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Nearing completion, West Broadway hotel says it urgently needs a liquor license, but board says it should have talked to neighbors first

The Boston Licensing Board yesterday deferred action on a proposed liquor license for the Cambria 6 West Broadway hotel now nearing completion so that the building's current owners can explain their plans for a ground-floor lounge and restaurant, second-floor function room and rooftop patio to the West Broadway Neighborhood Association.

At a hearing Wednesday, the hotel's attorney, Carolyn Conway, said the 14-floor, 159-room hotel hopes to open within a month- it's already started accepting reservations - so it really needs approval to buy the liquor license developer Ryan Sillery bought several years ago for a restaurant at the site, on which he is also building condos in addition to the hotel.

Conway acknowledged the hotel, to be operated by Meyer Jabara Hotels of Danbury, CT, hadn't talked to the West Broadway Neighborhood Association about the proposed liquor license transfer, but she said that was because the hotel has not made any changes from the plans approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals six years ago - after winning approval from the neighborhood group.

She said the project underwent significant neighborhood review in 2013 - it was large enough to require a formal BPDA resident advisory group to oversee the plans in addition to public meetings.

Neighborhood-association Co-Chair Derek Pajaczkowski told the board his group might very well approve the license transfer, but told the board it was "slightly ludicrous" for the current owners to bypass city requirements that applicants talk to neighborhood groups first when the original zoning approval happened six years ago, with a different applicant and different members of the neighborhood association.

The mayor's office supported the liquor-license request - but under the assumption that the West Broadway residents group backed the proposal.

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Comments

wink wink nudge nudge

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Voting closed 44

I really hate Boston politics. Neighborhood groups are not an elected body nor do they represent all residents. Talking to them should not be a requirement of any official process.

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Voting closed 44

They represent the people who are going to have to live with the actions of the developer. It's not just Boston, it's part of the process in a lot of places, for better or worse.

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Voting closed 16

They represent SOME of the people who will have to live with the actions of the developer, and also some people who will not. Mainly, they represent people with enough free time to go to meetings in the evenings.

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Voting closed 54

And in this case the only thing the developers needed to do was to show up at the neighborhood association’s meeting and update them on what was going on. It was an unforced error on their part.

Now, if they did their due diligence and the association were being pricks about the matter, I’d agree with you, but you gotta keep the neighbors in the loop. They didn’t do that.

In the end, they’ll get everything right, only without a month of alcohol receipts.

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Voting closed 13

Who voted for representation by the West Broadway Neighborhood Association that this hotel must go make a tribute to? I live in the neighborhood and must have missed that section on the last ballot. At least back in Whitey's day this kind of extortion was done in the shadows.

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Voting closed 30

Both the licensing and the zoning boards have a requirement that applicants show they talked to both abutters and neighborhood associations before they seek approval or risk having their applications deferred until they do so.

This is not a new requirement, it goes back to at least the Menino days, local developers and zoning/licensing lawyers are well aware of it (Conway has been doing licensing work in Boston for a long time) and, yes, both boards have held up votes on projects before because developers either had not met with residents or had not finished discussions with them (if I had to guess, I'd say the requirement was a reaction to the excesses of the previous administrations and the BRA when it came to neighborhood oversight, but that's before my time).

Sitting there on Wednesday, it really sounded more like a misunderstanding than anything else. The project DID go before local residents in 2013 and the neighborhood association approved the basic idea and the hotel thought that was that and they wouldn't need to go back before residents to show them something they'd already said yes to. Had the developer transferred the liquor license to the hotel operator back then (if there even was one in place), probably nobody would have objected. It's the passage of time and the change of players - and yeah, the lack of alleged respect - that got the neighborhood association upset, not any attempt to extract some sort of value from the hotel.

But we'll see, I guess.

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Voting closed 12

sounds like something the mob would say. Now the hotel has to stop by Pajaczkowski's house with a pie and an envelope before getting the nod of approval.

