Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Boston City Council Looks At Art Grants, BYOB, Linkage Fees & More

Councillor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered the items below at the December 9, 2015 meeting:. 

Arts & Culture Grants: The Council voted to suspend & pass 3 grants for the Mayor's Office of Arts & Culture. 1) $100K from the National Endowment for the Arts to support a year-long Boston Artists in Residence program pairing 10 local artists with 12 city departments for a social/civic partnership and presentation on 1/23/2015. After that, three residencies will be selected. 2) $5K from Robert Treat Paine Association to support Emerge, a new version of the annual Boston Arts Festival, held at City Hall. 3) $1.5K from the Gililean Fund to support a new annual exhibition of emerging artists in City Hall's Scollary Square Gallery, with prizes for 3 categories of emerging local artists. Usually these items would have a hearing and come back before the Council for a vote, but with just one meeting left before the end of the year, we didn't want to hold up the department from pursuing these initiatives.

BYOB: Councilors Flaherty, Murphy & Wu reported back on Monday's BYOB hearing as a productive conversation that was positive overall. The proposed ordinance would end Boston’s ban on BYOB and allow the city’s Licensing Board to issue regulations. The authority to issue specific alcohol regulations lies with the Licensing Board, but the Council will likely attach a set of draft regulations reflecting input from stakeholders - these include a 30-seat limit on BYOB restaurants, a limit on the amount of alcohol that diners can bring in, a restriction on BYOB to neighborhoods outside the downtown, etc. More details on the hearing hereTwo items came out of the committee hearing that would require amendments: the need to clarify that BYOB cannot happen in restaurants without a BYOB license, and specific limits on the amount of alcohol. The item remains in the Government Operations committee likely until next week’s meeting.

Medical Marijuana Zoning Amendment: Councilor Flaherty reported back on the hearing about establishing a zoning prohibition that would bar any additional medical or recreational marijuana sales within 2500 ft of an existing medical marijuana dispensary. The matter remains in the Committee on Economic Development, Planning & Labor for additional work in the next year.

Fenway Parking: Councilors LaMattina & Zakim reported back on this week’s hearing to review the Fenway Parking ordinance’s implementation over the last year.  The ordinance increased the fines for parking in residential spots without a resident parking sticker 2 hours before, during, and after a Red Sox game and also during other events as designated by the City.  The penalty was increased from $40 (which is comparable or even cheaper than Game Day parking in the area) to $100, and there was a sunset clause so the ordinance would expire at the end of 2015. Residents, representatives from the Red Sox, and other stakeholders were very positive about the enforcement and results, citing much less congestion and open resident parking spaces on Game Days. The matter was placed on file, and Councilor Zakim said he would look to file an ordinance in the new year without a sunset clause and potentially expanding the neighborhoods involved.

Linkage Fees: Councilors LaMattina & Flaherty reported back on the Linkage Fees hearing yesterday. Administration representatives stated that they planned to conduct a nexus study to understand the impact on development before November 2016, the next possible time to increase the linkage amounts by law. Advocates asked for a home rule petition prior to then that would recover funds from missed increases over the years and taking advantage of the currently booming development market. The matter will stay in the Economic Development Committee.

E-commerce Exchange Zones: The Council voted to suspend and pass Councilor O'Malley's resolution that the Council urges the creation of E-commerce Exchange Zones in police stations and other public buildings in Boston. With the increasing popularity of online shopping websites like Craigslist, offering a trusted space for people to exchange payment for items would help keep residents safe.

Winthrop Square Garage: The Council voted 10-3 (Councilors Jackson, Pressley & Yancey voting in the minority) to transfer the city-owned parking garage (which has been shut down since 2013 as a public safety hazard) at 115 Federal Street to the Public Facilities Commission, which will transfer it to the Boston Redevelopment Authority for disposition. Representatives from the Department of Neighborhood Development had stated that they did not have the expertise or capacity to manage a deal as complex as this one. In response to Council questions, an amended Memorandum of Agreement between the BRA and City of Boston includes legal language guaranteeing that the proceeds will be for the City, not the BRA, and it will go to the Surplus Property Disposition Fund, which requires a Council vote if any funds are to be applied to the operating budget. The BRA will have a two-phase public process, to get feedback on the responses to the RFI before designating a buyer, and then through the Article 80 process once a buyer has been designated. More info.

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

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