By Michael Coughlin Jr.
PLAN: Charlestown, a neighborhood planning initiative that dates back to 2019, which has seen a healthy amount of opposition as of late, will go before the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Board of Directors tonight to determine whether the plan is adopted.
The final draft of the plan was initially released at the end of July and was updated earlier this month.
While the BPDA has been making updates to the plan, over the last month or so, many neighborhood groups and residents have voiced their displeasure with the plan.
For example, groups such as the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC), the Charlestown Preservation Society (CPS), and residents have come out and opposed the plan.
In a letter found on the CNC’s website to Mayor Michelle Wu earlier this month, the CNC strongly opposed the potential approval of PLAN: Charlestown, citing “a lack of adequate and good faith community engagement by the BPDA.”
While the BPDA has held community engagement opportunities such as public meetings, listening tours, workshops, and office hours, the CNC pushed for in-person meetings.
In part, the letter reads, “We believe that in-person community meetings strengthen the community by: creating a neutral venue where people with opposing opinions can address each other.”
Moreover, the CPS also crafted a letter to Wu in which the group opposed the final draft of the plan.
A passage of the letter describing the CPS’ opposition, which was supplied by the group’s president, Amanda Zettel, reads, “It falls short of our shared vision with your Office, and instead focuses more on building buildings than building a community.”
The letter continues, “The PLAN undermines public safety by compounding capacity issues at neighborhood gateways, and neighborhood schools, disregards community input, and leans toward developer-driven building over community planning.”
In addition to letters like the ones above, several residents like Johanna Hynes of the Charlestown Historic Battlefield District Committee, Diane Valle of the Charlestown Civic Association, and more have voiced their frustrations with the letters to the editor in the Patriot-Bridge.
In Valle’s letter to the editor in the September 14 edition of the Patriot-Bridge, she wrote about a petition with over 4,000 signatures supporting a comprehensive master plan for the neighborhood.
Hynes, in a letter to the editor in the September 21 edition of the Patriot-Bridge, went as far as saying that the plan “does not respect or heed the residents’ livability interests.”
Further, representatives from other groups, like the Charlestown Youth Soccer Association (CYSA), have penned letters to Wu with concerns.
Tim McKenna, a CYSA Board Member, wrote a letter to Wu outlining his concerns with the proposed protected open space in the plan.
He wrote, “The point is, that the lack of detail around this one topic of creating and protecting open space as an infrastructure investment to go along with these major zoning changes is at the crux of the undercurrent of distrust that others are objecting to this close-out process, whether that be seats in schools, access to transportation, or emergency services.”
While there seems to be growing opposition to the plan, the BPDA has made additional updates recently, according to an email shared by Brittany Comak, the BPDA’s Assistant Director of Communications.
Recent changes to the final plan included lowering heights at the Bunker Hill Mall. Specifically, these recent changes now limit height along Main Street to 40 feet and limit height to 70 feet along Rutherford Avenue.
This update also discusses removing any Planned Development Area (PDA) overlay so the heights would not change because of a redevelopment proposal.
Recent updates have also expanded open space commitments. The email reads, “Committed to growing from 51 acres of public open space in Charlestown today 85 acres in the future and also to supporting additional open space opportunities in places that are currently zoned Maritime Industrial if their Designated Port Area (DPA) designations were to be removed.”
The email also talks about emphasizing the delivery of community needs and encourages residents to review the neighborhood needs chapter of the plan.
Moreover, the aforementioned BPDA email outlines the analysis and research that went into the plan to understand the density and growth the neighborhood can handle in conjunction with transportation improvements.
“We stand behind the research and analysis in this plan,” reads the email.
As of this writing, the BPDA Board is still slated to hold a vote tonight to determine if the plan moves forward and is adopted.
To view the Board meeting, which begins at 5:00 p.m., you can visit https://www.boston.gov/departments/broadband-and-cable/watch-boston-city-tv.