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Council rejects proposed new zoning-board members; say they don't meet council's new vision of zoning oversight

A divided Boston City Council today rejected four proposed members of the Zoning Board of Appeal because their resumes showed no particular expertise in climate change or urban planning, which the council is hoping the state legislature will let Boston start using as criteria for a board that decides the fate of hundreds of projects a year across the city.

The council rejected Timothy Burke, Ann Beha, Konstantino Ligris and Eric Robinson as new members of the zoning board without prejudice by 7-5 votes, which means they could, theoretically, re-apply for the seats.

Councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Kenzie Bok, Liz Breadon, Lydia Edwards, Kim Janey, Julia Mejia and Michelle Wu - who had asked the board for the rejections - voted to dismiss the applications. Councilors Frank Baker, Annissa Essaibi-George, Michael Flaherty, Ed Flynn and Matt O'Malley voted against the proposals. Councilor Andrea Campbell did not vote.

The re-nomination of a current board member, Kerry Walsh, remains in committee, which means she continues to serve on the board.

Under the current state law that defines the Boston zoning board, the proposed members were those sponsored by the Greater Boston Real Estate Board and the Boston Society of Architects. A home-rule petition approved by the council last month asks the legislature to add members and alternate members nominated by the Conservation Law Foundation and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

Wu, chairwoman of the council's committee on planning, development and transportation, started her request for rejection by noting that nobody serves on the zoning board for the glory or money but because they are "extremely dedicated Boston residents," so her issue is not the applicants personally but "structural issues" to deal with the way environmental and planning issues now typically don't come up in zoning hearings. She acknowledged her committee did not interview any of the candidates, but said a review of their resumes showed there would be little point since they did not have the conservation or planning expertise the council wants.

She added it's unfortunate that the board now often runs short of a quorum because of vacancies that date back months, but noted that at least one of the vacancies would replace one of the members who resigned in the aftermath of the John Lynch bribery scandal. Also, she said, Mayor Walsh has yet to even submit nominations for four other currently empty ZBA positions - in total, the board theoretically should have seven full members and seven alternates.

She said that the architects' society has agreed to submit new applications from people who meet what the council wants, but that the real-estate board told her it has not desire to nominate different people. She said she hopes to have new nominees in place in time for the council's next scheduled meeting, on Sept. 16. She added that the zoning board would only have one more day of hearings in that period.

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Comments

The real estate board should be largely eliminated from this body. They are already heavily involved in development on the developer side so there's a conflict of interest built in with this current structure.

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Voting closed 43

Wu, chairwoman of the council's committee on planning, development and transportation, started her request for rejection by noting that nobody serves on the zoning board for the glory or money but because they are "extremely dedicated Boston residents,"

My observations of these types of bodies is that almost nobody serves on them unless they have ties to the real-estate industry. Probably why the RE Board is not interested in nominating anyone else. Also, the referenced John Lynch.

Also, do the current ZBA members have the desired environmental qualifications?

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Voting closed 23

I think Wu is pretty clear headed about stuff. We have 700k people in this city - surely we can find five civic minded types with relevant experience to join the board.

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Voting closed 23

How did Lydia Edwards vote?

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She voted to reject the proposals. I've added her name in.

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The state is preparing substantive new climate resilience standards. These will require that any new development and redevelopment - building of anything by anybody - needs to address climate hazards.

Anyone coming on board will need to be familiar with the concepts, science, and data behind these standards and what compliance will look like.

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Voting closed 23

Are a large part of why certain groups are being pushed out of Boston.

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If you mean low income residents, they're not being pushed out by anything but a red hot housing market.

If you mean whiners like Tim McCarthy and the rest of sore losermen threatened by a more diverse, representative city gov't, no great loss.

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Voting closed 24

I think it's great to add the prerequisite for knowledge on climate change and urban planning, but three of these folks are established Boston architects and one is an established Boston real estate lawyer! If you don't absorb urban planning just by practicing these careers, then you're practicing in the suburbs. Furthermore, the architects, at least, surely know enough about building for climate change! Gimme a break. They passed up a good lot of folks who understand design and Boston context. Weak!

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Voting closed 19

any reason Campbell did not vote? did she abstain or was she absent?

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She was present for the next item on the agenda, though.

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Who would make a good candidate for such environmental impact expertise? Or candidates?

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The Council rejected candidates they did not even talk to about the issues they care about, causing the quorum issue at the ZBA to continue because?????

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Wu is a good politician. She is framing this like some big structural policy issue. In reality, the overwhelming amount of projects the ZBA reviews are minor things like dormers and porches on homes. All she is doing is slowing down projects for average Bostonians. I hope people remember this when she runs for mayor next year. If she was serious about structural reform, she'd propose changing the zoning code so these small projects don't even require this level of scrutiny in the first place, but that would require breaking with her NIMBY base who want the city to be frozen in time and no new housing to be built.

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Totally agree. You almost NEVER hear about the actual Zoning Commission which has a nearly identical make up to the ZBA and actually has the ability to enact the changes that she promotes on her platform. ZBA reform without Zoning reform is just handing the task from one interest group to another that is still subject to current political interests and does little to actually help the citizens.

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