District 1 City Councilor Lydia Edwards, representing the North End, Charlestown, and East Boston, presented legislative and community updates to the North End / Waterfront Residents Association (NEWRA) at their December meeting.
Watch the presentation in the video above and follow along with this timeline.
(1:30) In the last legislative year a law was passed allowing seniors who have fallen behind in their property taxes to stretch out payment and reduce it by half. This law will help keep seniors in their homes. There will be an update on that law in the next fiscal year to see how many seniors have opted in and if it’s having an impact.
(2:06) AirBnB / Short-Term Rentals: Following the short-term rental ordinance deadline of December, about half of the units on AirBnB have disappeared because they weren’t registered. The City has coordinated with other short-term rental websites to be sure owners don’t just move their listing to other sites.
(3:29) Streets Improvements: Hanover Street was re-paved this year. Councilor Edwards encouraged residents to send streets that need to be paved to her neighborhood liaison Michael Bonetti. The very high curb outside of Bova’s at the corner of Salem and Prince Streets has also been repaired.
(6:06) Trash: There has been positive feedback about the new trash schedule implemented earlier this year. Councilor Edwards also thanked those involved in the Clean Streets Initiative and everyone who participated in the clean up day.
(8:15) Zoning Board of Appeals: In November, the Council filed a Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) reform to overhaul the zoning board. It is mandated by statute that there are seven seats on the ZBA which include: a developer seat, a real estate agent seat, a labor seat, two community member seats, and a chair. Edwards would like to relook at those seats. She points out that there is no one representing environmental or historical perspectives, as well as no one required to know zoning law. Edwards is calling for a functional ZBA that doesn’t rubber stamp everything that comes along. She explained she wants residents to trust growth again – that the city is truly analyzing projects and making sure the city grows in a responsible way.
(11:18) Climate Change and Planning: Councilor Edwards discussed planning for climate change beyond just resilient buildings on the shoreline. This doesn’t help a lot of inner neighborhoods that are also in flood zones.
(13:05) PILOT program: The payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program applies to non-profits such as institutions and hospitals who do not pay property taxes. 25% of the assessed value is supposed to be paid to the city as a PILOT payment, half in cash and half as community benefit. In 2012 the city was able to collect $30 million in PILOT payments. Since then, these “meds and eds” have not been processing their PILOT payments. Councilor Edwards wants these non-profits to be held accountable for their PILOT payments.
(16:38) Real Estate Transfer Fee: This proposal was recently passed to ask permission from the State House for the city of Boston to one day consider a fee of up to 2% on transfers of over 2 million dollars. This would join several other cities in the U.S. including New York City. The projected revenue from a 2% fee would be $160 million per year that would go toward housing via the neighborhood housing trust.
Questions from the audience begin at 19:15.
(22:50) A NEWRA member asked about the new AirBnB ordinance and how the enforcement is going. He referenced ISD Commissioner Dion Irish’s presentation that two people are tasked with enforcing the ordinance. Edwards agreed that it would be great if the city had more people to do this work. Another attendee asked how the city checks that a unit is actually owner occupied. Perhaps the owner receives mail at that address, but doesn’t physically live there. Edwards explained the city enforcement individuals will go to each address and ask neighbors if that person actually lives there.
(29:47) Individuals raised concerns about missing crosswalks and damaged sidewalks and asked if 311 is the best way to report this. Councilor Edwards suggested also cc’ing her office (firstname.lastname@example.org) because she is not notified of 311 requests.
(32:10) One attendee asked about snow removal, particularly on sidewalks and other tight areas. Councilor Edwards said the snow angels program will continue this winter.