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Voting closed 18

They’ll go to the meeting, note that this is the cumulation of what was gone over years ago and go from there.

These meetings happen all the time. We’ve had one in my neck of the woods in recent times to learn about a two family being built on a vacant lot. It’s pro forma, and not an occasion for graft.

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Voting closed 12

Perhaps the commenter was remembering this article from the Boston Globe titled, "The price of approval: Developers often pay for neighborhood backing".

In Boston, where the Zoning Board of Appeal often gives great weight to neighborhood sentiment, community support has become a crucial commodity that can sometimes be bought almost as easily as lumber or drywall, according to an extensive Globe review of city records, e-mails, and court documents.

The system was laid bare in a Suffolk Superior courtroom this summer in a defamation lawsuit. At the trial, real estate agent Joyce Lebedew alleged that Brian R. Mahoney, longtime leader of an influential civic association, strong-arms developers for money.

“It is known in South Boston,’’ Lebedew said under oath, “that if you don’t pay Brian Mahoney cash in an envelope, then your job gets opposed.’’

http://epaper.bostonglobe.com/BostonGlobe/article_popover.aspx?guid=4bef...

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Voting closed 10

I would say it shows that Mahoney is a crook, but that most associations collect money for local needs. Even Mahoney solicited donations for little league and parks. West Broadway doesn't actually need another bar. The hotels near my house in dorchester don't have bars. On a tangent, those people have to go to a bowling alley to get something other than coffee.

So I am ok with large projects donating something useful to the community. Like that 24 boston show where Meninno was shaking down the telecom companies for donations to community centers. I observed that Menino consolidated a great deal of power by getting those donations and creating jobs and services, but voters can read.

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Voting closed 4

They weren’t elected and they aren’t a taxing authority, so it doesn’t matter if the money is used to build parks or line their pockets. If these associations are using their undue power to extract money from developers, it’s extortion plain and simple

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Voting closed 2

If this revenue didn't exist, then the money would be raised through taxes. Developers do not pay enough for these variances. It is an imperfect but fair exchange.

As I pointed out before, this area has plenty of bars. The logical answer is to deny a license for a variance that brings zero benefit to the local community. I have also pointed out several times that if neighborhood groups are unreasonable they will lose this power. But this liquor license is purely for the value of the property. This area has lots of places to eat and drink. If I was part of this association I would say no thanks. The hotel won't be able to charge as much without this amenity, but that isn't the neighborhoods problem.

However, if the community center got money for after school tutoring, I would think well that helps everyone.

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Voting closed 9

The neighborhhod groups don't control the issuance of licenses... The licencing board is free to ignore the neighborhood groups. Those neighborhood groups that have earned a reputation for being inclusive, genuinely representative, and sane tend to be taken seriously.

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Voting closed 5

Neighborhood associations setting up fiefdoms and demanding “respect” was an annoyance but not ultimately a major impediment when the city was losing population and workers for decades. Now that demand to live and work here is sky high, these associations are nothing but an impediment to all the progress we need: new housing, more commercial activity, just plain ol’ fun even. But they’re treated with deference by elected officials because these groups show up and always vote. There’s a lesson there.

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Voting closed 18

Developers can't do whatever the hell they want and run roughshod over neighborhoods they'd just as soon destroy with their plastic-coated cookie-cutter wooden condo buildings.

We're not Houston, we had zoning before any other city in the country, but don't worry: Developers these days still get to mostly do what they want, thanks to a mayor that really, really wants more housing and a zoning board that has taken that message to heart. At least through the neighborhood process, buildings do sometimes get changed to make them better fit in with their surroundings.

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Voting closed 19

Adam, read up on the history of local zoning as a tool for segregation, red-lining, and NIMBYism. You won’t sing its praises then. We’re mostly talking about neighborhood groups blocking desperately needed housing under the guise of “character of the neighborhood” wink wink.

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Voting closed 6

I agree when it comes to density. I have warned people that neighborhood groups that block projects for parking are going force the laws to change to the point where they will have zero say in what is built. But this is a liquor license, and south boston doesn't need another one.

