Mayor Martin Walsh made a surprise visit to Monday night’s Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association (JPNA) meeting to update residents on some city issues and have an informal conversation with residents here.
“I was sitting in my office when I made the decision to get back out to civic associations in the city and talk to people about the issues,” said Walsh. “By nature, administrations go from outward looking to inward looking so I realized I wanted to get back out and hear from residents instead of relying solely on neighborhood coordinators and other staff. I’m here to talk about whatever you want to talk about.”
Walsh said when he was campaigning for Mayor of Boston in 2013 he constantly heard that aside from a few waterfront development projects, nothing much was going on to improve housing and the economy of the neighborhood.
“Now fast forward to today and now I hear there is too much development going on,” said Walsh. “East Boston has become one of those neighborhoods that people want to be in…developers want to come and develop and people want to come here to live. It really has to do with the success of your neighborhood but there are concerns and I hear those concerns.”
To address some of those concerns and ensure that all development in Eastie has a community process Walsh directed the Boston Planning and Development Agency develop an Interim Planning Overlay District, or IPOD, for Eastie.
The IPOD now encompasses all of Eastie with the exception of Suffolk Downs and the Airport and will effectively end so called ‘as of right’ projects. The IPOD does not change current zoning but sends all projects above the defined threshold to the ZBA for approval.
The city has set this threshold at 1,000 sq. ft. What this means is that any resident or developer looking to erect a building or add an addition that is 1,000 sq. ft. or more will now have to go through the same community process as larger development projects. All the projects above the new defined threshold will have to go to the ZBA. These projects are now subjected to the same process like abutters meetings, community group meeting and ZBA hearings. This will not stop development but there will be no such thing as an ‘as of right’ project said the Mayor.
Another thing Walsh has done is kickoff the BPDA’s PLAN:East Boston over the summer and since the kickoff there have been several workshops.
Eastie was chosen as one of five neighborhoods that will be part of the BPDA’s planning initiative as part of an Imagine Boston 2030-guided effort to ‘preserve, enhance and grow’ the neighborhood.
The city has been working closely with Eastie community groups, community leaders and other stakeholders to ensure decisions made by the city are following the guiding principles of “preserves wisely, enhances equitably, and grows inclusively”.
As part of the initiative in Eastie a comprehensive planning will include a focus on balancing contextually-sensitive development alongside preservation. There will also be a focus on supporting existing residents and businesses through increased access to opportunity, affordability strategies, and anti-displacement policies.
One of the highlights in Eastie will be improving the public realm and access to open space and neighborhood-serving amenities, addressing mobility challenges, and supporting neighborhood resiliency and preparing for climate change.
The city will work with the community in Eastie’s half dozen enclaves with a focus on the the neighborhoods here that are facing increased development pressures. Working with the community the city will determine a shared vision for the future of the neighborhood. Community discussion will focus on preservation of the existing residential fabric, enhancement of the vitality of existing residential communities and businesses, anti-displacement strategies for residents and businesses, connectivity along the waterfront, mobility, and flood protection and climate resiliency the Mayor said.
With residents Monday night Walsh had discussions on development, street cleanliness, traffic and other topics of concern to residents.
Mayor Martin Walsh stops by the Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association meeting Monday night for an informal chat with residents.