IAG Members ask for 90-Day Breather on One Charlestown

By Seth Daniel

Resident Elaine Donovan was one of many residents to have a pointed discussion with Mayor Marty Walsh about the One Charlestown Development during the City’s Open House on Nov. 16. She is one of a growing number of residents in the Town opposed to the current plan to rebuild the Bunker Hill Housing Development. Members of the IAG say they recently called for a 90-day Development Review Moratorium, but some City officials say they never received that request.

Resident Elaine Donovan was one of many residents to have a pointed discussion with Mayor Marty Walsh about the One Charlestown Development during the City’s Open House on Nov. 16. She is one of a growing number of residents in the Town opposed to the current plan to rebuild the Bunker Hill Housing Development. Members of the IAG say they recently called for a 90-day Development Review Moratorium, but some City officials say they never received that request.

Members of the One Charlestown Impact Advisory Group (IAG) have requested in writing a 90-day moratorium on Development Review of the One Charlestown project given all of the information that has come into their hands as a result of the massive redevelopment project, but this week some City officials deny having ever received such a letter.

IAG member Billy Kelly confirmed this week that he hand delivered a letter from the IAG members to Mayor Martin Walsh at the traveling City Hall Open House in the Harvard-Kent on Nov. 16.

“I will confirm I was introduced to the mayor that night and handed him a letter from the IAG asking for a moratorium,” said Kelly. “He took it and put it in his pocket.”

Kelly and others on the IAG – as well as those in the community whose opposition to the current plan has been growing by the day – have heralded the request as a “breather” to help digest the hundreds of pages of materials that include traffic mitigation, architecture, relocation of residents, schools, police and fire services and public transportation – to name but a few.

The request officially asked for a 90-day moratorium on Development Review starting on Jan. 1, 2017 and ending March 31, 2017.

However, City officials from the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) indicated they knew of no letter from the IAG.

“We’ve been looking into this and the BPDA has not received a letter from the IAG regarding a 90-day moratorium on the One Charlestown project,” said a spokesperson from the BPDA this week. “The comment review period ended on Nov. 23 and those comments are still being reviewed by the project manager and Development Review staff.”

The Mayor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on the moratorium letter.

One source indicated that the mayor may not be inclined to grant the moratorium, but that there could be some big and favorable changes coming to the project – changes that are a direct result of discussions between the mayor and some residents at the Open House on Nov. 16.

None of that, however, could be confirmed by the City right now.

The ante was certainly upped on the opposition Tuesday night when a crowded room at the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) gave a standing ovation to the Board when they voted unanimously to support the 90-day Moratorium requested by the IAG.

“The biggest thing that came out of the discussion was the board voted unanimously to endorse the moratorium proposal by the IAG and also send out requests to our political figures – senator, representative, councilor, congressman and mayor to also support the moratorium, or at least give us an answer one way or the other,” said Tom Cunha, president of the CNC.

He said the room was packed with residents and members of organizations from all over the Town. He said folks spend about an hour venting about the project and their frustrations with the plans and the timeline.

“It’s as big of an issue as I’ve seen, just as big as the deportation jail cells,” he said.

One Charlestown has been in the works for more than a year and is the largest single development in the history of the Town, looking to redevelop the Bunker Hill Housing Development’s 1,110 public housing units and adding market-rate housing for a total of 3,120 mixed-income units in an entirely new neighborhood on 13 brand new city blocks. While Bunker Hill Development residents and the developer, Corcoran Jennison/SunCal, worked together on design charettes and in planning meetings for about one year, the overall project only began to be presented to the greater Town this past October in the BPDA Article 80 process. There have been several open community meetings on the project and a handful of IAG meetings as well.

Beyond that, efforts to organize against the project – as well as similar efforts to slow down the review – have grown.

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, residents from the NewTowne complex – direct abutters to the One Charlestown proposal – met in a meeting to discuss the moratorium and the lack of a response. Residents there apparently began a letter writing campaign to the mayor and the BPDA asking for acknowledgement and the granting of the request.

“As Charlestown citizens, we are supportive of the mixed use redevelopment of the existing Bunker Hill Housing Development,” read parts of those letters. “Mr. Mayor, we earnestly seek your support, as outlined in a letter submitted to you by the appointed Charlestown Impact Advisory Group (IAG) on November 16, 2016, requesting a specific moratorium be established (January 1, 2017 to March 31, 2017) on this project. As Charlestown citizens, who will be surely impacted by the magnitude of this proposed ‘One Charlestown’ project, and in support of the IAG, we request reasonable time to educate ourselves to the benefits proposed by this significant project.”

A Facebook page has also united residents who are concerned about the project and its impacts, with hundreds of ‘likes’ and supporters.

In the sum of it all, though, most of those who are frustrated – especially those on the IAG – said they would really like to work with Corcoran to get the development rebuilt, but that the way it’s being handled now by the BPDA and Boston Housing Authority (BHA) is very fast and more one-way than collaborative with the greater community.

Within the Article 80 Process, the BPDA is currently reviewing all of the comments submitted by the Nov. 23 deadline and preparing a Scoping Determination for the developer. That Scoping document will be presented to the developer, who will then submit a Draft Project Impact Report (DPIR).

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