It has been an exciting first month in office for me. I am getting up to speed on the pressing issues facing the board but this time from the perspective of an elected official, not just a private citizen/activist. I am learning so much, and I am also making sure that my voice is heard on behalf of the people. This newsletter will give you updates on city business, and also encourage you to weigh in and give your feedback to the city so we can be the change we want to see.1) City-wide Zoning Overhaul- Your input is wanted/needed!
• The Mayor’s office has officially released its proposed Citywide Zoning Overhaul, and is asking for community input. There is a dedicated website: www.somervillezoning.com, where you can see the proposed map and regulations, and learn about the details. In addition, the website also contains the thinking behind the overhaul and the process by which the city will go about approving/voting on the changes. You can find where your property falls in the city’s Zoning Atlas.
• You can find out more information at an upcoming public hearing too:
◦On Tuesday, February 13, 2018, at 6:00p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers on the Second Floor of Somerville City Hall, 93 Highland Avenue, the City Administration will introduce the code, provide an overview, and highlight the differences between the proposed 2018 overhaul and the 2015 version;
•Ways to get your voice heard!
◦ There is a ‘CiviComment’ page (https://somerville.civicomment.org/) at the zoning website where you can leave input. This allows for people to comment directly on specific items in the code, and lets everybody see and discuss each other’s comments.
◦ In addition, you can also offer your thoughts by emailing the Planning Board at email@example.com. These comments will be shared with the BOA as well.
◦ Finally, you can contribute by offering comments at the public hearing on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers on the Second Floor of Somerville City Hall, 93 Highland Avenue.
2) Transfer Tax for Affordable Housing in Somerville:
• State Representative Mike Connolly has proposed legislation at the state-level that would allow cities to enact taxes on real estate transactions. This legislation would allow cities in Massachusetts, like Somerville, to pass a real estate transfer tax ranging from .5 to 2% on speculation in the market and have the funds go directly to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund in Somerville! The board needs this legislation to pass on the state level in order to enact our very own transfer fee. Check out the favorable reviews his legislation has received thus far: http://www.repmikeconnolly.org/rep_mike_connolly_real_estate_transfer_fee_gets_favorable_committee_report
• This is a complex development with many moving parts involving low income residents and their representatives (Clarendon Resident United) and developers (Somerville Community Corporation (SCC), Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and RedGates. I attended one of several public meetings with huge turnout (pictured attached) where residents continue to express their concerns. I was pleased to hear very thoughtful comments from our Board President and Ward 7 Alderman Katjana Ballantyne about the need for further conversation between the developers and the residents to come to a reasonable and achievable compromise. This affordable housing remake is desperately needed, but it also clear that we need to support our Clarendon residents and fellow Somerville neighbors in this process. More updates to come as this situation progresses. Follow the project on clarendonhill.org.
4)Draw Seven State Park- Again, your input is needed/wanted!
• There was a community/public meeting on February 5th at the East Somerville Community School that detailed the possible options for developing the Draw Seven State Park (next to Assembly). Here is a link to that night’s presentation: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/draw-seven-park
• There was a great turnout at the meeting, including all the Aldermen at Large, Ward One Alderman Matt McLaughlin, and State Rep Mike Connolly. Neighbors and community members expressed their concerns, and the public is welcome to provide comments. The deadline for receipt of comments by the Department of Conservation and Recreation is Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.
• Comments may be submitted online at https://www.mass.gov/forms/dcr-public-comments or by writing to the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Office of Public Outreach, 251 Causeway Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02114.
5) It’s About Time! Board of Aldermen to become City Council
• It was nice to see a proposal come onto the floor Thursday night that requested we change our official title to that of “City Council” instead of the outdated and gendered “Board of Aldermen”. I 100% support this change- it is common sense and long overdue. The matter should be simple and straightforward and not take up a lot of the board’s time either (so many pressing issues!). The name change will not alter our roles or official duties in any way.
Next newsletter I will look to provide updates on the newly recognized USNC (Union Square Neighborhood Council), Net Neutrality and progress with the Housing Hackathon being led by Alderman Stephanie Hirsch. Please reach out and forward this email to anyone who would want to sign up for updates on what is happening in the city.
Your Public Servant,
Alderman-At-Large Will Mbah