The summer might signal a civic break for the City Council, but July looks to host at least a couple of interesting meetings for the body to take part in.
On July 26, the Council will hold a Subcommittee on Conference to discuss a $75,000 expenditure for an appraiser to start the process for Eminent Domain takings of vacant – perhaps land-banked – properties on Suffolk and Congress Avenues.
Council President Roy Avellaneda has been pushing the idea as the next frontier in the fight to create affordable housing, and he said the City has sent out invites to property owners there to let them know their property will be discussed.
“All owners are going to get an idea about this,” he said. “It will be a meeting where we want to learn what are their plans because we need ownership opportunities in this community. We’ll see what they have to say because if we do go down the road of Eminent Domain, they will at least know. Chelsea can’t afford to have all those empty parcels.”
Avellaneda’s chief target in the effort is Eastern Salt, who owns a lot of property in that area and purchased the former Boston Hides and Furs property not long ago. He said they bought it without a plan, and claimed they are, and have, land-banked vacant lots so as not to impede their salt storage operations.
“In particular, Eastern Salt bought many of these parcels and not knowing that they have been a developer and have bought property to keep it from being developed, we need to know their plan. It’s disheartening they paid $28 million for Boston Hides and Furs and there’s not a plan we know of. No one buys that land without a plan in place.”
Avellaneda said he would like to see such vacant parcels taken, and then put in the hands of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund – which is now in the process of developing its first property on Orange Street. That is a new program brought in by City Manager Tom Ambrosino to try to get more affordable housing in place on vacant property.
Council Vice President Judith Garcia will host a special Council meeting on July 19 to discuss rules and discourse at Council meeting. This year in particular, there has been a number of incidents during public speaking and amongst the councillors of improper discourse or insults.
Some of the problems stem from verbal attacks lobbed at councillors from the public during the public speaking portion, and others issues include councillors who have frequently talked over another councillor.
Avellaneda said he thinks it’s high time to revise the Council rules and would support more authority for the president to sanction members for bad behavior.
“Frankly, there is very little the president can do and we should look into having stronger sanctioning powers for the president if there’s something egregious,” he said. “I think it’s high time we look at them and update them, particularly when it comes to communications in the modern world.”