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Report: Now former zoning-board member voted for several projects he then helped sell

WGBH reports that as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeal, Craig Galvin "acted as a real estate broker for multiple properties that received valuable zoning variances" from the board during his time there.

Galvin resigned from the board earlier this month, after a BPDA manager agreed to plead guilty to a bribery charge in connection with a small South Boston project that allegedly involved a zoning board member arranging to get the project approved even though a variance it had had lapsed.

Galvin once marketed a duplex condo built by that manager, John Lynch, who is now facing between 4 and 5 years in federal prison.

Galvin was on the board as the designated representative of the real-estate industry. The state law that defines the Boston zoning board requires at least one member to be nominated by the Greater Real Estate Board. The law has similar requirements for representatives of builders, construction unions, architects and neighborhood groups.

In addition to an ongoing investigation by the US Attorney's office, Mayor Walsh has hired a former federal prosecutor to look into zoning allegations and a separate law firm to look at the process by which development proposals go through the city approval process.

Walsh's aide on Methadone Mile, Buddy Christopher, took a leave of absence from his post after the allegations surfaced. Until recently, he was commissioner of ISD, which plays a key role in that process. Before Walsh hired him for ISD, he was a private architect - and worked on the original South Boston proposal.

At the second of two hearings on whether to approve it, his son James represented the developer before the board.

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Comments

Yeah, I just wish the reporter wasn't so lazy, because it makes me question the quality of the reporting on other facts. It's pretty common knowledge by many that Anne is his sister-in-law and not his wife. Something that could have been verified by Google or a phone call.

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When will the media ask Mayor Walsh if he has agreed not to seek a third term in exchange for not being further implicated in the federal corruption convictions? Bow out gracefully, as the saying goes. It's sad when this plausible scenario is only being discussed in the coffee shops and barrooms, not in the local media.

Of course, much like Menino, Walsh has wisely insulated himself with ex-reporters to handle any media inquiries. I sympathize with those who remain in media being required to ask their friends and former colleagues the tough questions. Has a deal for Marty to bow out been reached as many Bostonians believe?

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But you're on point here. It's no secret only a few developers keep getting through the multitude of variances need to get things built in this town. Most construction and development is done by just a few companies. Many small owners can't navigate the variances, NIMBYism, ect. The BPDB is corrupt as shit, and we've seen Martys bag men with connections to union construction breaking the law

Meanwhile major quality of city life issues are ignored; methadone mile, Long Island, transit issues, the increase in cyclist and pedestrian deaths. The list goes on.

Time for new leadership that can balance the development interests with our community interests and raze the BPDA (who thought a rebanding would wash away the stain).

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Is that illegal? It sounds like if a real-estate professional is required to be on the zoning board, then the conflict of interest is by design.

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If a broker appointed to the board has business dealings with an applicant, he can recuse himself. Over the past couple years, I saw Galvin do that with some projects up before the board (no, I didn't keep track of them). Same thing with the architect representative (Anthony Pisani would routinely recuse himself on such cases). For that matter, Bruce Bickerstaff always stepped out of marijuana hearings because he is a part owner of a company that wants to build a pot shop in Roslindale (now, of course, that's not an issue, since Walsh banned city board members from owning proposed pot shops and Bickerstaff quit the board).

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If these members are recusing themselves from different projects and it's done on a (somewhat) regular basis, maybe they shouldn't be sitting on the board at all.
The whole thing is just, at best, too cozy.

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Do they have to recuse themselves from a hearing involving any developer/contractor they've ever been the listing agent or worked with a buyer on? That would likely severely curtail any hearings they could actually be involved in.

What about later being involved with a completed project? If someone who had a variance approved do they automatically have to refuse to be involved as an agent? Again, that seems like it would severely curtail their business opportunities in short order.

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Galvin was the agent for some of these developments a year or two later, after they'd been built. So it could be just that he is a larger realtor in the area or quid pro quo - we have no way of knowing which is why it should be formally barred that a ZBA member can make any money from a project for some number of years after completion.

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This is why everyone reading this site should be a paid subscriber to at least one quality local news source.

Globe, WGBH, and U-Hub*
(*To whom I owe a donation...)

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Is anybody surprised? Do you really think he’s the only one? Does anybody really think the Mayor didn’t know about this?

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I'm going to bet that if there is a case here, they all involved fairly small projects (the South Boston one, for example, was 11 units).

The zoning board handles zillions of hearings a year (OK, slight exaggeration now, but sometimes they have 60 hearings scheduled for a single hour now). I'm sure the mayor gets involved in the big stuff, like skyscrapers and Suffolk Downs and New Balance, but all these little apartment buildings and duplexes and stuff? You're suggesting a level of micro-management that Walsh has never shown an interest in.

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South Boston, a few months ago, "connected" developer represented by well known lawyer who's many appearances before the Zoning Board would make you think he has his own office at City Hall, 2 unit building wants to go to 4 units with no parking. Every neighbor was opposed because of height, no open space and lack of parking. All the politicians opposed the development. Mayor was the only one in favor and it gets passed. Goes on every Zoning Hearing.
In fairness to you, one cannot possibly know all the behind the scene shenanigans that goes on in this City on small developments never mind the large ones.

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to learn that there is gambling in this establishment

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I feel like people are missing the most plausible reason for the bribe. It wasn't to secure the permit extension; those are routinely granted by the zoning board. No developer would need to bribe anyone to get that. But, the original extension was denied when the developer didn't show to the hearing. That seemingly killed the project. But then, somehow the same project got back on the agenda for an extension only weeks later and was then approved and project saved. Anyone who does any work at the zoning board knows they schedule hearings months in advance. So, how did this extension get denied but then suddenly put back on the agenda so quickly? Therein lies a very plausible reason for the bribe. A long-time city employee like Lynch is going to know a lot of people in the building. He takes a payment from the developer (or someone associated with), calls in a favor to a friend at the zoning board, and the matter magically reappears on the next agenda. A very plausible scenario and would explain a bribe that on the surface doesn't seem to make much sense for any of the parties involved.

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The documents filed in federal court about Lynch right now are pretty sparse, so we really don't know what happened (there's usually an affidavit by an FBI agent floating around that details the case, but Lynch agreed right up front to plead guilty, so that hasn't been filed in court yet). If a shoe drops and somebody else is charged, that might change. And you're right - based on the videos of the two 2017 hearings on the specific project, the issue isn't trying to get a variance, which isn't typically too difficult, but in getting the thing back on the agenda two weeks after the board rejected it because nobody showed up.

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.

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I got not one but TWO letters the other week alerting me as a "neighbor" of some dude's intention to finish out his basement to add a bathroom and a playroom and a laundry room, and inviting me to come and share my oh so valuable opinion with the zoning board. wtf??? first off, any project that doesn't affect the outer shell of the house shouldn't even have to go to zoning, since it causes zero effect on anyone but the resident.

secondly, as a taxpayer the fact that they're sending out multiple letters to everyone in a fairly large catchment area (this is a house at least three streets away) and then holding a public meeting for which the board members are presumably reimbursed so they can make a judgment on a PLAY ROOM is a fucking waste of money.

but meanwhile mahty and pals are flinging around bribes and building 45 unit clapboard and duct tape tenements on single lots

this city is so goddamn dysfunctional.

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