Some Neighbors Not Comfortable With BPDA Planning Process

A large contingent of neighbors allied with the 02129 Alliance, and known as We The People 02129, said this week they are not happy with the planning process rolled out by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) last week in the Chat with a Planner event, and they are in agreement to seek funds to hire their own representative to do a Master Plan for the Town with the BPDA as a participant and not the leader.

This Monday, a group of neighbors met with the Patriot Bridge to affirm that they plan to seek monies to hire their own planner to run the process, cooperating with the BPDA, but not allowing them to run it. The planning process that was unveiled earlier this year has been snagged by definitions of what a Master Plan really is. While the BPDA has said the planning process is sufficient, some in the community are not so keen on that line of thought.

They believe a Master Plan is a Master Plan – by one definition only – and it should encompass development, traffic, infrastructure, schools and open space for the entire neighborhood.

“We plan on seeking some of the mitigation money to hire our own consultant and we will ask the City to support a Master Plan process,” said Diane Valle.

Annette Tecce of the Charlestown Preservation Society said she wants to make sure there is a real planning process that protects the Town. She said in year’s past during the planning of City Square, there was a City Planner hired by the community from mitigation monies to represent the interest of residents. That is how this should be done, she said.

“Every month we had meetings and every month they were there and took notes and responded to questions,” she said. “If they didn’t have answers, they came back with answers the next month. Every person that wanted to have a voice had an opportunity…On every level there was someone representing the community. This time, we had no one that would give us explicit answers to all our questions. We don’t think it’s semantics. We think a Master Plan is a Master Plan.”

Sy Mintz, who was very active in the alternative plan during the One Charlestown debate, said he believes Charlestown is ripe for a traditional Master Plan rather than a selective planning process.

“I really feel very strongly that Charlestown needs a Master Plan,” he said. “The reason is Charlestown is a small community like no other neighborhood in Boston. It’s perfect because it has defined geography, and that’s important because in a Master Plan you need boundaries. We are an isolated community also. We arrive here by bridges. We are an island really. When other communities don’t need a Master Plan, Charlestown does.”

Many of those active in the new fight for their own definition of a Master Plan are feeling the burn of developments in the historic Town that don’t really fit. There is a sense by many that it is too easy to destroy the historic character of Charlestown with developments that are gaudy or too modern.

“One thing that’s problematic is the City doesn’t understand this is the oldest neighborhood in Boston,” said Valle. “It is appalling the City does not know this…If you were in Paris, would they build Assembly Row  on the banks opposite Notre Dame? Would they build shabby apartment buildings next to Big Ben? No. There are a lot of people in Charlestown who take stewardship very importantly.”

Unilaterally, the group said they do not want the BPDA to be leading the planning process – citing that it is a conflict of interest and they are too narrow of an organization to be able to address issues like the schools.

As it is now, none of them said they want a repeat of the ‘Chat’ that took place on Aug. 19, with the second coming on Sept. 17.

“I think respect for our community would be very important,” said Tecce. “Beacon Hill seems to have that respect while the City still sees us as an industrial and transportation corridor. The even the other day was supposed to Chat with a Planner and no planner showed up. That’s a waste of our free time. We don’t get paid for our free time. They get paid for their time.”

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