The City Council voted seven-to-five in favor of rejecting Mayor Marty Walsh’s three zoning board nominees, following the recommendation of At-Large City Councilor Michelle Wu, Chairwoman for the Committee on Planning, Development and Transportation.
Councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Kenzie Bok, Liz Breadon, Lydia Edwards, Kim Janey, Julia Mejia, and Michelle Wu all voted to dismiss the nominees without prejudice. Councilors Frank Baker, Annissa Essaibi-George, Michael Flaherty, Ed Flynn, and Matt O’Malley voted against the proposal. Councilor Andrea Campbell did not vote.
In accordance with the new home rule petition changes to the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA), Councilor Wu suggested that the City Council exercise their oversight authority and properly vet the board member nominees. By rejecting the nominees without prejudice, the denied nominees would still be eligible to be appointed.
“This is not about the individuals,” stated Councilor Wu during the Council’s Wednesday meeting. “These are all extremely dedicated Boston residents, hard-working people who would add a lot to the ZBA. This is about the larger structural issues in this moment we are in.”
However, she noted that the board member nominees did not properly reflect the home rule petition changes for modernizing the board, creating transparency, and addressing structural changes such as expertise in climate change and environmental protection, and urban planning. Councilor Wu stated that the nominees’ expertise “are not immediately evident.”
One of the vacancies on the board is that of a previous board member amid a bribery scandal that left one federally convicted.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created a backlog of cases for the ZBA after hearings were temporarily halted. Mayor Walsh warned that not voting for the nominees would “stop development in it’s tracks” as the board struggles to reach quorums during their hearings.
“For a couple councilors, this is about politics right now,” Mayor Walsh stated during his Tuesday press meeting. “This isn’t about moving our process forward. These actions, or inaction, by a couple of councilors will cause a lot of harm to our City.”
Councilor Wu urged for a swift timeline so that the new nominees could be voted on during the next City Council meeting on September 16th.