A year ago, during the planning process for the 2021 City of Cambridge budget, and in an attempt to minimize the impact of the city’s levy on residents, the Cambridge City Council approved the reorganization of some city staff positions, along with offering early retirement incentives for others. One year later, the city has come to realize some of those changes might not be working as hoped for. Because of this, and also because of some recent staffing changes, the council has approved a couple of changes that remedy these issues.

The biggest of these changes involves Marcia Westover, who had previously served as the city’s Community Development Director. As part of last year’s reorganization, many of her duties were transitioned to the assistant city administrator position, and Westover’s position was redefined as that of a city planner.

In light of the departure of the now-former assistant city administrator, City Administrator Evan Vogel proposed recreating the community development director position and naming Westover to that position. Vogel also proposed beginning the hiring process of a new assistant city administrator, with the newly defined job description included. A considerable portion of that description would be having the assistant city administrator perform the duties of what was formerly known as the city’s economic development director.

“What some of the moves I am proposing here are moves that I think fit me as an administrator better, and I think will help facilitate a better work flow for our staff,” Vogel told the council. “I think the suggestions I made here are based on looking at what the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are of the organization, and finding what I believe is not only a good way forward today, but a good way of looking at the next five to seven years.

“We have lost an assistant city administrator, which means we have lost a department head,” he continued. “There is a significant void in the output and work we need to have done here at City Hall.”

He added he felt the changing of the job description for an assistant city administrator would make it more attractive to quality applicants.

He concluded by saying these changes were already accounted for in the proposed 2022 budget. The council unanimously approved both actions.

Council to look into changing property’s conditional zoning

Also at the Nov. 15 meeting, the council heard from Dan Smith, owner of the now-closed Perkins restaurant. Smith came before the council to ask that they consider modifying a declaration made on the property back in 1999. Smith said that at that time, the property was broken up into three lots, with one of the lots being designated as only being able to house a restaurant.

Smith explained he closed Perkins on Sept. 1 due to a lack of employees and the fact his franchise contract was up, and he didn’t want to dedicate 10 more years to the business. Therefore, he is now in the process of finding a buyer for the property.

Smith said one perspective buyer has come forward in the form of an unnamed national convenience store chain. However, that buyer is leery of the property’s designation, citing that while they will serve prepared food such as pizza and hot dogs, their business isn’t a “sit-down restaurant.” Smith said if the city was willing to remove that designation, it would alleviate the gray-area of the designation and make the sale more likely to move forward.

According to City Attorney Jay Squires, to do such an action, the council would have to vote to indicate they are interested in making this change, and to move it forward to the planning commission. If the planning commission votes to recommend this change, it would then go back to the city council for formal action.

The council has added the first step in this process to its Dec. 6 council meeting.

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