Developers who want to get around the City’s
parking requirements are going to have to put their money where their mouths
Monday night, the City Council approved an
amendment altering the off-street parking requirements in the zoning ordinance.
Under the change, brought forward by Council President Damali Vidot and
District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop, developers who seek parking relief for
their projects will lose the right to have their tenants take part in the
City’s on-street parking program.
“If a developer wants to build and does not
meet the minimum requirement for parking, we are asking them to enter an
agreement with the people they rent to, to not participate in the residential
parking program,” said Vidot.
As a lack of parking becomes a bigger and
bigger issue in Chelsea, Vidot said developers continue to come forward seeking
relief from parking regulations which typically require two parking spots per
residential unit. Often, she said, those developers will tout the fact that
more people are using public transportation or ride-sharing services and do not
own as many cars. But, Vidot said, the numbers show that car registrations are
heading up in Chelsea, and it becomes harder every day for residents to find a
place to park on the city’s streets.
“It’s important that we try to figure out
how to resolve this issue, and we definitely have an issue in our community,”
Bishop said the issue extends beyond
developers building multi-unit apartment complexes.
“People are going to the Board of Appeals
and they want to convert a two- family house to a three-family house, or a
one-family to a two-family,” Bishop said.
Often, he said, those conversion requests
come with a request to seek relief from the parking requirements.
“Something has to be done, it’s crazy out
there,” said Bishop.
While the change will go into effect on Jan.
1 of next year, Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda took a shot at backdating
the ordinance change to Jan. 1 2015. Effectively, developers who were granted
parking relief since that date could have seen their tenants no longer eligible
for on-street parking stickers.
Several councillors raised objections that
the City could be in legal jeopardy if the ordinance change was back-dated.
However, Avellaneda maintained that participating in the parking program is not
a right, so that taking it away wouldn’t be a legal issue.
City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher was not
as comfortable denying that parking relief granted by the ZBA is a right.
“If someone sought relief, then they have
relief,” she said, adding that if the Council went forward with Avellaneda’s
suggested change, the whole ordinance change would be unenforceable.
Avellaneda withdrew his amendment, and voted
for the change as proposed by Vidot and Bishop.
Councillors Joe Perlatonda and Leo Robinson
cast the two votes against the ordinance change.
“Who are we to say that someone comes into
Chelsea and buys a $500,000 condo or an $800,000 house and we say they can’t
park here?” asked Perlatonda. “There are people parking in Chelsea who do not
live in Chelsea.”
there is a parking issue in the city, but has vocally championed a more
holistic overhaul of the city’s parking regulations to address the issue.
We know he coached the Cardinals in the
Chelsea Little League but everyone knew he was a true Giant.
A long-time and revered youth sports leader
and coach who never sought recognition for his volunteer efforts in this city,
James “Jimmy” O’Regan died on Aug. 30, 2019. He was 75.
Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson knew Mr.
O’Regan many years before he served as president of the Chelsea Little League.
“Jimmy was an outstanding athlete at the
Shurtleff School and Chelsea High (Class of 1963) but more importantly he was
always a gentleman and so nice to people,” recalled Robinson. “It didn’t
surprise me at all that Jimmy became president of the Little League and wanted
to make sure that other kids would have the opportunity to enjoy sports as much
as he did.”
After high school, Mr. O’Regan was drafted
in to the United States Army and he served his country before being honorably
discharged on Sept. 29, 1968.
Returning home from the service, Mr. O’Regan
worked at the Thomas Strahan Company in Chelsea for 30 years before his
Mr. O’Regan and his wife, Patricia “Patty’
A. (Ells), shared 46 years of marriage, making Chelsea their home and the
community where they raised their four boys.
The O’Regan boys followed their father’s
lead in to sports, often having the honor of their father as their coach.
The sons also followed their father into
leadership positions in the city. James O’Regan Jr. served two terms on the
Chelsea School Committee and is a candidate in this fall’s election.
