Councilor Coletta Offers a Hearing Order on the 2020 Zoning Board of Appeal

 Boston City Councilor Councilor Gabriela Coletta submitted a hearing order on An Executive Order Relative to the Zoning Board of Appeal signed into law on February 24, 2020 by then Mayor Martin J. Walsh. 

“With the recent appointments of new members to the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) it is crucial that as a City we work to ensure compliance and accountability to the Executive Order signed by former Mayor Marty Walsh in 2020,” said Councilor Coletta. “The ZBA holds a critical role in deciding what our communities will look like presently and in the future. We must advocate for the ethics, transparency, efficiency, and community trust of the Zoning Board of Appeal.”

Requirements of the 2020 Executive Order include but are not
limited to:

• Board members must recuse themselves on properties with conflict of interest within the past 5 years.

• Board members must submit annual statements of their financial interest in projects around the city.

• Board members must undergo ethics training.

• Enable on-line application and payment for permits and petitions to ISD

• Enable email notification of notice to hearings, deferrals, and new hearing dates to those who sign up for notifications within 18 months of the order

• Update and improve online subscription list for residents within specific geographic zones within 18 months of the order.

• Update and improve existing database such that it is searchable and contains all pending applications, deferrals, and decided petitions, including decisions themselves, within 18 months of the order.

• Designate an ombudsperson to answer questions and inform members of the public about Board procedures and the process by which they can provide testimony, within 45 days of the order. 

It also prevents board members from voting on projects in which they had a financial interest within the last five years. Board members also are barred from having substantial business dealings on projects they voted on for two years after the vote.

Councilors Coletta seeks to confirm that the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) and the Department of Innovation and Technology are following the protocols directed by then-Mayor Walsh’s Executive Order. The Councilor plans to work extensively with her City Council Colleagues and the Wu Administration to make certain the City is carrying out the requirements related to ethics and transparency as well as those related to the modernization, function, and efficiency of the board.

Highlights of the Order Include:

“WHEREAS, Terms of the Executive Order include Ethics and Transparency measures where “each member shall disclose all properties or project which they or their business associates have business dealings, ownership interests, or investments, and which are likely to be before the Board for any reason”; and

WHEREAS,  On September 26th, 2022, Mayor Michelle Wu appointed new members to the Zoning Board of Appeal in support of said reforms from this order and to address community mistrust with the process; and

WHEREAS,  In order to build a city that is affordable, environmentally resilient, and equitable, members of the Zoning Board of Appeal must regulate zoning rules that take into account transportation planning, community development, affordable housing creation, sustainable development and architectural design, and construction; and

WHEREAS,  To that end, it is integral that the City of Boston ensure all reforms from the 2020 Executive Order are addressed and implemented when appointing new members and when making systemic changes to the Zoning Board of Appeal; NOW, THEREFORE BE IT 

ORDERED:  That the appropriate Committee of the Boston City Council hold a hearing to discuss the implementation of Zoning Board of Appeal reforms from the 2020 Executive Order and that the relevant departments be invited to testify.

The Boston City Council will hold a hearing at a later date. Members of the public are encouraged to provide written or oral comments. 

For additional information, including how to testify, please contact the Office of Councilor Gabriela Coletta by phone at (617) 635-3200 or by email at [email protected].

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