City Manager, Some Councillors Back to the Drawing Board on Zoning Changes

The City Council effectively blocked the reconsideration of several key zoning changes in residential areas that would have allowed for somewhat denser development within existing neighborhoods – a matter that was first rejected at the March 8 meeting.

Councillor Leo Robinson filed for reconsideration of the rejection of certain pieces in an omnibus zoning package presented to the Council this month – after having worked on the matter since last summer, and in some cases for more than a year. That said, the pieces asking for density changes and a new Mixed-Use Overlay District across from Chelsea High School failed to get a supermajority – which is eight votes.

This Monday, Robinson said he would like to reconsider the piece on the Mixed-Use Overlay District, which will allow for the re-development of the Stop & Shop – all of which on the Everett side has already been permitted for a large mixed-use residential development.

“My primary reason to call for reconsideration as to take the items one at a time,” Robinson said on Monday. “My strong feeling was for the Mixed-Use Overlay District. There’s been a misconception this is new. We’ve been working on this for two years in this Chamber and many people have been invited. We also had interpreters here for anyone that needed interpreters…My purpose here was to deal with the Mixed-Use Overlay, which encompasses where Stop & Shop is and if Stop & Shop is to leave, Everett has the right to build whatever they want on their side, and we could end up with just a parking lot.”

Earlier in the meeting, GreenRoots leaders, including Director Roseann Bongiovanni, appeared at the meeting to call on councillors to reject the reconsideration.

“I agree with what the City Manager said that this is not a radical change,” she said. “However, it is signaling to developers outside our city we want to increase density and they are welcome here to maximize the living units and reduce the open space…Who are we developing housing for? We are not addressing a crisis in Chelsea. We are just welcoming new folks to come into Chelsea.”

The reconsideration vote failed 4-5, with Councillors Judith Garcia, Melinda Vega Maldonado, Yamir Rodriguez, Enio Lopez and Naomi Zabot voting against. Councillors Damali Vidot and Giovanni Recupero were absent.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino had advocated strongly for increasing the density in the R1 and R2 districts – which encompass much of the residential areas of the city. The increase would reduce the minimum size of lots needed to build by right, in the hopes of spurring housing development.

On Wednesday, he said he would likely bring back requests for changing zoning in Park Square and adding the Mixed-Use Overlay District for the Market Basket area. He said he felt there wasn’t a lot of opposition to those items, but they were a rejected due to being lumped in with the more controversial changes in the residential neighborhoods.

At the March 8 meeting, several of the zoning matters were approved. Those matters approved included the Municipal Harbor Plan zoning; expanding the areas where marijuana stores are allowed (mostly expanding to the downtown districts); and a change to the area on Revere Beach Parkway near Russo’s Tux.

Property Transferred

The City Council voted 9-0 to approve the transfer of vacant City land at 41-43 Orange St. to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF). The Fund is embarking on a new effort to develop vacant, tax title foreclosed property into new affordable housing opportunities.

Councillors Damali Vidot and Giovanni Recupero were absent from the vote.

The effort is the first of its kind in Chelsea, and could be the first of many to come. The next step would be for the Fund to issue and RFP to developers for the property.

Councillor Leo Robinson said he wanted to stress that the housing be homeownership opportunities and that there would be three-bedroom units to support families. Councillor Calvin Brown said he would like to see affordable homeownership opportunities on the property and not rentals.

Shots Fired on the Hill

Councillor Calvin Brown announced that many on Admiral’s Hill were frightened late Sunday night by six gunshots in the area of Mary O’Malley Park. Police were on the scene and determined there were no injuries and the shots were likely fired into the air.

Witnesses pointed police in the right direction, and they recovered a firearm and arrested two suspects for the shooting.

Quiet Zone Train Whistle Project Delayed

Contractors working on the railroad crossings throughout the city to help re-establish the Quiet Zone designation and quiet the train whistles blaring out at all hours of the day have hit a setback this week.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the contractors, BHB, have been working on four of the crossings to make them compliant. However, recently the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) notified them that to re-establish the Quiet Zone, they would have to fix all six crossings. That means that the project will likely not finish until December now.

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