Mass. Gaming Commission presents $248K for Harbor Walk, Alford St. Bridge shared path
By Neil Zolot
A number of zoning proposals were items on the City Council agenda on Monday, November 13, and were sent to the Legislative Affairs Subcommittee for study.
One would amend the Zoning Ordinance to allow kennels, pet daycare, veterinary and pet grooming businesses in the Lower Broadway Residential/Multifamily Sub District, specifically at the unused former Quik Stik-Xygraphix label printing company building at 220 Broadway, south of Sweetser Circle. “Unlike other zoning districts throughout Everett, the Lower Broadway Economic Development District doesn’t allow for use variances,” Executive Director of Planning and Development Matt Lattanzi explained. “So, in instances where a particular use isn’t explicitly allowed, a person wouldn’t be able to appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals to have their case heard as to whether the proposed use would be conducive to the area. Rather, such an allowance would only be effectuated through a change in the zoning. In the present instance, we have a vacant building that has been in deteriorating condition for a few years. A proponent approached the City stating that they wished to rehabilitate the building for the purposes of creating a pet daycare/pet grooming business.
“Following discussions with the proponent, the City determined that such a use would be beneficial to the area. There are a few large residential developments (Batchyard, Charleston Lofts, 30 Beacham Street) as well as employment hubs (Encore Boston Harbor, McGovern Honda, Gateway Mall) that may benefit strongly from having such a use in close proximity for their residents/employees. In fact, the proponent had received letters of support from Batchyard and Encore while engaging in conversations with the City about the use. The City is amenable to pursue this option because the contemplated use provides a benefit to the surrounding residents/employees, enables a local business opportunity, and improves the aesthetics of the area by reusing and rehabilitating a currently dilapidated building.”
“It’s in my ward and I’m in favor of it,” Ward 6 Councillor Al Lattanzi feels. “It’s an opportunity to rehab a building and won’t bother the neighborhood. It’s a good idea.” As a pet owner, he also likes the idea of it being used to service pet owners.
Another proposal would amend the Zoning Ordinance by deleting Short Term Rentals, which include Airbnbs, from certain sections. “This has caused a bit of confusion from folks,” Matt Lattanzi said. “In practice, it will have no effect on what is allowed or not allowed in terms of Short-Term Rentals. The City has both a standalone Revised Ordinance and a Zoning Ordinance, both of which pertain to Short Term Rentals. It is the opinion of the City Solicitor’s Office that the City does not need both in order to govern Short Term Rentals.
“The rationale behind removing it from Zoning is to allow for a more efficient process to respond to the concerns and needs of residents and Administration through language amendments. When the City wishes to make a Zoning change, it takes a few months between the 30-day legal notice, introduction to the City Council, recommendation by the Planning Board, vote for enrollment by the City Council, vote for ordainment by the City Council, and signature by the Mayor. Conversely, changing a revised ordinance is a much quicker process and making amendments to a policy can be done in weeks rather than months.”
“It takes forever,” Al Lattanzi said in plainer language.
A third proposal would amend language on the “Commercial Triangle,” a 110-acre area between Revere Beach Parkway (Route 16), the MBTA commuter rail tracks and the Chelsea border. “This Zoning Amendment is a direct result of the requirements set forth by the ‘MBTA Communities Act,’” Matt Lattanzi explained. “This newly-adopted state law was implemented to help combat the housing crisis facing the Commonwealth and requires communities serviced by the MBTA to have zoning ordinances which allow for housing production by-right in designated areas.
“The City has been working with the state and with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council to ensure compliance with the new state law. The language that currently exists in the Commercial Triangle Economic Development District complies fully with the housing-density-requirements set forth in the state law, but required a small tweak for full compliance. Whereas the state law requires strictly-residential uses to be allowed by-right, current zoning allows for mixed-use by-right and residential by Special Permit. However, the City still wishes to continue encouraging mixed-use development over solely-residential development, as mixed-use development helps to create more walkable, livable communities, and allows new developments to serve as community assets rather than service only those who live within the structure. So, as a way to comply with the state law while still retaining the strong encouragement to development mixed-use over residential-use, this zoning amendment will allow residential uses by-right up to a maximum of 3-stories, which satisfies the minimum unit-density requirement set forth by the state, and mixed-use by-right up to 7-stories, the current allowance.”
The City Council also approved accepting and expending $248,000 from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for planning and design of a shared path connecting the Encore Harbor Walk to the Alford Street Bridge. “The City applied for and received funds from the Gaming Commission to study and design an extension of the harbor walk which currently terminates at Encore Boston Harbor,” Matt Lattanzi said. “The extension would expand the harbor walk from Encore, under the Alford Street Bridge, and connect to the eastern-side of Broadway.
“This project helps to actualize the Mayor’s vision of activating the City’s extensive waterfront, a resource that has, historically, been blocked-off from the residents of Everett due to industrial users occupying the spaces. It would connect the eastern-side of Broadway, where Encore’s ‘East of Broadway’ project and the potential redevelopment of the Constellation site are located, to the existing waterfront path along Encore, around the Gateway Mall, and eventually connecting via a continuous path to Rivergreen Park.”
Responding to questions from Councillors, he added, “The majority of these funds are for design, but won’t tie our hands to do the project. It’s not tied to implementation, but will identify costs. There are other funds available for implementation, and we’ll try to make sure municipal funds are not used to realize the Administration’s vision to have as much access to the waterfront as possible.”
“It sounds like a good program,” Ward 1 Councillor Wayne Matewsky reacted.
In a housekeeping measure, the City Council approved reappointment of Ward 4 Councillor-Elect Holly Garcia to the Youth Commission for a term of two years expiring November 30, 2025. Ward 5 Councillor Vivian Nguyen cast what she described as a symbolic vote against reappointing Garcia on the grounds elected officials shouldn’t serve on appointed committees despite her feeling that Garcia is a valued member of the Youth Commission.