Coletta Comments on Article 80 Process
To the Editor,
Dear Chief Jemison, I write to comment on the ongoing Article 80 process for the Constitution Inn (referred to in this email as the “Project”) proposed in the Charlestown Navy Yard. I am formally requesting that the community has the opportunity to engage in a full development review process, including but not limited to, the creation of an Impact Advisory Group (IAG), a scoping determination session, and all other applicable processes defined in the City of Boston Zoning Code under Article 80.
The Planning Office for Urban Affairs, Inc. and St. Francis House (collectively referred to in this email as the “Proponent”) have been generally responsive to requests to amend their proposal. I am pleased with the updated inclusion of larger units for families, units for women and veterans, and mixed-income housing at 30%-80% AMI which is reflective of average income levels of existing Charlestown residents. Despite this, I continue to question the extent that the BPDA is willing to include those residents in the development process.
On October 5, 2022, the Proponent submitted a request to waive the typical development review process conducted and controlled by the Boston Planning and Development Agency
(BPDA). Some members of the community pushed back and requested to engage in a comprehensive development review for the Project under Article 80 of the zoning code. In response, I advocated for the development review waiver to be withdrawn which the Proponent ultimately did on October 21, 2022.
On Friday, November 10, my staff and I were informed that the project will forgo the standard subsequent steps of Article 80 including the creation of an Impact Advisory Group (IAG), a Draft Project Impact Report (DPIR), and a Final Project Impact Report (FPIR). I am requesting that the BPDA require a full scoping determination process which provides additional analysis of transportation and parking, environmental protection, urban design, historic resources, infrastructure systems, etc. and is available for public comment. Furthermore, oversight of an IAG reflective of all impacted populations, including those who are formerly homeless, should be selected to negotiate community benefits and help define a successful outcome on the parcel.
I am fully aware of the housing insecurity challenges we face, not only as a City, but as a Commonwealth. The type of housing proposed for this site would provide stability and safe haven for some of our most vulnerable populations which include women, children, and veterans. In Boston, approximately 6,000 children are experiencing homelessness on any given day. Additionally, our housing system continues to be overwhelmed with incoming migrant families exacerbating pressure on an already limited supply. We can, and should, achieve the right balance of addressing our dire affordable housing crisis while also ensuring a process that centers community input for neighborhood development.
I look forward to your response and am hopeful that we can work together to have a final outcome that addresses the needs of the City while centering the voices of those who are impacted the most.
Boston City Councilor
The Numbers Speak Loud and Clear
To the Editor,
On October 19, the BPDA hosted the one and (so far) only public virtual meeting via Zoom, during which time the St. Francis House and the POUA presented their newly filed Project Notification Form (PNF) for the proposed conversion of the Constitution Inn. This was the BPDA’s first public meeting. The neighborhood was given just 30 days to comment on the PNF, and this public comment period closed a mere 11 days after the virtual meeting.
The neighborhood comments are available on the BPDA’s website. These comments reveal overwhelming opposition to the Permanent Supportive Housing component of the proposal. Of the 271 comments, 193 expressed opposition. Nearly all of the comments in opposition came from Navy Yard and Charlestown-proper residents, underlining their deep involvement and concerns. In stark contrast, support for the project, totaling only 78 comments, included submissions from outside the immediate community (Dorchester, West Roxbury, Cambridge, Boston-proper) and several organizations without a presence in Charlestown, diminishing the weight of any support.
The nature of the public comments is revealing. Those opposed have provided detailed, highly considered submissions outlining concerns regarding: 1) safety for current and proposed residents; 2) a viable security plan for within the project and for the entire neighborhood; 3) sufficiency of the support services; 4) failure to mandate so-called wrap-around services for the PSH tenants; 5) lack of a drug-free requirement; 6) financial models, and the likelihood that the 4:1 ratio can be sustained long term; 7) lack of transportation, medical care and other amenities; 8) impact on local resources such as police/fire/EMTs; and other important issues. These are specific, actionable concerns that demand serious consideration. In contrast, nearly half of the comments in support were submitted via form emails or short, pre-printed forms, suggesting little engagement with the specifics of the project.
The lack of transparency of the BPDA’s process must be called out, specifically the apparent omission of comments from the public record. I am aware of three individuals who posted comments to the BPDA website during the 30-day comment period, yet their comments are not included. This raises a serious concern: how many other voices still need to be heard? If even a single comment is overlooked, the integrity of the process is compromised. This lack of transparency is alarming and needs to be addressed to ensure a fair and open dialogue.
Given the ongoing nature of this debate, the substantial change in the use of the Constitution Inn, the complexities involving the BPDA’s property ownership and the YMCA’s lease, and the significant community concerns, it is imperative that the BPDA reopen the comment period and schedule additional “in-person” public meetings (not virtual Zoom hearings). Such steps are crucial to ensure that all voices in Charlestown are heard and their legitimate concerns are addressed transparently and effectively. It is essential to respect the intricacies of the situation and the community’s deeply vested interests.
A review of the public comments confirms that there has been no substantial support for this project since the very beginning. Opposition to the PSH portion of the proposal has been consistent and sustained. Ignoring the concerns raised by nearly three-quarters of those who commented during the brief 30-day window does little to foster trust in the process.
Navy Yard Resident
Thanks So Much
To the Editor,
Thank you to the organizers, participants and supporters of the Mark & Michelle Gorman Memorial annual cornhole tournament in September. My family and I appreciate the scholarship money as it will help with my high school tuition.
Again, thanks so much to the organizers, friends and family and all those who participated in the cornhole tournament. The tournament honored some wonderful townies including Mark, Michelle and Ruthie Gorman, Mimi Wrenn and Jimmy Hingston.
We are lucky to live in such a great community.