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Councilor would add urban planner and fair-housing and climate-change experts to zoning board

City Councilor Lydia Edwards (Charlestown, East Boston, North End) is proposing a shake-up of the Zoning Board of Appeal that would include ditching its current requirements that it have representatives of the real-estate and building businesses and trades and replace that with requirements that the board include voting members with expertise in "urban planning and the design of neighborhoods," civil rights and fair housing, affordable housing, one renter, one home owner - and one member with expertise in zoning.

The state law that governs the Boston zoning board, which has seven full members and seven alternates, who fill in when the full members are absent, currently requires that at least one board member each come from nominations by the Greater Boston Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, local architect societies, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Building Trades Employers' Association or the Contractor's Association of Boston, a homeowner and the owner of a store or factory with no more than 50 employees. Three other members have to have served at least a year as an official of their local neighborhood association.

In a request for a hearing on her proposal to ask the state legislature to change the current requirements, Edwards does not mention the bribery scandal that has enveloped the board in recent weeks, leading to one member resigning. Instead, Edwards writes that the board's current makeup, specified in a 1956 law last updated in 2001, leaves the board without representatives of groups, such as renters, who can be directly affected by its decisions or members with specific expertise in areas such as a building's possible impact from climate change.

She adds that the board does not do a good job of informing the public of upcoming meetings, let alone provide any information about the cumulative effects of its decisions on particular neighborhoods. She would require the board to compile "a regular report on variances by neighborhood and zoning district would inform future zoning by clearly indicating where actual development practices and the zoning code differ substantially."

The City Council will consider Edwards's request for a formal hearing on the proposal at its meeting tomorrow, which starts at noon in its fifth-floor chambers in City Hall.

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Comments

And none control blocs of voters (like the unions), so this is a non-starter.

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Construction trades are looking forward to all the modifications that will be necessary to deal with climate change impacts, including retrofits, seawalls, reworking space to be floodable, relocating utilities, insulating and installing HVAC systems to reduce carbon emissions, etc.

The more climate resilience is needed to secure and upgrade facilities, the better as far as they are concerned.

have someone with knowledge of how Charlestown, South Boston and now Dorchester and East Boston were ruined by these scamming developers and BPDA.

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Edwards’ proposal would make a more balanced board. One that represents all Bostonians.

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That's going to be a lot of hands out looking for their once of flesh. I'm sure this will definitely make the building process easier.

Don't usually support Edward proposals, but this is a good idea. Just please don't bring the urban planner over from the BPDA.

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These are good suggestions on Edwards' part (especially the addition of a renter seat). I'd go a step further and say that there should probably be multiple renters.

One problem I have though is that while on the one hand Edwards seems to be trying to fix the issue of corruption on the board by making the application checklist even longer, she is also giving the board significantly more power by supporting the Southie and Eastie IPODs. Those IPODs (or "Interim Planning Overlay Districts") make it so that every single proposal (and not just proposals requiring variances) is subject to ZBA approval. This gives the board a LOT of power, which absolutely invites graft. You'd think that Edwards would be against that.