Pulling out a Bunker Hill flag and holding it high for the massive crowd in the Warren Prescott gym to see, BPDA Planner Ted Schwartzberg delivered the opening salvo in the battle of PLAN Charlestown – telling the audience the City is ready to work with them for the next two years, but that they didn’t come out to have a fight or to quench the craving for community melodrama.
PLAN Charlestown might be the most highly anticipated and talked-about community planning (or, if you will, Master Plan) processes in the City’s recent history. All of the hype over the process, and setting the ground rules and boundaries, came to a head last Thursday night, Jan. 30, in the Warren-Prescott gym with the kick off.
Set up as an Open House with several information stations to choose from, and a horde of BPDA specialists staffing them, residents could look into any aspect of planning that would come up – from environmental resiliency to land use to the current amounts of state/City-owned land.
First and foremost, they said this process won’t be about a fight.
“This is supposed to be a fair process, but it is not a fight,” said Schwartzberg. “If you’re coming for arguments, theatre or drama, this isn’t the place. If that’s what you’re looking for, I can give you my Netflix password and there’s plenty of drama to watch there. If you’re looking for a battle or an enemy, look at your neighbors here. If you fight this process, you’re fighting the opportunity to create a shared vision with your neighbors and us.”
Instead of a fight, he said people should expend that energy on drawing more people to the planning meetings – people who may not speak English, or are working several jobs or don’t know the process is happening.
“If you want to do something that benefits the world of planning, I would encourage you to direct that energy at getting people here who are not yet at the table,” he said.
With that, Schwartzberg produced the Bunker Hill flag and proclaimed that the process was for the people of Charlestown.
“This is the Bunker Hill flag,” he said. “What that means is I’m here to work for you.”
That was followed with applause, and by and large, approval.
Some other keys to the process included that there is no timeline on the effort, as he said they don’t know how long it will last – though other processes across the city have averaged around two years.
Second, the Bunker Hill Redevelopment process will be a part of the PLAN Charlestown effort, though it will also follow its own path of meetings for the typical Article 80 process.
“PLAN Charlestown is all of Charlestown,” he said. “If you’re from the Lost Village, you’re lost no more. You’re part of this. The Navy Yard already has a plan, but we’re not going to ignore you. And of course, the BHA Bunker Hill Development is part of this. There is no way you could talk about everything you need to talk about with Bunker Hill in a planning meeting – from transportation and open space. There are separate meetings for that, but it is a part of this too.”
He said that he would be attending Bunker Hill meetings as a representative of PLAN Charlestown, and BPDA Project Manager Raul Duverge would be attending PLAN Charlestown meetings as a representative of the Bunker Hill process.
Another major promise was that there would be no RFPs issued for BPDA-owned or City-owned land during the planning process.
“There will be no new RFPs on BPDA or City land until we have a plan from this process,” he said.
State Rep. Dan Ryan said he had been calling for such a planning effort for years to make sure development on the edges of the Town doesn’t overtake the traditional neighborhoods.
“This is about being proactive and not reactive to development,” he said. “We have done a lot of showing up to meetings and yelling about individual plans. However, we’ve never come together over two years to come up with a plan that works for the future. This many people are here because it’s a great place to live.”
City Councilor Lydia Edwards said many are skeptical, but urged everyone to work through the process.
“This community will work for this community and will fight for this community’s future,” she said.
“It is about the process; process engenders trust,” she continues. “Because of mishaps in the past, people are here with guarded trust but I want to acknowledge those coming with an open mind…I have watched the BPDA in East Boston plan things for the last year. We’ve done walking tours. I’ve seen it happen. I know we can do this.”
Of the subjects and departments that will be intimately involved in the effort will be infrastructure, roads, transportation, open space, water/sewer pipes, emergency services, environmental resiliency, Boston Public Schools, historic resources, water transportation and archives – among others.