Boston City Councilor Sal LaMattina is calling for a hearing to find ways to link private development dollars with improving the city’s dynamic public park system.
With Boston’s 2,200 acre park system woefully under funded, LaMattina said there could be an opportunity to create a mitigation package similar to what Mayor Thomas Menino issued thirteen years ago in an executive order creating the Inclusionary Development Program (IDP), which requires developers of residential real estate to set aside 13 percent of their units for affordable housing or pay 15 percent of the total project cost into a fund to build affordable housing. LaMattina hopes that some money from private development would start streaming into Boston parks.
“Boston has one of the most dynamic public park systems in the country, with nearly four percent of the City’s total land area maintained by the Parks Department and much more supported by State or private entities,” said LaMattina. “Despite all the benefits out parks provide, public parks are thoroughly under funded both nationally and here in Boston. That shortfall means we struggle to fix broken parks and playgrounds and the rate that would fully preserve this important public service. ”
LaMattina said the City of Boston Parks & Recreation has a Fiscal Year 2013 operating budget of $16.8 million with almost $11 million going to salaries. This leaves very little money left for park enhancements, beautification upgrades or
“The Mayor stated in March that he expects $5 billion in development to break ground this year in Boston, which is tremendous,” said LaMattina. “For example, some of that money has already been pledged to the parks system – such as Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital offering funds to help construct a park for children with special needs near their new Charlestown campus.”
However, LaMattina said much more can and should be done to work with developers to support the parks system that has contributed to the value of their properties and encourages people to live, work and shop near their facilities.
“It is not unheard of to work with – and even require – developers to set aside private money for public and community assets,” said LaMattina. “I know the Mayor and all of us want to keep Boston beautiful. I know that we recognize that protecting, preserving and improving our parks is vital to continuing to grow Boston’s population and maintaining our status as a world class city.”
LaMattina is planning to hold a hearing that will include testimony from the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Parks and Recreation Department, and the Office of Budget Management.
“This hearing should enable us to explore how best we can ‘Keep Boston Beautiful’ and provide adequate funding for our parks system,” said LaMattina.