It's existed for over half a century and it is the map of property that regulates what you can and cannot do with your property. It is really a social compact in a community designed to channel development of different kinds into different areas so there is not conflict over uses of which the impact crosses property lines. The best example would be not allowing residential in an industrial zone.
When you buy property for a given purpose, its important to make sure the zoning is consistent for what you want to do, as getting a change of zoning is very difficult and often meets with neighborhood opposition.
It's not a perfect system as the community is always changing and the types of use for property have changed.
On Breen Avenue, the land has historically been mixed-use and is mostly zoned residential B and Residential C. The land proposed for a shelter home is zoned residential C. In both B and C, boarding houses are allowed, which is essentially what this project is.
This comes down to property rights. A property owner has a right to build what is specifically allowed in the zoning law, just as they don't have a right to build things not authorized in a residential zone.
For example, if something is zoned commercial, the property owner has a right to build a Burger King with site plan approval. The fact that City Council may prefer Wendy's or may think the Burger King contributes to obesity is not a legitimate way for a Council to regulate property rights.
The regulatory role of the City is to require an appropriate site plan that is reviewed by the Planning Board and ratified by City Council.
A site plan is not a judgement on the use. It's merely a judgement on whether the structure, layout and landscaping fit reasonable standards.
In this case, the owner of the property has a right to sell to whomever they want and the new owner has a right to develop within the confines of zoning.
Those who do not agree can lobby the prospective owners not to move ahead. They can lobby the Board of Directors of the agency in question or attack their funding sources or do whatever they want to dissuade them.
Asking the City Council to override its own zoning in place for decades is not likely to happen and is subject to court review.
Watertown Daily Times Council expected to vote on Monday on proposed women’s shelter project