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From the Councilor: Limiting Zoning for Chain Stores, East Boston Master Plan, Extending Tax Repayment Plans, Public Hearing on Payment in Lieu of Taxes

(07/06/18 Boston, Ma) The area of Hanover Street in the North End of Boston on Friday, July 6, 2018. Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki

July Newsletter from City Councilor Lydia Edwards:

The summer is flying by, but my office is hard at work!

In East Boston, we held a significant council hearing to preview an upcoming Master Plan for East Boston. Thank you to Sen. Boncore, Rep. Madaro, Chief Dillon, Commissioner Fiandaca, Commissioner Christopher, BPDA Director of Planning Sara Myerson, Director of Waterfront Planning Rich McGuinness, many of my colleagues on the council and hundreds of community members for joining! Read more about the hearing below, and please contact my office with your own vision for Eastie. We’ll continue to take constituent input on priorities for the neighborhood and what the process should look like. Expect more public meetings this fall. 

In Charlestown and the North End, we’ve heard recently from residents, businesses and other community stakeholders about the need for improvements to make streets more walkable, reduce traffic congestion, and ensure our communities are accessible. My office visited streets surrounding Sullivan Square and Charlestown High School on multiple occasions in the past weeks, and will be scheduling a walk through of North End streets to identify areas that are challenging for elders and persons with disabilities to traverse.

In the council, I filed legislation with Councilor Flynn to help homeowners repay back taxes. The Boston Advancing Certainty and Knowledge in Taxation (B.A.C.K. TAX) act will extend tax repayment plans to residents and commercial property owners and provide more leniency to those suffering economic hardship. Other cities that have adopted similar policies have reported an INCREASE in revenues while REDUCING the burden on those who have fallen behind due to circumstances they could not control. It would also incentivize commercial property owners who owe taxes to rent their properties at below-market rates.  

I also signed on to a zoning amendment by Councilor Wu to begin the discussion of how we treat “formula” retail businesses in zoning and how we ensure the public can weigh in on issues such as design.  This zoning amendment would NOT ban chain stores, instead it would set standards that regulate use and ensure a public process.  some areas of the city may be more suitable than others for certain retail. It’s important to ensure large businesses work with local groups to find locations, and design proposals, that match neighborhood goals. 

We’ll also be holding a public hearing on the Payment In Lieu of Taxes program in early August. You can read a bit more about this below.

Topics in this month’s newsletter include:

  • Legislation to remove as-of-right designations for chain stores in Boston’s neighborhood business districts.
  • North End feasts and processions schedule.
  • A master plan for East Boston driven by residents when it comes to development and other issues in the neighborhood.
  • The B.A.C.K. Tax Act to extend repayment plans to residents and commercial property owners and provide more leniency to those suffering economic hardship.
  • Activists and caregivers denounce separation of migrant families.
  • A review of the PILOT program that requires non-profit institutions to pay 25% of the taxes they would owe if they were not tax-exempt, or to contribute through community benefits.

Read more about these topics and see upcoming community meetings in the full newsletter.