New Advisory Group members named for PLAN Charlestown

Some 26 people have been chosen for the long-awaited PLAN Charlestown Advisory Group, which began meeting last night, Feb. 24, beyond newspaper deadlines.

The Advisory Group had been rolled out more than a year ago when PLAN Charlestown kicked off in the packed gym of the Warren Prescott January 2020 – a time that seems like another world and in another life, but was only a short 12 months ago.

After many COVID-19 delays, PLAN Charlestown’s process was renewed last summer and fall on Zoom and has had online meetings since. The Advisory Group, however, has been longer in the making.

This week, the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) announced 26 members and booked the Feb. 24 meeting to start that part of the neighborhood planning process. A PLAN Charlestown general meeting will be coming up in March, with an eye towards addressing major planning for Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square. That looks to be a focal point of the overall planning process from the BPDA’s perspective as it represents on of the few parts of Charlestown that could be radically changed over the next decade.

The members of the Advisory Group include:

Melissa (Doherty) Brennan, Chris Kushcel, Amber Christofferson, Elaine Donovan, Shannon Fitzgerald, Tina Goodnow, Intiya Isaza-Figueroa, Joanne Massaro, Ryan McCarthy, James Donovan, Nico Skiadas, Paul Sullivan, Stephanie Ward, Brian Callahan, Mary Chippa, Sarah Coughlin, Karie Everett, Anda French, Julie Hall, Nancy Johnson, Lisa McGoff Collins, Zaire Richardson, Phil Smith, Karson Tager, and Amanda Zettel.

Some members did comment prior to the meeting about their expectations and about being chosen for the long-term process.

“I think the PLAN for Charlestown is long overdue as development has been piecemeal for far too long,” said Brennan. “It will be interesting to see what initiatives and opportunities present themselves through these discussions.”

Massaro has been a very vocal participant in the meetings to date, and said she is excited at the process, but feels development is rushing ahead of the plan.

“In a more rational world, planning would precede development,” she said. “But we seem to be doing it backwards in Charlestown. While I’m glad the planning process has begun, I’m concerned allowing development to rush ahead will make the plan moot. As a community we have much work to do, and a lot of ground to cover. We need to look at public as well as private parcels to determine what should be allowed to be built on them.”

Beyond that, she said there will also be a robust discussion about whether or not to extend Urban Renewal in the Town.

Finally, she said piecemeal development sets precedent, and she said she hopes the City will impose a moratorium on all Article 80 projects in order to let the plan and the Advisory Group work without distraction.
“Allowing development to continue before planning is complete will likely box us in,” she said. “Project by project planning as we are doing now sets precedents like height and density without the benefit of considering the broader context that a robust and thoughtful planning process could. The City can help by imposing a moratorium on any projects that trigger Article 80, even if the review process has begun. PLAN Charlestown could serve this role if it’s allowed to proceed first.”

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