Informal Listening Sessions to Begin for Planning Process

Utilizing the same planning coordinator as East Boston has used for its Master Plan, the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) announced this week it will begin informal meetings with the community on Aug. 19 to hear what the neighborhood would like to include within next year’s overall planning initiative – an initiative with support from the 02129 Neighborhood Alliance and Mayor Martin Walsh.

BPDA Planner Jason Ruggiero has been tapped to run the Charlestown process, and he said this week that will start with listening sessions throughout the fall that are dubbed, ‘Chat with a Planner.’

The first of those informal sessions will be at the Charlestown Library on Aug. 19, from 5-7 p.m. The second planned Chat will be on Sept. 17 at the Library from 4-6 p.m. Those who cannot make those first two can submit written comments through the BPDA website. He also said there will be more Chats scheduled throughout the fall.

“It’s going to be very informal,” he said. “We’ll be there exclusively in a listening capacity. I’ll probably bring a large-scale map of the neighborhood. It will be us engaging the community and listening to what they want to see and the desired outcomes and the goals. We’ll continue to do that as we formalize what the planning process will look like in scope…This will inform the planning process.”

Ruggiero said the formal process will be in early 2020 after all the feedback is compiled and a scope is agreed upon.

Ruggiero brings a wealth of experience to the planning effort, as he has overseen a similar effort in East Boston for the past year. He said that process kicked off in September 2018 and has continued on through the present.

“I would say every neighborhood is different and every planning initiative is different,” he said. “In East Boston we were dealing with significant development and also the tunnels played a huge role in the transportation aspect. The process will probably be similar holistically and different specifically. We just really look forward to learning what’s important in Charlestown.”

Amanda Zettel, one of the founders of the Alliance and incoming president of the Charlestown Preservation Society, acknowledged that there has been a fair amount of uproar from the community about what the process is being called.

The BPDA is hesitant to call it a Master Plan officially due to the technical language that it brings about in the planning world. Zettel, however, said she and the Alliance aren’t as concerned about that now, but rather they are concerned about making sure the Chats really lay the ground for what the process will look like in 2020.

“I’m not concerned about what we call it,” she said. “I’m more concerned about the content. We want to make sure the scope of the study is appropriate. Right now, it’s in line with what the mayor promised us. This fall will determine the scope of the process. We have to make sure everything we want in the plan or study is representative. We have to make sure the community turns out for these chats.”

Zettel said some of the key goals right now are to keep the process to one year, as opposed to the two-year preference of the City. She said the Alliance is also calling right now for bringing on an unbiased third-party mediator to act as a facilitator during the process.

More importantly, she said, they want to make sure everything asked for within reason this fall gets into the scope of the planning process.

“We think a facilitator will help to make sure everything represented makes it in,” she said. “It’s not that we don’t trust the BPDA, but we want to make sure everything is accounted for…What we asked for is what East Boston is going through now. They’ve used the same liaison here as in East Boston so that there is no doubt we’re getting what we asked for and not some watered-down version of what we asked for.”

Ruggiero said the Chats will be informal, and will likely include a planner from the BPDA and some other staff, as available. Mayoral Liaison Quinn Locke will also be participating. There will be no set agenda and no presentations will be made, so that being there right at 5 p.m. isn’t critical. Ruggiero said it is essentially a drop-in type of meeting.

Anyone wishing to discuss the matter with Ruggiero can reach him via e-mail at [email protected].

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