By Seth Daniel
The Steering Committee for the Charlestown Waterfront Coalition (CWC) has submitted a letter this week to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) asking for a more thoughtful use of the Impact Advisory Group (IAG) process in the wake of the One Charlestown review last fall.
The 90-day delay in development was lifted on the project last Friday, March 31, and the CWC submitted its letter on Monday saying that the use of IAGs in Charlestown is a departure from the traditional model of utilizing the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC), and that should be kept in mind when appointing people to an IAG.
The letter came in the wake of an instruction BPDA meeting last Thursday, March 30, that outlined the process used in Article 80 large project reviews, including the role of the IAG committee.
“We want to urge the BPDA and the development group to open up the IAG process and take Mayor (Martin) Walsh’s pledge for an open and transparent administration to heart,” read the letter. “Use the Patriot Bridge routinely to publicize meeting dates and the names of IAG members, until the Agency’s email notification list is complete and fully representative. Furthermore, it is our understanding that some of the residents included in the IAG in the past have little or no understanding and knowledge of routine development issues and regulations, making their review contribution ineffective. In addition, the closed nature of the IAG meetings inhibits community brainstorming and discussion, and limits seriously the opportunity for design improvements.”
The letter highlighted that the CNC and the Charlestown Preservation Society’s (CPS) Design Review Committee are the traditional paths for review of development in Charlestown, so it made sense to include them in IAGs.
“There is no question that the CPS Design Review Committee, chaired by Bill Lamb, is respected and has contributed to modifications and improvements in design,” read the letter. “Choosing similarly informed residents for the IAG would be not only wise but very useful in calming neighborhood frustration and distrust. It would also be wise to choose at least two members of the CNC as IAG members. There is no constructive point to be made in frustrating and alienating community representatives.”
The CPS does have one member, Heather Taylor, on the One Charlestown IAG, but no members of the CNC.
The letter stated that the early days of the IAG process with One Charlestown acted to frustrate the community rather than inform it. The CWC letter said meetings of the IAG weren’t published in the newspaper, and people weren’t able to find out when meetings were held. Also, it read that the nature of the IAG, where the public isn’t allowed to speak, stifled resident input.
“And so the process continued to be obscure, creating a level of frustration and distrust that burst into the open with the introduction of the Corcoran/Jennison One Charlestown Proposal,” read the letter. “Hand picked residents were chosen to provide input to the proposal, all of which were ignored. When the presentations went fully public, the IAG and subsequent meetings were limited in scope, managed very tightly with the effect of hindering public discussion.”
In closing, the letter asks the BPDA to consider incorporating the CWC comments into the new One Charlestown process, including expanding the IAG membership.
The CWC Steering Committee consists of Nancy Krepelka, Ivey St. John, Bruce Swanton, Paul Sullivan, Jean Tochterman, and Jean Wilson.