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A Home Rule Charter is a document that establishes a city’s government structure and defines the organization, functions, specific powers, legal control and essential procedures of a city government.
In Watertown, the Charter explains the responsibilities of the Town Council, Town Manager, School Committee, Library Trustees, Boards and all aspects of government, from how elections are run to how our budget is developed and approved. The Charter is a city’s constitution & its most important legal document.
The Charter is available here or visit the Town Clerk’s Office at Town Hall, 149 Main Street to acquire a copy.
Watertown’s Charter states that it must review the Charter every 10 years.
Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Charter Review process was delayed until October 2020.
The Council voted in December 2020 to extend the Charter Review Process through June 2021.
Local government provides a vast array of services to residents, ranging from public safety to utilities, recreation, education, transportation, storm water management, zoning and land use regulation and enforcement, construction permitting and inspection, not to mention transparency, accessibility, public engagement and much more.
Charter Review enables Watertown to evaluate how well it functions and serves its residents. It is an opportunity to learn how the town operates and guide how services are delivered in the future.
Many aspects of the Charter can be changed via the Charter review process from the form of government (i.e.: Town Council & Manager to Mayor) to how often the Charter Review is conducted in the future but there are some limits:
Charter change CAN...
Charter change CAN’T...
Good charters set forth general principles rather than legislative details. While a certain level of control over governmental action is necessary and appropriate, balancing control with organizational and process flexibility and discretion should be the ultimate objective of any charter.[edited from, Guide for Charter Commissions, 6th ed., National Civic League, and Model City Charter, 2nd ed. 2011, National Civic League]
The CRC meets remotely on the first & third Tuesday of each month at 6pm via Zoom.
The public is encouraged to watch & interact via Zoom (links are found on the meeting agenda)
Visit the CRC website (watertown-ma.gov/charter) to stay updated and participate in polls and/or submit questions and find links to attend or watch the meetings.
Agendas, minutes and a wide range of pertinent documents including the current Charter, sample charters from other cities, sample preambles and links to videos of past meetings are all available at the website.
Many of these items will also be posted on the bulletin board in front of the Town Clerk’s Office, in the basement of the Town Hall, 149 Main Street.
Currently the City of Watertown has a Council/Manager form of government. Our legislative branch consists of eight Councilors & a Council President directly elected to two year terms in part-time positions. The day-to-day management of the city is handled by the Manager, a full-time, contract employee who reports to the Council. The manager serves under a contract that is reviewed and approved by the Council. The manager oversees the entire administration of the city and heads of all major departments report directly to the Manager. The Council President is also President of the School Committee.
Watertown Government Organization Chart https://www.watertown-ma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/31215/Watertown-Org-Chart
Watertown became city in 1980 by making changes to the Charter through the Charter Review process. It does matter because different state laws apply to towns and cities.
This is something that the CRC is considering.
The Charter describes the overall makeup of the CRC as 15 members consisting of all 8 sitting councilors, Council President & six residents selected by the Council President.
In January 2020, a call for letters of interest from residents was made & the Council President interviewed candidates in February, March & October 2020 before announcing the six residents immediately prior to the first Charter Review meeting.
Watertown’s current Charter calls for a 15 member CRC comprised of the Council President, all eight councilors and six residents (selected by the Council President)
Watertown Charter Review Committee 2020:
Town Council President, Mark Sideris
Angeline Kounelis, Councilor District A
Lisa Feltner Councilor District B
Vincent Piccirilli Councilor District C
Kenneth Woodland Councilor District D
Caroline Bays Councilor-At-Large
Anthony Donato Councilor-At-Large
John Gannon Councilor-At-Large
Anthony Palomba Councilor-At-Large
Email the entire Charter Review Committee via firstname.lastname@example.org
You can e-mail questions and comments to all Committee members at email@example.com.
Or find their individual email addresses in the answer to the previous question
If you do not have e-mail, you can call the Council Clerk at 617-972-6470 with any questions or comments for the Committee members.
