee to die a quiet death.

Overkill and timing are two words summarizing the opposition to a Revere residential construction moratorium. Implementing a four-month construction ban sends a message to Suffolk Downs megaproject developers and other builders that their investment dollars aren’t a priority in Revere. If developers sense Revere does not offer a favorable development climate, they will take their money somewhere else.

“The point is,” warned Mayor Brian Arrigo, “we should not be sending a message saying we don’t want anything to happen.”

In fairness to Rotondo, he does enjoy vocal political support for the moratorium with Councilor-at-Large and former Mayor Dan Rizzo backing the idea. Rizzo proposed a moratorium in 2015. Like Rotondo, he said it makes sense for Revere to step back and study accelerating residential developments and its implications.

Tapping the brakes and slowing down development-wise has worked for communities, including one of Revere’s neighbors.

Malden residents approved a one-year residential construction moratorium in November 2015 for some parts of the city and Malden’s City Council extended the moratorium from January 2017 through last December. Councilor Neil Kinnon, the Malden moratorium’s author, summed up the need for an extension by noting that the city’s growing population was straining municipal resources.

It’s worthwhile for Revere to carefully evaluate the strain, if any, development is placing on city resources. The evaluation should be done without a construction moratorium for one simple reason: Neighboring Boston is facing a housing shortage and Revere’s growing presence as a housing option for people who can’t afford Boston rents could position Revere for future prosperity.

The questions Rotondo and Rizzo posed about new construction are worth asking. But it is too late and too detrimental for Revere to back out of a hot development market.



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