By Neil Zolot
At their meeting on Monday, August 14, the City Council accepted grants of $390,725 from the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and $100,000 from the state Department of Conservation & Recreation to plant trees, with areas in need designated by local and state officials. Director of Planning and Development Matt Lattanzi explained that Everett is eligible for the grants because state authorities have designated large portions of the city as having impervious surfaces (i.e., pavement that doesn’t absorb water).
He also said the grants have provisions for citizens to call city and state agencies to report dead trees on their own property, which can be uprooted and replaced at no cost to them. “Both grants will work on our tree canopy,” he said.
In other Council news, Ward 3 Councillor Darren Costa raised a number of zoning recommendations, which were approved and sent to the Planning Board for consideration. One idea is to limit building height in business district zones from four stories and 65 feet to three stories and 36 feet. “If we continue to allow ‘by right’ development, we’ll reduce residents’ quality of life,” he said.
He also thinks building footprints “needs to be changed as part of a bigger initiative” and mentioned congestion, noise pollution and parking issues as byproducts of uncontrolled development. “Everett suffers from the heat island effect because it lacks trees and greenspace,” he said.
The Council also accepted Costa’s resolution to create a planning initiative for zoning in Ward 3, which could be part of a Master Plan for the entire city. (Ward 3 is the northeast corner of Everett, north of the strip mall where Ferry Street meets Broadway/Route 99 and east of Broadway towards Malden and Revere. There is some commercial development at or near the Malden line near Estes, Fuller and Shute Streets, but much of the land is cemeteries.) Costa sees the ward as a new area for development, with zoning for it and other areas “unformulated.”
He’s found the lack of a comprehensive Master Plan a hindrance in his role as City Council liaison to the Planning Board. “There’s no Master Plan for areas outside the riverfront and Everett Square,” he said. “I want to be ahead of what develops. We need a modern streetscape and can’t allow developers to determine the streetscape. We can’t just build more massive apartment buildings that replace single family homes.”
Lattanzi reported there’s an outdated Master Plan from 1973, but that plans targeting certain areas, like Lower Broadway and the commercial triangle south of Revere Beach Parkway/Rte. 16, have been formulated in the meantime. Master Plans are not required but are common. In some communities they become museum pieces; in others they evolve with periodic updates. Lattanzi warned they can become restricting if not updated “because things change.”
The city is involved in a full-scale zoning reclassification, which when finished will be similar to a Master Plan. “We’re realizing some things haven’t been touched for years,” Lattanzi said. “There’s conflicting language because when some things were added, corresponding old sections were not removed. We have a one-size-fits-all business classification, which doesn’t really work. We’ll replace some sections with different business designations.”
Costa also introduced a resolution requesting the administration to consider that Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings be held in City Council Chambers to allow them to be seen and archived. “If we can broadcast, we should,” he said. “The public has requested it.”
Councillor-at-Large John Hanlon objected on the grounds that the City Council Chambers are for exclusive use by the City Council, although it is occasionally used for other purposes. For example, in approving designated polling places for the preliminary municipal election, the Council designated the Chambers as the central vote tabulation location. “I didn’t expect to get this kind of pushback,” Costa reacted, but he amended the resolution for outfitting the Keverian Meeting Room to show meetings, which was approved.
Finally, the Council approved Costa’s resolution requesting the Mayor to appear at an upcoming meeting to advise the City Council on the status of renegotiation of the original Host Community Agreement with Encore Boston Harbor. “The Host Agreement is not suitable for where we are today,” he said, referring to Encore buying land across Broadway once occupied by small businesses like Mike’s Roast Beef. “We can’t look at this as one bite. They own a lot of that area now.”