The CRC votes to recommend any changes to the Charter, those recommendations are sent to the Town Council for a vote. If they accept & there are major changes to the Charter, a ballot question must be voted on by the town & if approved, registered with the state.
The Charter Review process was started in January 2020 with a call for letters of interest from residents to serve on the CRC by Council President Mark Sideris.Interviews were held in February and March before the Charter Review was put on hold by Council President Sideris due to the COVID-19 global pandemic outbreak. Council President Sideris conducted more interviews in October 2020 and announced the six resident members the day before the first CRC meeting which was held on October 6, 2020.
It was announced that the CRC would meet on the first and third Tuesday on the month at 6pm via Zoom video conference & that the meetings would be available to the public via Zoom & broadcast live on Watertown Cable Access. Links to the meetings can be found in the agendas posted here.
The CRC has been meeting regularly since October and will continue until a report is completed (tentatively June).
The CRC reviewed the charters of several other cities in Massachusetts, hosted Q&As with several town managers, councilors and mayors to learn about different forms of government.
In February CRC began discussing Watertown’s charter specifically and potential changes that may be recommended.
CRC meetings and discussion of changes to the charter are expected to continue through the spring with a report of recommendations that is tentatively planned to be finalized in June.
The final report is then forwarded to the Town Council for approval. Recommendations will be on the November ballot for approval by the electorate if necessary. The draft timeline prepared by the Collins Center is located on the website.
Watertown has engaged the Collins Center to facilitate the Charter Review process.
All Watertown residents and employees are invited to participate in the Charter Review Process.
It’s important that voices representing a wide range of perspectives are represented in the Charter Review process. All residents have the opportunity to learn how their town government operates and how decisions are made that affect the quality of our services, schools and the strength of our community. Learn about your local government and invest in Watertown's future by participating in the Charter Review.
Every resident is encouraged to participate in Charter Review.There are many ways to get involved:
THINK ABOUT AND DISCUSS WITH NEIGHBORS
Watertown’s Charter is divided into nine sections, or articles.
Article 1: Defines the type of government and its scope of powersArticle 2: Defines the composition and general powers of the Town Council (Legislature)Article 3: Defines the role and powers of the Town Manager (Administration)Article 4: Defines other elected officials besides the Town Council. In Watertown, this is the School Committee and the Library Trustees.Article 5: Financial Management: Defines how the budget is created and approved.Article 6: Describes how the administration is organized and rules for reorganization by the Town Manager.Article 7: Elections: Defines how elections are run, eligibility; also defines citizen’s initiativesArticle 8: General Provisions: Describes charter changes, rules and regs, ordinances, meetings, etc. Article 9: Transitional Provisions: Describes transfer of powers if necessary when changes are made to the charter.
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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senior Center is closed to visitors. Exceptions are for appointment-only services with the Case Worker or a pre-arranged appointment for a new senior parking permit. Permit renewals are made over the phone. The staff is available to answer calls and emails, Monday through Friday 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. During the months of June, July and August, we follow the Town Hall summer schedule, remaining open until 7:00 PM on Tuesdays and closing early on Fridays at 2:00 PM. Call us at (617) 972-6490 or email SeniorCenter@watertown-ma.gov.
Avoid candles and matches. Have several flashlights available with sufficient batteries.
Federal regulations do not address the disposal of smoke detectors, heatdetectors, flame detectors and/or other types of fire detection systems and/or components. More...
For a detailed guide from the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services, click below.
Mass General Law Chapter 48, Section 13 prohibits open air burning without permission. Chimineas and fire pits are considered open burning and as such require a permit. Due to the proximity of structures and concern over fire spread, in Watertown, the fire department does not issue burning permits. If you use a chiminea/fire pit on your property and the Watertown Fire Department responds, the fire will be extinguished and the person operating the chiminea/fire pit would be subject to a fine of up to $500.00.
