A Better City & BPDA Article 80 Modernization Discussion Recap

On May 7, members of the Land Use and Development Advisory Committee along with a larger group of ABC members, guests, and BPDA staff met to discuss progress on modernizing the Article 80 project review process.  BPDA Deputy Director of Master Planning and Policy Nupoor Monani and Transformation Project Manager Kevin Crossley presented a summary of recent activities, with the goals of catching up on evolving ideas and receiving feedback on the process and material presented.  Kevin reviewed the timeline of the effort and outlined engagement methods used to identify problems with the current process and begin to identify solutions.  Emerging ideas have been prioritized with the top three: 1) establish clear, transparent performance tracking and approval (and rejection) of standards, 2) establish a predictable approach for determining mitigation and community benefits, and 3) reform advisory groups to build trust and generate more impactful and targeted input.

Three core changes proposed for the review process are: 1) effective engagement, 2) consistent standards, and 3) coordinated review.

For Effective Engagement, three actions are to expand community engagement methods to allow more inclusive and diverse participation, to require early engagement from developers based on standards and guidelines established by BPDA, and to replace current IAGs (Impact Advisory Groups) with new Community Advisory Groups (CATs).  During questions and responses, a broader definition of “community” to include people who spend time working in Boston as well as those who live here was suggested.  A concern was raised of potential delay in advancing development projects if there needs to be time to train CAT participants. 

For Consistent Standards, actions include new definitions in zoning for community benefits, mitigation, and enabling infrastructure; standardize criteria for small, large, and extra-large or institutional projects; and create and enforce a “menu of options” for proponents to select for community benefits.

For Coordinated Review, split required review filings into four clear steps; establish incremental steps to confirm key decisions on land use, massing, density, and size of mitigation package; update and enforce review response times; and create interagency review teams with a project manager to coordinate review, prioritize feedback, and enforce response times.

A comment was that the review steps may need to depend on the type of project.  The way projects are designed has changed due to new requirements, and the review process should reflect the current reality of the design process.  The concern is that there could be another fight at each stage.  More predictable zoning could help in reducing these conflicts.   Kevin agreed that the content of each review step needs to be elaborated in further detail.

Next steps in the modernization process include workshops in neighborhoods across the city, and further discussions with A Better City as our comments are considered and addressed.

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