In the past, developers have come to Chelsea and offered up parks, open space, or other mitigation efforts to the city when it comes time to build.
However, those mitigation measures for the impact of new development are not codified in the city’s zoning ordinance.
Council President Roy Avellaneda is looking to change that with a zoning ordinance amendment regarding the adoption of Community Impact Agreements. The amendment will go before the Planning Board for a recommendation, and there will be a public hearing before potential adoption of the amendment.
Avellaneda said large developments such as the recent Forbes project would fall under the new ordinance.
“Forbes actually did offer mitigation, and we have mitigation or host agreements with the marijuana (facilities) for some kind of mitigation to be in place,” said Avellaneda. “We’ve had mitigation offered by other developers in other ways; for example, Eastern Salt has mentioned in the past that as part of the expansion on the waterfront .. they mitigated and paid for a new soccer field and to create Port Park. That was mitigation.”
But the problem, he said, is that there is no official process in place in Chelsea for these types of mitigation offers.
“It is technically right now negotiated with the City Manager through an MOU (memorandum of understanding) and the mitigation package itself is never brought in front of the City Council, never given an approval, and is not transparent in the (sense) of something that the public gets to see prior to any sort of vote,” said Avellaneda. “What I am attempting to do here is to actually make that process transparent both for the residents to see and to give us a real process in place.”
The process presented to the Council by Avellaneda is based on the one used in Boston. Under the amendment, the City Manager would negotiate an agreement and bring it before the City Council before having it go before the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Avellaneda said he’d like to see the mitigation efforts be flexible, allowing for parks, traffic and infrastructure improvements, or affordable housing opportunities.
Keeping the options flexible would ensure the council was not handicapped when it comes to negotiating or accepting agreements, according to the Council President.
“I look forward to having this d iscussion in our subcommittee with our City Manager and staff, with my fellow colleagues, I look forward to hearing from our Planning Board on its recommendations,” said Avellaneda. “But I think we really need to codify and make this idea of community mitigations and the impact of these projects in our books for all to see.