Here's what you need to know

Happy taxes are not due today day. I’m guessing we won't be so lucky with another delay next April 15th.
 
It’s also the day that the missing beefalo that spent 250 days on the run is on its way to being turned into ground round, which you may need to eat without ketchup, unless you’re willing to pay top dollar on eBay.
 
 
Now that we have that out of the way, here’s what else is going on.
 
Downtown Wellesley mixed use project withdrawn
 
A proposal to build a combination of affordable and luxury housing and perhaps even an arts space at the Talby Commuter Lot in Wellesley Square is off the table, at least for now.
 
The Wellesley Select Board voted 5-0 this week to rescind a 2018 agreement to negotiate with Trinity Financial Group primarily due to a change of circumstances following the pandemic, according to the Swellesley Report
 
“We’ve reached the conclusion that the RFP that was issued [earlier] was under different circumstances and was really calling for a different project than we feel would be beneficial at this point,” chair Tom Ulfelder said.
 
Newly elected board member Ann-Mara Lanza agreed with Ulfelder but encouraged her colleagues to not give up on the idea of developing housing on this town-owned parcel to both create more affordable housing and generate more downtown foot traffic.
 
 
Mark Development introduces new Riverside partner
 
Mark Development went before the Newton City Council to present its proposal to bring two life sciences buildings to its 13-acre Riverside Station project.
 
This time they’ve brought along their new partner, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, the “life-science development powerhouse” that is already adding a biotech facility just a little further down Grove Street at Riverside Station.
 

The lab buildings at Riverside Station would replace a previously approved hotel and office building, as well as some retail and housing units and generate about $800,000 in added annual tax revenue for the city. 
 
More significantly, it would give Newton a foothold in the "juicy lab market," establishing a cluster along I-95 that municipalities across the Commonwealth are competing to attract.
 
The project returns to the Land Use committee on April 27.
 
 
Watertown opens life sciences doors even wider
 
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Watertown's embrace of the life science sector has enabled the town to meet its pension liability and build three elementary schools without an override. (And I hope Newton's City Councilors are paying attention.)
 
Sure enough, this week Watertown's council took yet another step to welcome the sector. It approved a zoning ordinance to allow life science labs as well as light industrial uses in the downtown area near Watertown Square. (Watertown News)
 
 
Needham's Select Board no longer drama-free
 
Needham’s Select Board elected Matt Borrelli last night to serve as its chair and Marianne Cooley as vice chair for the next year.
 
The chair selections have been no drama affairs for years, as members politely rotate as predetermined.
 
But two-fifths of the board were brand new last night. And it quickly became clear that business as usual will no longer be usual.
 
Lakshmi Balachandra, and Marcus Nelson were elected less than 24 earlier and sitting in seats that had been occupied by John Bulian and Moe Handel for a combined three decades.
 
For a board where turnover is rare and unanimous votes have been typical, there were more spit decisions and abstentions last night than I can ever recall seeing from that board (including an effort by Balachandra to block a negotiated police pay raise).
 
And seemingly fearful of a split endorsement of the town meeting warrant item to rezone the Muzi/Channel 5 parcels, Borelli moved to delay that vote until the next board meeting.
 
It’s going to be a fascinating year. 
 
 
Need to knows
 
  • The Wellesley Recycling and Disposal Facility is offering free cardboard pickup from businesses in town for recycling. The cardboard has to be “clean” without other types of waste mixed in and be of a quantity that makes sense. Email James Manzolini for pickup.
  • The City of Newton, in partnership with the Town of Needham, and the MassTrails grant program is looking into reusing or replacing the rail bridge that connects Christina Street in Newton with Needham for use as a fully accessible, shared-use bicycle and pedestrian connection. They’ve created a short video that explains the project and a survey to collect input.
  • The Project Beacon Stop the Spread free COVID-19 testing site will close in Framingham at the end of this month. Framingham Source reports.
 
 
Is this seat taken? Let's hope not
 
The CDC says leaving middle seats open could give airline passengers more protection from COVID-19.
 
Risk of being exposed can be reduced by 23% to 57% if middle seats are empty, compared with a full flight. (Boston Globe)
 
 
Share your concerns about UI rate spike
 
By now many business owners and nonprofit operators have received their first quarter unemployment insurance tax bills and were likely stunned by the increase.
 
The assessment which was 0.58% in 2020, has climbed to 9.23%, adding thousands to many bills even for employers who never furloughed or laid off a single worker.  
 
Last week we joined other business groups, in asking state and federal leaders to provide relief from climbing UI rates.
 
We are also urging members to share your concerns with Beacon Hill about the pressure this increase puts on your operation. To make that process easy, we’re partnering with the Retailers Association of Mass which is making its voter voice platform available for you to contact lawmakers.
 
 
Finally, we're looking for a few volunteers
 
Earlier this week your chamber was able to help 100 restaurant and food service workers get a COVID-19 vaccine.
 
The initiative was made possible thanks to Newton Mayor Fuller and her team who introduced us to the Holtzman Medical Group which operates the Holtzman clinic on the UMass Mount Ida campus in Newton.
 
Restaurant workers (including servers, runners, bussers, etc.) are the only frontline workers who routinely come in contact with customers not required to always be wearing a mask in public.
 
Many also have language barriers, live in at-risk communities and need assistance and assurance with the process.
 
We learned late last night that Holtzman has some additional appointments available for additional employees next week. But we’re in need of a few volunteers to help with data entry for a few hours, preferably this Saturday (April 17) but otherwise on Monday (April 19).
 
Holtzman needs to know ASAP if they should hold the slots. Our restaurant owners to arrange transportation and schedule their employees. Email me if you can help.
 
Rest assured, our restaurants and their employees really appreciate it!
 
Be back tomorrow.
 
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

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