Leaders of the alliance of neighbors and community groups calling for a planning process said this week that it is up to the neighborhood to define the process it wants – also dropping the Master Plan moniker and calling it simply, PLAN.
Amanda Zettel, of the Charlestown Preservation Society, said they had a meeting with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) last week to help discuss the next steps in the process. She said they are all on the same page, despite some disagreements over verbiage recently.
“This initial three-month period is important because this input will determine the scope of what we want it to address,” she said. “We have to come out and convey that now to them. They are open to the entire boundary of the neighborhood. They have to find that out by hearing it from the neighborhood. We are on the right path.”
That path, however, doesn’t include the words Master Plan.
While the initial call for planning in Charlestown came in the form of a Master Plan, the BPDA said that technically it cannot do a Master Plan for one neighborhood. They said it was semantics, which some disagree with in the Town, but Zettel said their point is valid.
While the Master Planning statute in state law is fairly clear, it also is clear in stating that Boston is exempt from that law because it has its own planning agency. The only place where the BPDA can technically do a Master Plan is for an institution like a hospital or for a Planned Development Area (PDA), which has to be more than one acre.
“We need a comprehensive plan because we need to look at schools and parking and traffic and sewage and development and all these things,” she said. “We are not calling it a Master Plan because it doesn’t not apply to what we want legally. We will be calling it ‘PLAN’ now…What we’re really doing is filling in the blanks of what the Boston 2030 Master Plan did not specify. The only way to get the solutions to our infrastructure issue is to work within the processes we have in place. The BPDA is the planning authority for the City of Boston. If we want to go have conversations around parking, traffic and schools, we have to work with the City to do that.”
Zettel said they have gotten outside advice and are working with a company that is a vendor for the BPDA – a company that will be an impartial third party to help the neighborhood.
The next Chat with a Planner takes place on Sept. 17 in the Charlestown Library from 4-6 p.m. However, the BPDA planners have said they are willing to visit any organization or group of people that are interested in hearing about the process and giving input.
“What’s important for the Neighborhood Alliance at this point is to have people come out to the meetings and have their say and to independently verify that what the City is representing is true,” she said.
One Charlestown project ready to begin meetings in the fall alongside planning process
The development team for the Bunker Hill Housing re-habilitation has been out meeting with select community members throughout the summer and is preparing to hold more general meetings this fall.
That comes as the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) announced this week that the One Charlestown process will run hand-in-hand with the overall PLAN process for Charlestown.
“Since our May community meeting, we’ve been working diligently throughout the summer with the CRA and BHA on planning issues, in addition to maintaining an open dialogue with any Charlestown residents who may have questions,” read a statement from Corcoran/Leggat McCall Properties. “As we progress, we’ll continue on this path with the goal of providing a new update and soliciting additional resident feedback at the next community meeting to be held this fall.”
Ted Schwartzberg, Charlestown planner for the BPDA, said both the One Charlestown project and the PLAN would work in tandem.
“You will have elements from the planning process that will very clearly inform the Article 80 process for One Charlestown,” he said. “One Charlestown by the same token, as it goes through Article 80 process, that will in turn inform the planning process.”
Schwartzberg said it is something that happens several times around the City, and with great success. He said whenever a big project is under review during a major planning initiative, it is always good practice to work them hand-in-hand.