If the detector is just chirping, thumping, or buzzing, it probably means that the battery is low. Replace the battery as soon as possible. Without a working battery, a smoke detector can't do its job and the risk of dying in a fire increases greatly.
Contact the Animal Control Officer at (617) 972-6446 as soon as possible to make a report. If you have a photo of your pet you can email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org . You may also drop off a photo at the office which is located at the Health Department: Town Hall 149 Main St. Watertown, MA 02472 We also recommend posting flyers on the telephone poles of your neighborhood.
Watertown residents may bring hazardous household products to the Regional Minuteman Facility. Watertown residents must have prof of residency in order for household hazardous waste products to be accepted for disposal. Advanced registration is no longer required. See the link below for 2018 collection schedule and information.
See attached guidelines.
The Commission is not intended to be burdensome to property owners within the Historic District, but rather, to be helpful in administering change and enhancing the value of the buildings and places within the Historic District.
The Commission is responsible for reviewing the appropriateness of exterior design changes and additions to existing buildings and structures, as well as new construction and demolition, within the Historic District.
Interior changes to properties within the Historic District are not subject to review by the Historic District Commission.
If you would like to confirm whether your property falls within the boundaries of the Mount Auburn Street Historic District, contact the office of the Preservation Agent at (617) 972-6473.
Property owners contemplating interior alterations need not obtain Historic District Commission approval. For complete information please see the Watertown Historic District Ordinance below. Please note: Exterior and interior alterations may still need approval from the Building Inspector.
Although it may not be necessary to have the Historic District Commission review items excluded from the Commission’s responsibility, please feel free to present your ideas to the commission. Over time it would help everyone in the District plan for growth and change. Watertown Historic District Ordinance
Copies of the Watertown Historic District Guidelines and applications are available at the Office of the Preservation Agent in the Administration Building at:149 Main St.Watertown, MA 02472
The Commission recommends applications be submitted 60-90 days prior to the commencement of any work. Completed applications should be submitted to the Office of the Historic District Commission according to the schedule to have a hearing at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Commission. Applications must include photographs, material and color samples, manufacturers’ illustrations, and plans and plot plans, as necessary.
The Historic District Commission hopes you find the schedule of meetings and hearings helpful in planning. We believe in Watertown’s unique identity and are committed to helping property owners within the Historic District. If you have any questions about your property and the Mount Auburn Street Historic District, please call the office of the Preservation Agent at (617) 972-6473.
You can pick one up at the Town Clerk’s Office or download a copy here.
A plot plan is a drawing of your property prepared by a professional land surveyor. The plot plan will show the lot area, the dimensions of the structure, and setbacks to the lot lines on all sides of the property. For more information: Massachusetts Association of Land Surveyors & Civil Engineers www.malsce.org A mortgage survey is not a plot plan. The mortgage plan is usually prepared by the mortgage holder for their purposes and a copy given to the homeowner. They usually contain disclaimers such as, "not to be used to locate property lines".
The Watertown Zoning Ordinance states a distinct difference between a Home Office vs. Home Occupation. Home Office - Business within the dwelling operated by the residents with no employees, no deliveries, and no customers that visit the site. Home Occupation - Allowed by Special Permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals. Business, occupation or sale of articles produced on the premises where sold, conducted in the dwelling by residents, allowing no more than two non-residential employees, not occupying more than 25% of the area of the dwelling and not changing the residential character of the dwelling.
In order ensure the Town’s compliance with the Federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act; the town has implemented a new permit application process to streamline the review of instances where an accommodation is necessary for an individual’s or individuals’ disability. Below are links to the staff memorandums to the Commission on Disabilities, Application and Process Flow Chart, and the Reasonable Accommodation Questionnaire/ Application.
Feel free to contact the Zoning Office or Building Division for any questions you may have.
Memorandum to the Commission on Disabilities (March 20, 2012)
Memorandum to the Commission on Disabilities (April 18, 2012)
Application and Process Flow Chart
Reasonable Accommodation Questionnaire/Application