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NEWRA ZLC Report: New Community Process for 27 Sheafe St. & Executive Suites Amendment Explained

Victor Brogna from the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA)’s Zoning, Licensing & Construction (ZLC) Committee shared four updates at the January NEWRA meeting. Watch the full presentation in the video or skip to points of interest using the timeline below.

  1. Community Zoning, Licensing & Construction (ZLC) Committee report (0:34)

At the January 28 ZLC meeting, 471-477 Hanover Street, the last building on the right by Commercial Street before the parking lot, will present a petition to change the occupancy of the current building from 7 units to 6 units.

2. 27 Sheafe Street (2:12)

NEWRA voted in 2018 to support a change in legal occupancy from 5 residential units to 8 residential units, as did NEWNC; however, the Board of Appeal denied the petition. It was denied because the earlier drawings hadn’t been changed and there was also a utility room with access from the street but not from inside the building. The chair of the board also noted that the raising of the number of units was done by halving the current units.

Brogna asked NEWRA if they thought the petitioner should be required to go through the whole process again with the ZLC committee followed by a NEWRA vote. NEWRA decided that yes, this proposal should go through both steps again.

3. Zoning amendment on executive suites (7:15)

The Boston Zoning Commission voted on Wednesday to force a public process for all Executive Suite occupancy applications, closing a potential loophole in the new short-term rental regulations.

NEWRA submitted a letter in support of the City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development’s proposed amendment to the Boston Zoning Code in regards to executive suites in December. Ford Cavallari, Chairman of the Alliance of Downtown Civic Organizations, broke down what this amendment means at the January meeting (7:34 in the video).

The conversion of properties to executive suites was, prior to the amendment, an “allowed” use in parts of the North End, including much of Hanover Street. This meant that property owners could simply apply for a permit from the City of Boston without having to go through any approval processes.

Many short-term rental units have been trying to gain executive suite status after the new regulations were put in place at the start of 2019. The amendment closes this loophole, so that now in order to become an executive suite an owner must go through the community process and gain approval. The Zoning Commission unanimously voted to adopt this change.

This new rule stopped about 250 units from becoming executive suites outright. Now all of these must go through the community process, which is going to mean a lot more pressure on the ZLC and NEWRA.

4. In the fourth issue, Brogna gives a preview of problems with zoning code variance (15:15). Brogna explains how legal requirements have been ignored in the past and poses the question of whether there’s a need to focus on individual parcels in a way that an overall zoning plan does not.

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