By Stephen Quigley
The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) meeting that had been scheduled for Monday, October 24, concerning the controversial Constitution Inn project in the Navy Yard that would create 126 units of affordable housing for previously homeless persons was cancelled following the subsequent request of the developers agreeing not to waive the usual review process pursuant to Article 80 of the Boston Zoning Code.
The Article 80 process may include, but is not limited to, review of a project’s impacts on transportation, public realm, the environment, and historic resources.
This meeting had been scheduled to provide an opportunity for the public to comment on whether the BPDA should approve a request from the developer, Constitution Inn LLC, a partnership of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs of the Archdiocese of Boston and St. Francis House, to waive the Article 80 process for the Constitution Inn project.
Originally, the developer sought to waive Article 80, an announcement that first was aired at the community meeting held by the Charlestown Neighborhood Association. Many residents in attendance were highly-concerned that a community safety procedure would be overlooked and that the development would be placed on the fast track.
The following statement appeared on the BPDA web page after Monday’s night meeting: “We look forward to keeping the community apprised of any new information as we receive it, as well as hearing from all of you soon at a future public meeting. As a reminder, all BPDA-sponsored Public Meetings will consist of a presentation from the development team, followed by question and answer where we welcome comments from those in attendance.”
In a letter to the BPDA, William Grogan, President of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs, addressed the issue of waiving Article 80 regulations saying, “We sought a waiver for the Project from the requirements of Large Project Review for several reasons. First, the City of Boston has an affordable housing crisis, and the Project directly responds to the City’s urgent need and desire to create more high-quality permanent affordable housing for individuals who are homeless or have experienced homelessness, as well as other individuals, couples and families. Second, our proposed redevelopment would not have any impacts on wind, shadows, environmental, or historic considerations. Finally, we sought to avoid a costly and time-consuming technical study process.
“We did not submit the waiver request to avoid a community engagement process. It has become clear, however, that, rather than being understood as part of an ongoing community engagement process as intended, our waiver request is viewed by some members of the community as an effort to circumvent community outreach.
“To demonstrate our commitment to move the Project forward in an engaged manner, we are withdrawing our waiver request. We will continue to pursue direct and sustained community outreach to describe the Project in more detail, to address concerns around the permanent housing being created and around ongoing neighborhood-specific development issues, and to further engage in a dialogue with the community and ensure that everyone understands the facts of the proposed Project. Along those lines, it is clear that misinformation is circulating in the community about the Project, and we would like to state the facts about the Project.”
Because the proposed project will now be subject to the Article 80 review process, the first public meeting will be scheduled at the time of the developer’s filing.