Time to Focus on Creative Solutions By Matt Frank Chelsea City Council

There has been lot of conservation in Chelsea about lack of parking and usable open space for both recreation and sports. A small condensed city is bound to have issues with both of these but long term planning and creative thinking are essential for the future of our city. Of particular note as of late is the downtown corridor where I hear two arguments, both extremes that take an easy route. One argument is a moratorium on all development which would be devastating for the municipal budget and could stall out the economic engine of our fledgling fiscal success. The other argument is reducing the parking requirement to nearly zero which would have the effect of making a Downtown Chelsea parking problem a true nightmare. There is a third way that is not quite as easy as declaring an extreme but is not impossible either.

When I first joined the Planning Board in my early 20’s I was concerned about being faced with either accepting a development that did not have the required parking spots and open space or rejecting the whole proposal. Now about thirteen years later on the City Council I look back and see those concerns multiplied as Chelsea is now a “hot” spot for developers. That concern lead me to put forward a proposal this spring that would require developers pay into an open space and recreation fund if they failed to meet minimum requirements. A similar proposal advocated by many is to do the same regarding parking specifically in the downtown area as that is where the parking situation is most dire. Rather than dropping the parking requirements in downtown the city can work to make downtown easier to access without overloading the streets with onus being put on the developers rather than the current residents.

An example of a creative solution that could go to solve multiple concerns is the creation of a downtown Chelsea garage with a sporting surface on the roof equipped with lighting and safety barriers. The structure can be built in the near future by issuing a municipal bond to pay for construction with the payments being paid using the fees on developers in the downtown area that fail to meet minimum parking requirements and through small hourly/daily/monthly rates with a discount for residents. The sporting surface portion can be funded through the open space and recreation fee on developers citywide that fail to meet the minimum usable open space requirements and through small fees on usage. Parking for events at the rooftop field would become a non-issue as people can park in the garage or take mass transit since it would be in the general downtown area. Grants and other funding sources could create even more opportunity. This is just one concept of many but it all starts with a thought and conversation that extends beyond just YES and NO.

The issues with land use we face were created and fostered by the extremes. Now is the time to focus on creative solutions. Let’s fix what is broken rather than just push it off to tomorrow. Our time is now, we can start today.

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