Momentum has gathered very quickly this week in the grass-roots call for a proper, third-party Master Planning process for Charlestown, with numerous organizations reporting a productive meeting last Saturday morning at Memorial Hall.
Starting the ball rolling about a month ago was an alliance between the Charlestown Preservation Society’s incoming President Amanda Zettel and the Charlestown Historical Society’s President Julie Hall. The two have made a call for a Master Plan that addresses every square inch of the Town and adds protections for its historic pieces and solves the existing problems that recent development has caused.
To date, the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) has said it hopes to do planning around the edges of the Town – such as Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue – but not in the Town directly.
It’s not enough, both Zettel and Hall said.
“Their official response is they will use the ImagineBoston plan to define Charlestown’s growth,” she said. “We’re mentioned on like six pages of a 492-page plan. That study does not offer any solutions to our current challenges. Any development or growth without solving our current problems will only compound the problems we are seeing now.”
Hall said their alliance has now brought on many other organizations and residents.
“The fact we got that many people to show up on a Saturday morning with one week’s notice shows the strength of the relationships Amanda and the Preservation Society have,” she said. “It makes total sense for us to work together. The Historical Society has been a Townie organization historically. I feel thankful they let me in. The Preservation Society has been more of the new people. This is a real grass-roots effort of two organizations working together with one goal in mind – protecting the Town with all the organizations saying in unison we need a Master Plan…We might not agree on why we need one or what the end result should be, but I think we can all agree we need some oversight to the situation we have now.”
Saturday’s meeting brought together representatives from the Charlestown Mother’s Association, CharlestownDogs, the Charlestown Neighborhood Council, the Collaborative School, Christ Church, Charlestown Youth Hockey, Charlestown Lacrosse, the Waterfront Coalition, Flagship Wharf, Friends of Sullivan Square, the Nautica Building, Navy Yard Community Association, We the People 02129 and residents of various streets like Baldwin Street, Elm Street and the John Harvard Mall.
Zettel and Hall said they are now calling the alliance, the 02129 Neighbor Alliance. Already, they have put up a website and founded a steering committee. Their e-mail contact is [email protected]
They have tentatively scheduled another meeting for May 11.
Zettel said they would like the Master Plan to address development and growth in all of Charlestown, as well as look at the existing problems and try to solve them through planning.
With a Master Plan, she said, there can be more predictability if, and when, developers enter the Charlestown market.
“The plan will define what the community’s wants and needs are in various parts of the Town,” she said. “It will define if we want a grocery store, a post office, an ambulance facility and other such things. If we try to meet all of those needs in just one development, it won’t work. If we spread things our through many developments all over Charlestown, that would work. Developers tell us the number one thing they want is predictability. If they go in knowing the community wants a grocery store or a place for the post office, they can know that when they present their plan instead of such things coming out at an IAG meeting. With a plan, we would clearly have an idea of where mitigation money should go well ahead of the last meeting, like what happened at Hood.”
The Hood Park mitigation process has left a bad taste in the mouths of many in Charlestown, particularly this new group. Though it had nothing to do with Hood, the City – particularly the Mayor’s Office – negotiated a 30,000 sq. ft. space within Hood Park at the last minute without community input. That resource came after the IAG process was mostly completed and would support healthy foods programming within the Boston Public Schools.
“We don’t want that to happen, especially as the plan for the Bunker Hill Community College parking lot and One Charlestown,” said Zettel.
Added Hall, “We want a seat at the table in the planning process.”
Both said that time is of the essence right now because they want to get money in this year’s City Budget to pay for an independent third party planner. They said they don’t want the BPDA to do the planning, nor do they want the community to take over the process. They would like a third party to coordinate both sets of priorities.
“Time is of the essence because the City is working on its budget,” said Zettel. “We’ve hoping to influence that Budget to include money for this Master Plan…The City has priorities for Charlestown and the Town has its own priorities. We need someone in between to look at the big picture.”