Ward 3 and City Update January 27, 2016

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

There is much going on here in our city, here are some of the more newsworthy items that are occurring now:

Last evening (1/26) the ZBA met on several high profile issues to a packed gallery of neighbors and residents. The 77 Lime Street project was the keynote agenda item. The property developer was appealing to the ZBA for relief of the Building Commissioner’s decision in regards to excessive height. The previously issued ZBA special permit specified the maximum height of the building. The “as built” height was determined to exceed the special permit height by fourteen (14) inches. Once this was determined, the Building Commissioner issued an order enforcing the Special Permit by requiring a height reduction. This was the basis of the appeal. Numerous residents spoke for and against the order. The builder claimed that this height deviation was based on a series of unforeseen circumstances and that construction was not an exact science. The ZBA rejected this argument and in a 3-2 decision supported the Building Commissioner’s enforcement order to lower the height. The proponent then petitioned for relief but the ZBA opined that any change from the aforementioned approved plans would need a new hearing which needed to include new plans for the remedy. Therefore, that was continued and there will be further maneuvers to finish this project.

Eight (8) Strong Street was also before ZBA. This is a new home project on the lot of the demolished house that made headlines last year. A small, sensible scale plan was submitted for, in my view, a Bungalow style home with attached garage. The plan fits the character of the neighborhood and it received praise and unanimous support from the neighbors and was approved 5-0. Meanwhile, the 48 Boardman Street project was continued to a later date due to time constraints (the hearing on Boardman would have started way after 10:00 PM). Also the permit for free standing signs at the Kent/Merrimac St gas station was continued due to a lack of a ZBA quorum as several members had to recuse themselves.

The parking garage is still in limbo. As reported in (1/27) the Daily News, the mayor has opted to reduce the scope of the garage. While City Council has not received any hard information as to what this proposal entails, the mayor has verbally mentioned a reduction to 200-225 spaces and moving 100 spaces off the waterfront and a reduction in cost to $10 Million from the original $16 Million. Mark your calendars; February 10 @ 7:00 PM City Hall Auditorium a City Council committee meeting is being held to discuss the $600K garage bond order. February 11 @ 7:00 PM City Hall Auditorium a meeting hosted by the Planning Officer for Abutters (and any interested parties) of the proposed garage. I have and will continue to press the mayor’s office to explore all options and locations. For bonding purposes, a supermajority or 8 of 11 Councillors must support the proposal.

Several Councillors, including me, have submitted questions surrounding the project to the mayor and staff. Many if not all need answers before we move forward. As an example, the Titcomb Street site was conditionally approved in 2010 with no cost estimate for property acquisition. There may be no better site out there, but if you haven’t explored all options and weighed those options and facts you are not doing due diligence.

Further there is no new information on the hotel or other development of the Waterfront West Overlay District.

Councillor Eigerman and I co-sponsored an ordinance amendment to link some development of the new 40R district (near Rt. 1 traffic circle) to safety improvements for pedestrians. 40R is the state euphemism for a transportation based zoning district; ours linked to the MBTA station. Currently there is no pedestrian access to the station from several of the parcels. This action will hopefully cause the state to come to the table on improving our Rt. 1 corridor and temporally eliminates the unsafe pedestrian condition. This is currently in committee.
There is much going on and a lot to digest. The above are more of the high profile topics. I also continue to work on Merrimac Street safety improvements, an “A-frame” sign ordinance, High School security improvements and a final resolution of the Brown School just to name a few.

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