Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Changes to Article 80: Councilor-At-Large Candidates Respond to Questionnaire

Many of the candidates for the Boston City Councilor-At-Large seat responded to the Brighton Centered questionnaire. Here you can see all of their responses to one of those questions.

QUESTION: What specific changes do you think should be made to Article 80 of the zoning code?

COUNCILOR FELIX ARROYO: I have proposed the creation of a City Planning Department and elected Planning Board which would require substantial changes to Article 80 and the large development review process. In addition, I have supported and will continue to support changes to improve community process, to encourage environmentally-friendly building practices, and to maintain open space. In general, Article 80 needs to be looked at comprehensively to ensure that reforms are implanted that broaden and strengthen community-based planning for houses, schools, and open space.

JOHN CONNOLLY: Article 80, which governs most development projects in the city including Institutional Master Plans, does not provide sufficient time for communities to comment on proposals submitted by developers and institutions. Presently, the maximum time for a community to respond to even the most complex of proposals is 75 days. As we saw with the recent Harvard Science Complex, communities need more time to review and comment on such proposals and to receive adequate responses to their concerns. I believe that the timelines under Article 80 should be extended.

COUNCILOR MICHAEL FLAHERTY: I support having a clearly defined process that legitimately allows for the public to participate in the review process for all proposed real estate development projects. However, I believe that process should be consistently employed and have a finite start and end, something that I think the current process – under Article 80 – lacks. Too many times, I have seen proposed projects languish indefinitely, with its lengthy and ambiguous review process wearing down all parties, especially the public. Not only does this frustrate the public and developers, it results in costly delays. We need to refine Article 80 in a way that strikes a balance between providing appropriate opportunities for public review and at the same time, keeping to some kind of sensible, cost-efficient timeline.

MATTHEW GEARY: The review process is constantly being stepped over and neglects the needs of neighborhoods. Specifically, the ability of the BRA to waive neighborhood review, based on its own determination is a serious problem. The process of development needs to be fully transparent, with full disclosure of all impacts and disclosure of the full development plans. Developers should not have the ability to negotiate privately with the BRA, disregarding the desires of the community. The city should not be making vague promises that it will make sure the neighborhoods concerns will be addressed after approval, it should be empowering the process of meeting the communities development needs.

MARTIN HOGAN: I feel that making changes relevant to Article 80 of the zoning code is narrowing our scope too small. The problem with our city and the way the ZBA and the BRA affect us is in the fact that our city council, which are there to represent the residents and neighborhoods of the city, has no binding power over either entity or the way in which they choose to redevelop/destroy our lands. I feel that the only way to combat this is for the council to, with new direction and resolve, work together and with the state legislature to eliminate the current authority and restructure a new one under city control.

COUNCILOR SAM YOON: The Article 80 process, while well intentioned, is limited as the process which gives the community a voice in development. I would like to see the current Article 80 process improved. Right now residents can comment on a project but that is as far as it goes, there is nothing that requires the developer to listen to the community. Additionally, there is very little accountability for ensuring that developers keep promises made to the community during this process. A perfect example of this is Harvard’s Science Complex. While this project went through a complete Article 80 process it was clear to me that the concerns of the community were not addressed.

There need to be incentives to encourage or require developers and the BRA to take a more serious look at the concerns of the community. As someone who worked in community development in Chinatown I understand the importance of building trust between the developers and the community so that the development reflects a shared vision for the neighborhood. This is something that has yet to happen in Allston/Brighton, and without a way to hold a developer accountable to the community, it will be a very difficult task.

Candidate David Wyatt and Councilor Stephen Murphy did not respond to the questionnaire.

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