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Voting closed 6

Honestly I do not understand the "hate" for local neighborhood associations when it comes to these processes.

"They do not represent the whole neighborhood" Well sure they do, anyone is welcome to come to the meetings. Anyone can join the group. Anyone can come to the meeting with the developer even if they are not a member (they just can not vote.) Sure it is self selected to those who have the time and energy to do it but why hold that against them. Anyone else can write a letter to the board and commissions and the boards do what they feel is best anyway.

"They impede progress" I am sure they do, I am sure they have stopped some projects but mostly what I have seen is outside protest groups have had more of an impact in Boston in stopping projects than associations. Maybe not all projects are meant to be built.

"Why should a developer have to talk to them" Here is a tough one, if you say just talk to the neighbors the developer will knock on a few doors and be done with it. With the associations and civic groups you have a clearly defined group you must engage with. You can't pick and choose and you can't just hold a pizza night at 8pm on a Friday and claim nobody showed up. Why shouldn't the neighbors have a say?

I live in Chelsea and have held elected positions in that city and even then I was often blind sided in my own neighborhood. When I asked why I, the local city councillor, was not informed of a large project a block from my front door I was told I was not a direct abutter so they have no reason to reach out to me... We have been changing that culture quite a bit over the past few years but in many areas that is the culture. You have no right to be told in advance and you are a jerk for demanding you and your neighbors be informed unless your property touches the other property. I would much rather take the association method because it gives the area a chance to process things. Plus to be quite honest , I notice that there are less fights in Boston by the things get to the boards because the animosity has already been hammered out in the side meetings. When you keep people out of the loop until the last minute they sometimes will fill a room up and keep the meeting going until midnight with no clear resolution.

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Voting closed 14

Who is attending these meetings? The people who would welcome (or just don't care) if there's additional higher-density housing in their area OR the people who don't want anything unless it 'adds more green space' or 'comes with its own parking' or 'comes with no parking' or 'comes with just the right amount of parking' or 'isn't tall enough to prevent me from seeing my favorite tree' or 'won't upset the turkeys' or 'looks just like the house it's replacing'? The most vocal people with the most drive to attend aren't the people who are fine with the neighborhood changing.

Sadly, most of those are things I've heard neighborhood groups say. So, why shouldn't they have a say? Because they say really stupid things more times than not. They're not city planners...they're goaltenders. They're the group of people in the neighborhood who don't want to expand the neighborhood. They make more money by having less housing, by preventing higher density. They want to require the developer to spend more money fixing problems that aren't the problem of the developer, like whether there's enough open green space in a neighborhood. That's the city's problem IF it's even a problem and not just a mantra.

Additionally, what about the person living in an apartment in Dorchester saving up who'd love to own a condo in a new building in Brighton? They don't get a say? Who speaks for all the people who want to buy a home and move in? They aren't currently a neighbor but if the current neighbors got their way, there'd never be enough new apartments for the price point to be low enough for someone else to move in and maybe even join the neighborhood group.

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Voting closed 14

City of Boston Zoning Code Article 68 South Boston
Section 68-4. - Community Participation

This Article has been developed with the extensive participation of the First Street Planning Working Group, civic associations, business groups, and residents. The role of community participation in determining appropriate land use regulations and zoning is critical to the success of any zoning article or development plan. To continue that process, the Boston Redevelopment Authority shall continue to involve the South Boston civic associations, residents, and business and trade groups in an ongoing role in advising the City on land use planning for South Boston.

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The whining sheeple who want a trendy bar or brewpub on every corner should stay in Brighton/Allston. The alternative is to grow up and participate in the life of a real neighborhood. For what it's worth, Mr. Sillery lives in Hingham.

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Voting closed 8

Previously, Harbor Towers. Someone once called him out when he tried to win people over at a meeting by saying he lived in South Boston and had done a lot of work there.

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Voting closed 2