Friday, February 12, 2016

Boston City Council Looks At Community Preservation, Urban Renewal Powers, Marijuana & More

City Council President Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered these items and more on February 10, 2016:


Community Preservation Act: Councilors Flaherty & Campbell filed an order that would accept the provisions of the MA Community Preservation Act. If the Council votes to approve the order, this would place the matter on the ballot for voters in the 2016 elections. The Community Preservation Act allows cities and towns to put a surcharge on property tax with the revenue going to open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing. The State also provides some matching funds. The order before the Council would put a 1% surcharge on the ballot. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.

Urban Renewal Powers Extension: Councilor Linehan reported back on the Urban Renewal working session yesterday, which all 13 Councilors attended. At the working session, BRA Director Brian Golden, Planner & Urban Renewal lead Corey Zehngebot, BRA Senior Attorney Janet Carlson, and General Counsel Renee LeFevre walked through some specific projects and how Urban Renewal tools speed up site assembly, title clearance, etc. The fourteen individual plans identified for extension by the BRA include: Brunswick-King, Campus High School, Central Business District (Boylston-Essex), Central Business District (Franklin), Central Business District (South Station), Charlestown, Waterfront-Faneuil Hall, Fenway, Government Center, Kittredge Square, Park Place, South Cove, the South End, and Washington Park. Most Councilors seemed unconvinced about the need for a 10-year renewal of the exact same powers granted under the original plans, with no adjustments of plan boundaries, timelines, or specifics after the last year of public process. The item will remain in the Planning & Development Committee for further discussion before the April 2016 expiration.

MA School Building Authority: The Council voted to pass the order to submit Statements of Interest for the Accelerated Repair Program to the MSBA, as recommended by Chair Mark Ciommo. These would cover roof repairs at the West Roxbury Education Complex, Jackson/Mann K-8 in Allston, MrCormack Middle School in Dorchester, and Dever Elementary in Dorchester; and boiler repairs at the Boston Latin School, Channing Elementary in Hyde Park, and Condon Elementary in South Boston. Construction will occur over Summer 2017. The deadline is Friday, and if approved, would provide 65% reimbursement of costs.

Snow Removal Exemption: Councilors Flaherty & Jackson reported back on the well-attended hearing on Councilor Jackson’s proposed ordinance that would create an exemption for residents over 60 years old and disabled residents from the City’s snow removal rules. Currently, the City requires all homeowners to shovel the sidewalk in front of their home within 3 hours of snowfall, with a $50/day fine for non-compliance. At the hearing, Elderly Commissioner Emily Shea and Public Works Code Enforcement Director Steve Tankle testified that there is already a process for dismissing seniors’ tickets from non-compliance if the Elderly Commission can verify that the senior is unable to shovel or find help shoveling. The major concern was around ensuring accessibility, and many Councilors agreed that a volunteer program would not be feasible for coordination and accountability reasons. The matter will remain in the Government Operations Committee for further hearings.

Homelessness Families and Youth: Councilor Essaibi George gave her first speech on the floor, calling for a hearing on the impacts of homelessness on children, young adults and families in Boston.  She noted that this would be a long conversation with three goals: 1) acknowledging the crisis of family and child homelessness, 2) encouraging families to come out of the shadows by creating language to preserve the dignity of individuals seeking help, and 3) finding more effective and efficient ways to serve homeless families and children in schools and shelters. She noted that there are 4,000 homeless students in our schools. Many Councilors rose to thank Councilor Essaibi George for her leadership and efforts, noting important crossovers into other committees such as education and health. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health & Recovery.

Medical Marijuana Zoning Amendment: Councilor Flaherty refiled his zoning amendment from last year establishing a zoning prohibition that would bar any additional medical or recreational marijuana sales within 1 mile of an existing medical marijuana dispensary. The matter was assigned to the Planning & Development Committee.

For complete notes on this meeting and prior Boston City Council meeting notes, visit MichelleForBoston.com or sign up to receive these notes automatically each week by email. 

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