Thursday, March 10, 2016

Boston City Council Looks At Appointments, Voting in Our District, Urban Renewal & More

City Council President Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered these items and more at their March 9th and February 24th meetings:

Appointments pending Council Confirmation
• Back Bay West/Bay State Road Architectural Conservation District Commission: Pamela Beale (member) and Terri North (alternate) until April 2017
• Bay Village Historic District Commission: Stephen Dunwell and Ruth Knopf as members until June 2018
• Boston Landmarks Commission: John Amodeo (alternate) and John Freeman (member) until June 2018; Thomas Hotaling (member) and Bradford Walker (member) until June 2017
• South End Landmark District Commission: Catherine Hunt as member until June 2017
• St. Botolph Area Architectural Conservation District Commission: Francoise Elise as alternate until June 2017
• Fort Point District Commission: Thomas Rodde as alternate until May 2018

2016 Elections & Large Precincts: Councilor Linehan called for a hearing to discuss the voting plans for voters in disproportionately large precincts in Boston. Especially in District Two, voters must wait in several hour-long lines during high-turnout elections like the Presidential Election. Because reprecincting must happen at the state level, the City does not control where people vote, but we can make sure the Elections Department is as prepared as possible to move voters through quickly. The matter was referred to the City, Neighborhood Services & Veterans Affairs Committee for a hearing.

Urban Renewal: Councilor Linehan reported back on this last week’s public hearing and working session on the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s request for a 10-year extension of urban renewal powers. At last Thursday’s 4-hour hearing, the Council heard from the BRA, advocates, and stakeholders. Several Councilors went on record opposing a 10-year extension, citing the need for more accountability and changes to the plan boundaries. At yesterday’s working session, BRA Director Brian Golden reiterated that the BRA would submit an action plan of commitments to justify the need for an extension, as well as giving the Council more oversight over “minor modifications” to urban renewal plans. He also stated that the BRA would be open to a 7-year extension instead of 10 years, but believes Boston needs a longer extension to follow the principle of “do no harm” – because the BRA does not have an inventory of all the Loan Disposition Agreements (LDAs) that reference urban renewal powers, they worry that losing the powers might void contracts preserving affordable housing; also some current projects need urban renewal to proceed. Councilor Wu, along with several other Councilors, believe that the BRA should only receive a shorter-term extension because the power to bypass the Zoning Board of Appeals and lessen the chance of appealing a land use decision in court is extremely significant and must be narrowly tailored to the need. City Council President Wu would be open to a maximum authorization of 5-years for the BRA to complete their LDA inventory, redraw boundaries and edit plans, seek public feedback, then come back with a proper renewal request. The docket will remain in committee for further action, likely next week.

Puppy Mill Bill: Councilor O’Malley filed an ordinance that would prohibit the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits at stores in Boston with penalties of $300 per offense – only animal shelters or animal rescue organizations could make these pets available for sale, barter, auction, or transfer. Councilor O’Malley noted that pet stores often source from commercial breeding facilities that have multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and these inhumane conditions lead to health and behavioral issues in the animals, while shelters in Boston are experiencing an increased number of surrendered rabbits. The ordinance would also prohibit “roadside sales,” which are currently not regulated in Boston. The matter was sent to the Committee on Government Operations for a hearing.

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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