Edwards Calls for New, Expanded IAG

City Councilor Lydia Edwards is calling to revamp and expand the Impact Advisory Group (IAG) that was put in place a few years ago during the first run of the Bunker Hill Redevelopment, also known as One Charlestown.

The announcement comes on the heels of Edwards’s Council Hearing on the renewed development plan today, Oct. 18, at the Harvard-Kent School.

“When the appointed the IAG the first time, I wasn’t a city councilor,” she said during Monday’s Friends of City Square meeting. “We have a new day and a new councilor and a new design too. I think we should have a new IAG too. I think we should have new appointments. It should also double in size to about 25 or 30 people. It’s a huge project and should have many eyes on it.”

The IAG has been very active in the One Charlestown project, calling for a moratorium in the fall of 2016 that effectively put the project on hold for many months. However, the IAG hasn’t convened in quite some time as the project has been in flux and a new development partner has just been introduced this fall.

There is also now a new plan.

Edwards said her meeting wouldn’t be an “ambush” of the developers, both Corcoran and the new Leggat McCall. Rather, she said all the questions that have been submitted to her have been forwarded to the developer.

She said she would like to build a relationship with them and not start off on the wrong foot.

“My goal is to continue having a public conversation about this development,” she said.

She indicated that she believes they should be able to provide a construction timeline, how they plan to pay for the project, the phasing/length of the project and how displaced families will be handled.

“I don’t think they have a finalized design yet, nor should they, because we haven’t had any input and the IAG hasn’t had any input,” she said.

In other Council matters:

  • Council President Andrea Campbell and Roxbury/South End Councilor Kim Janey have put in for a hearing to examine the entrance process for the City’s public exam schools, including Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy and the O’Bryant.

Black and Hispanic students represent nearly three-quarters of students in the Boston Public Schools, but make up only 40 percent of exam school students, and 20 percent of students at Boston Latin School.

Currently, admission to the schools is based on the students’ grades in 5th grade and the first half of 6th grade, as well as their scores on the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE). The ISEE includes material not covered in the BPS curriculum by the 6th grade, including algebra, and therefore requires out-of-school test prep. Despite BPS offering summer test prep classes and making the test free to take, a significantly smaller percentage students of color take the test compared with white students. A recent report by the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government suggests that using MCAS scores, taken by all BPS students, could increase the number of Black and Hispanic students at exam schools by up to 50 percent.

“There are many great ideas on the table for ensuring our students of color have equitable access to our exam schools, including administering the ISEE to all eligible students, and expanding access to test prep,” said Campbell. “We must assess each of these ideas and take action to level the playing field for our students. This exam school work must be done in conjunction with our open enrollment high schools which desperately need further supports.”

  • On Oct. 17, Councilor Edwards will have a hearing regarding the siting of bars, liquor stores and cannabis establishments near substance abuse treatment facilities.

Edwards called for the hearing to discuss potential policy changes affecting the siting of enterprises serving alcohol and cannabis in the immediate vicinity of substance abuse treatment facilities. Currently, the City of Boston regulates the distance between cannabis establishments at one-half mile and creates a 500-foot buffer between such businesses and K-12 schools. The City also regulates businesses that serve or sell alcohol through licensing and zoning, but has not enacted a similar distance-based buffer.

Zoning changes typically do not impact existing enterprises but would apply to new development and could potentially apply to substantially renovated buildings. The hearing will explore whether such a buffer should be created, potential impacts and how to create parity between industries.

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