Three aldermen voted against it, but after a long debate Tuesday night, the Somerville Board of Aldermen approved the Union Square Revitalization Plan, which could pave the way for redevelopment in the square over the next 20 years.
Now that it's approved by the aldermen, the plan will go before the state's Department of Housing and Community Development, which will have 30 days to make a decision about it.
The plan, presented by the mayor's office in August, identifies seven "development blocks" in Union Square that the city hopes to redevelop into, for the most part, office, residential, research and development, and retail space.
Most immediately, the city hopes to move forward with an MBTA Green Line station and coinciding development in the area around Prospect Street, Somerville Avenue and Allen Street.
The plan names several "acquisition parcels" and opens the door for possible eminent domain takings in the future.
The prospect of property takings was one of the reasons Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz and Ward 3 Alderman Thomas Taylor voted against the plan.
"I feel that we're putting small businesses in Union Square at a disadvantage by doing too much too soon," said Taylor. "I don't see any reason for doing this so extensively, so quickly," he said.
Taylor would have preferred to vote on just one of the development blocks, the D2 block, which is immediately associated with the Green Line station, and leave the others for a later time.
Gewirtz said the plan "goes too far, in my opinion." She argued that in voting for the plan, the Board of Alderman was handing too much power to the Somerville Redevelopment Authority, which would be responsible for overseeing and executing the plan and making decisions about eminent domain takings.
Alderman At-Large William White, the third to vote against it, felt the plan wasn't appropriate because there's no certainty the Green Line would come to Union Square. He also questioned some of the land uses outlined in the plan.
In supporting the plan, Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente said, "We have an opportunity to move Union Square forward and ensure good, smart growth."
Ward 1 Alderman William Roche said the city has made tough decisions about land takings in the past. Alderman At-Large Dennis Sullivan said it would "bring much needed development to this part of the city."
Aldermen At-Large Bruce Desmond and John Connolly supported the plan. Desmond said it would help residents in the area deal with perennial flooding and nearby contamination in the soil, which are greater threats than eminent domain takings. Connolly said the plan stems from a multi-year SomerVision process that created a long-term master plan for the city.
Ward 5 Alderman Sean O'Donovan and Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston both felt that without the plan Union Square would not benefit from redevelopment.
In the past 30 years, "development in the square has been virtually nil," said Heuston. She said that if D2 develops—referring to the proposed MBTA station site—without the rest of the neighborhood, it would create a "wall" that separates the square.