Council Passes Parking Program Ban for Developers Seeking ZBA Relief

Developers who want to get around the City’s parking requirements are going to have to put their money where their mouths are.

Monday night, the City Council approved an amendment altering the off-street parking requirements in the zoning ordinance. Under the change, brought forward by Council President Damali Vidot and District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop, developers who seek parking relief for their projects will lose the right to have their tenants take part in the City’s on-street parking program.

“If a developer wants to build and does not meet the minimum requirement for parking, we are asking them to enter an agreement with the people they rent to, to not participate in the residential parking program,” said Vidot. 

As a lack of parking becomes a bigger and bigger issue in Chelsea, Vidot said developers continue to come forward seeking relief from parking regulations which typically require two parking spots per residential unit. Often, she said, those developers will tout the fact that more people are using public transportation or ride-sharing services and do not own as many cars. But, Vidot said, the numbers show that car registrations are heading up in Chelsea, and it becomes harder every day for residents to find a place to park on the city’s streets.

“It’s important that we try to figure out how to resolve this issue, and we definitely have an issue in our community,” Vidot said.

Bishop said the issue extends beyond developers building multi-unit apartment complexes.

“People are going to the Board of Appeals and they want to convert a two- family house to a three-family house, or a one-family to a two-family,” Bishop said.

Often, he said, those conversion requests come with a request to seek relief from the parking requirements.

“Something has to be done, it’s crazy out there,” said Bishop.

While the change will go into effect on Jan. 1 of next year, Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda took a shot at backdating the ordinance change to Jan. 1 2015. Effectively, developers who were granted parking relief since that date could have seen their tenants no longer eligible for on-street parking stickers.

Several councillors raised objections that the City could be in legal jeopardy if the ordinance change was back-dated. However, Avellaneda maintained that participating in the parking program is not a right, so that taking it away wouldn’t be a legal issue.

City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher was not as comfortable denying that parking relief granted by the ZBA is a right.

“If someone sought relief, then they have relief,” she said, adding that if the Council went forward with Avellaneda’s suggested change, the whole ordinance change would be unenforceable.

Avellaneda withdrew his amendment, and voted for the change as proposed by Vidot and Bishop.

Councillors Joe Perlatonda and Leo Robinson cast the two votes against the ordinance change.

“Who are we to say that someone comes into Chelsea and buys a $500,000 condo or an $800,000 house and we say they can’t park here?” asked Perlatonda. “There are people parking in Chelsea who do not live in Chelsea.”

Perlatonda said there is a parking issue in the city, but has vocally championed a more holistic overhaul of the city’s parking regulations to address the issue.

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