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Somerville zoning could see biggest changes since 1990

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Immensely dense city wants to preserve current character but encourage development

Two rows of houses along a street, with telephone poles and trees too. Micha Weber/Shutterstock

Somerville officials are considering the most sweeping changes to its zoning ordinance in nearly 30 years.

The proposed changes would facilitate more development around Somerville’s squares and along its main corridors as well as on underutilized parcels, according to the city’s Planning Department. The changes would also seek to preserve Somerville’s “traditional residential housing,” the agency has said.

The consideration comes amid a housing crunch in Somerville and the wider Boston region, one that the city has joined with its neighbors recently in trying to address.

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone was one of 15 area mayors who announced in early October that they would collectively work to facilitate the construction of 185,000 new housing units by 2030.

The proposal to change the city’s zoning ordinance predates that commitment, but it’s definitely keeping in line with it. Somerville—one of the densest cities in the region, if not the U.S., already—will likely need to build on those underutilized parcels and taller as well to satisfy demand.

The city has added roughly 5,000 net new residents since the zoning ordinance was last overhauled in 1990. There will be a public hearing October 30 in the East Somerville Community School auditorium to discuss the proposed change.