BPDA Says PLAN Charlestown Has Already Developed ‘Tools’ to Use

The second edition of the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Land Use Through Time in the PLAN Charlestown process took place last Wednesday, April 7, with a large group of residents coming to help define the neighborhood and learn about how the process figures into current proposals.

The PLAN Charlestown effort kicked off in January 2020, and while hampered a bit by COVID-19, has motored on since last summer with Zoom meetings about various topics, including a historical look at Land Uses in the Town.

That said, the biggest news out of last week’s workshop was from BPDA Planner Ted Schwartzberg, who said a lot of tools have been developed already that can be used in current evaluations – such as the current 201 Rutherford project and the upcoming One Mystic high-rise.

That answered a question many were asking in that the planning process and study is ongoing, but at the same time there is a building boom in the Town with many projects up for review – and rumors having it that many more are to come, particularly near Sullivan Square.

“We don’t have to wait until the last sequence in this process (the recommendations) to start applying the Plan findings,” he said. “Right now we’re far enough in the planning process that we have the tools that would inform the review of large proposals…We have developed a whole new set of tools to evaluate projects by.

“This is not to be anti-development versus pro-development,” he continued. “It’s about improving the review process we have to evaluate projects.”

He said there are limitations to density in Charlestown that need to be considered, including the road infrastructure and the fact that the Town is surrounded by water with only a few ways in or out. He said new development would need to be considered in relation to how infrastructure supports it, and what a developer is willing to do to improve that infrastructure, meaning things like streets and parks.

“Even though the process here is not to the stage of a final document, we’re developing tools that can be used in the public review processes,” he said again.

The main work going on now in the process is for people to identify Districts and sub-areas of the neighborhood that make sense to those that live here. Some of those districts include the Sullivan Square area, the Navy Yard area, the Historic Peninsula area, the Rutherford Corridor and the Lost Village.

There was some discussion about renaming the Rutherford Corridor, as well as including Sullivan Square in the Historic Peninsula as ‘The Neck,’ and even more suggestions about breaking out the commercial areas for more sub-areas within the Historic Peninsula. Others also asked that the Mystic River Designated Port Area (DPA) be included as a space to look at, even though there are heavy restrictions on what can be done there.

Getting those boundaries and areas labelled and understood would be the first step to identifying zoning areas within the Town – places where different zoning rules could be applied in different ways. Meanwhile, it would also help to identify pressing issues within each district, Planner Anna Callahan said (who is new to the process and a recent hire of the BPDA). For instance, those in more of a waterfront area might be more concerned about flooding, while those in a commercial area might want economic development discussions.

There are future meetings coming up in May and June with separate topics. They include:

•Monday, May 26, 2021 on the Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square subareas.

•Wednesday, June 23, 2021 on the Original Peninsula and Lost Village sub-areas.

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