Coletta Oversees Planning Department Ordinance Review Process, Earns Passage With Amendments

Special to the Patriot-Bridge

As chair of the Committee on Government Operations, Boston City Councilor Gabriela Coletta submitted a committee report regarding an ordinance creating a Planning Department in the City of Boston sponsored by Mayor Michelle Wu. She recommended that the matter ought to pass in a new draft and it ultimately passed with a majority of her colleagues voting in the affirmative.

“As Chair of the Committee on Government Operations, I am proud to have led a thorough, transparent, and collaborative review process of this docket. It was important for the Council to make amendments that prioritize financial transparency, council and regulatory oversight, additional reporting requirements, and accountability mechanisms that will ultimately serve the residents of Boston well,” said Coletta. “I commend my colleagues for utilizing their legislative powers to push the administration and craft a historic ordinance to bring planning in as a core function of city government.”

The amended ordinance includes:

• Fiscal Transparency and Oversight:

• Mandates a full financial audit of the BPDA, including all expenses and uses, revenue, and income while the BPDA transitions a majority of their land, money, and people to the City of Boston;

• Requires a submitted list of assets and ground leases, capital expenses, and accounting of developer mitigation funds;

• Makes explicit City Council Oversight safeguards within the City Charter;

• Mandated Annual Reporting and Council Hearing:

• Creates a new section that requires the Planning Department to assess their progress and shortcomings; and

• Provides oversight of performance to track goals of affordability, resilience, and equity;

• Independent Assessment and Community Voice

• Empowers the council to partner with a research entity to conduct independent assessment to hold BPDA and new planning department accountable;

• Directs the City Council to hold an Annual Meeting to discuss findings from the department and the independent assessment; and

• Allows additional checkpoints for community voice.

Coletta held a hearing and three working sessions to discuss the new budgetary oversight the Council would get over the Planning Department, council oversight over the financial and property transfers from the BPDA to the department, as well as the future of current BPDA staff and city workers and opportunities for this department to offer more impactful community engagement practices.

Public testimony was offered by various residents who shared testimonies calling for transparency and a robust community engagement planning process within the department. During the working sessions the Chairwoman led her Council colleagues through review of the ordinance line by line and discussed amendments to the language.

The Massachusetts State House is currently reviewing a Home Rule Petition “An Act to Improve and Modernize Planning and Development in the City of Boston”, which seeks state approval to consolidate the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the Economic Development Industrial Corporation (EDIC) into a successor entity formally to be called the Boston Planning and Development Agency.

Last year, the BPDA began undergoing a revamp of Article 80 that seeks to reform the regulations within Boston’s Zoning Code that dictate Development Review. The modernization process will study and recommend improvements for community engagement as well as development review operations.

Subsequently, Coletta ordered a hearing regarding the ongoing modernization of Article 80 in an effort to expand City Council and community oversight on this process. The hearing will take place at a later date.

For additional information, please contact the Office of Councilor Gabriela Coletta by phone at (617) 635-3200 or by email at [email protected].

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