Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Boston City Council Looks At Charter Amendment, Hybrid Meetings, Cannabis, Urban Wild, Boston History, & Much More

City Councilor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. Below are some highlights from May 2021 Boston City Council meetings:


Hybrid, Remote and In-Person City Council Operations: The Council voted to approve a Special Petition from Councilor O’Malley regarding An Act Concerning the Operations of the Boston City Council. This special law would allow the City Council to conduct committee hearings, working sessions, and meetings remotely, in a hybrid format, or in person at the discretion of the Chair. The petition now moves to the Massachusetts State Legislature for approval.

Ballot Question on Amending the City Charter: The Council voted to approve an order from Councilor Lydia Edwards to amend the Charter of the City of Boston by submission of a question for approval by the voters. Last fall, we voted to send this proposed charter amendment, which would , to move to the Attorney General’s office for approval. This order contains slight revisions to the previous language, based on feedback from stakeholders throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including clarifying the parameters around participatory budgeting to be consistent with state law. With the Council’s approval, this order now requires approval from the Acting Mayor and then the Attorney General before appearing on the ballot for the city election on November 2 for approval by Boston voters. 


Boston Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) update: Councilor O’Malley called for a hearing to discuss an update to BERDO. Buildings contribute to three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions in the City of Boston. In 2013, the Council passed BERDO to require that all commercial and residential buildings that are 35,000 square feet or more, or have 35 units or more, report their energy and water use to the City every year. The ordinance was amended in 2014, and in 2019, the Climate Action Plan Update introduced an amendment to BERDO to replace the energy action and assessment requirement with a building emissions performance standard by 2021. This matter was referred to the Committee on Environment, Resiliency and Parks.

Removing Parking Minimums for Affordable Housing: Councilors Bok and O’Malley proposed a text amendment to the Boston Zoning Code to remove parking minimums for affordable housing units. Parking minimums are being used to stall or prevent new affordable housing development, most recently at the Zoning Board of Appeals in regards to proposed senior housing development at 3371 Washington Street and a supportive housing project at 37 Wales Street, both in close proximity to public transit. Removing parking minimums would be the first step of a broader strategy to offer zoning relief for 100% affordable projects, making it easier to build housing for lower income Boston residents. This matter was referred to the Committee on Government Operations.

Equitable Regulation of the Cannabis Industry: Councilors Edwards and Flaherty filed an ordinance amending CBC Chapter 8-13 Ensuring Equitable Regulation of the Cannabis Industry in the City of Boston. The ordinance would remove the Zoning Board of Appeals from the conditional permit approval process, leaving approval to the Boston Cannabis Board; preserve and clarify requirements around the half-mile buffer zone to avoid the overconcentration of marijuana shops in one area; and streamline the process for dispensaries to apply for relevant permits for delivery services. This matter was referred to the Committee on Government Operations.

Zoning Amendment for Marijuana Establishments: Councilors Edwards and Flaherty filed an order regarding a text amendment to the Boston Zoning Code with respect to marijuana establishments, codifying the changes in the proposed ordinance above. This matter was referred to the Committee on Government Operations.

108 Walter Street: The Council voted to authorize the City of Boston Conservation Commission (ConCom) to receive a property located at 108 Walter Street in Roslindale, part of the Roslindale Wetland urban wild. This property is currently in the care and custody of the BPDA and will be transferred to ConCom for purposes of preservation, after many years of advocacy from neighborhood residents and community organizations. An adjacent parcel is moving through the process for a new affordable housing development. 

Boston Commemoration Commission: Councilor Bok filed an ordinance to create the Boston Commemoration Commission, taking advantage of the upcoming 250th anniversary of 1776, the upcoming 400th anniversary of the founding of Boston, and other significant historical anniversaries to tell the full range of our history. This matter was assigned to the Committee on Government Operations.

For complete notes of Boston City Council meetings, visit to sign up to receive Council Notes automatically.

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