Former Chelsea School Committee member Shawn
O’Regan and his younger brother, Kevin, have taken the city’s youth sports
scene by storm. Shawn is the president of Chelsea’s youth baseball league and a
leader of the Chelsea Pride youth football and cheerleading organization. Kevin
is the Pride’s equipment manager and coach of the fifth and sixth grade
They are carrying on their father’s legacy
of youth sports leadership, helping boys and girls set the foundation for their
entry in to interscholastic athletics.
And just like their father, the O’Regan boys
are competitive, having led their teams to championships but always putting
sportsmanship and fair play first.
“He was a great father,” said Shawn O’Regan,
who is running for a seat on the School Committee. “He taught us how to play
the game of baseball and got us involved in basketball.”
From Phil Spelman to Arnold Goodman to Earl
Ham to Rick Chapin, there have been men who have devoted countless hours to
helping Chelsea youths appreciate sports and take the right path to becoming
fine young adults.
“Jimmy” O’Regan Sr. has earned his spot on the list of the all-time great
ambassadors for youth sports in this city. Chelsea parents were fortunate to
have had a gentleman like Jimmy O’Regan teaching their children how to play
sports and how to be a good teammate.
He is gone but he will never be forgotten.
And with the sons
of James and Patricia O’Regan continuing his fine work and exemplary
leadership, Chelsea kids are the
The Planning Board is supporting an
amendment to the City’s inclusionary housing and zoning ordinance that will
make it easier for low-income residents to rent affordable housing units.
The proposed change in the ordinance will
also increase the amount of money developers will need to pay the City if they
attempt to opt-out of building affordable units in projects of 10 or more
The amendment first came before the Planning
Board in April, and at Tuesday night’s meeting, the board unanimously supported
recommending the changes in the ordinance.
The inclusionary housing ordinance was first
introduced by At-Large City Councillor Leo Robinson in 2016, according to Lad
Dell, the city planner and land use administrator.
“The reason was that in the Greater Boston
area, the cost of housing has gone up astronomically, and Chelsea has not been
isolated from that. There was a concern that long-time Chelsea residents would
be pushed out.”
But the original ordinance set the
eligibility guidelines at 80 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI) to
qualify for affordable units.
Since the AMI is based on income for the
Greater Boston area, and not just Chelsea, that figure stood at about $89,000
for a family of four. Dell noted that the figure is well above the average
Chelsea income of $55,000 for a family of four.
Under the new amendment, the affordable
rental units will now be evenly split between 80, 50, and 30 percent AMI.
Condominium projects will remain at the 80 percent AMI level.
Developers who build projects of 10 or more
units must set aside at least 15 percent of those units as affordable.
“If a developer did not want to provide the
15 percent of affordable units, they had the option of a $200,000 payment in
lieu per unit,” said Dell. “That was raised to $400,000 in April.”
Planning Board member Eric Asquith asked
what the rationale was for raising the payment in lieu to $400,000.
“The $400,000 price tag kind of startles a
lot of people, but that’s what it costs to build an affordable unit in
Chelsea,” said Alex Train, assistant director of planning.
However, Train said developers still need
City approval to substitute the payments for the creation of affordable units.
Planning Board member Sara Arman questioned
why the rate was set at 15 percent and not higher.
“That’s on par with other communities,” said
Train. “We want to have a balance between affordable housing and encouraging
Several board members noted that there is
very little developable land in Chelsea, with member Mimi Rancatore asking if
the number triggering affordable units should be lowered from 10 to eight.
Train said that most of the development in Chelsea
is reuse or redevelopment of existing land.
“It’s about that
balance,” he said. “One thing that has proven to lower prices is building more
houses, and if we set (the affordable housing number) below 10, it may
discourage more building.”
Linda Breau is retiring from
the Chelsea school system and she’s learning just how much her colleagues and
the schoolteachers have appreciated her 26 years of service in the city.
Breau, who is deputy
superintendent of the Chelsea public schools, received a warm, standing ovation
from the entire assemblage of teachers and administrators when she was honored
Monday during the program at the annual back-to-school breakfast.
Dr. Mary Bourque,
superintendent of Chelsea schools, presented the award to her esteemed
colleague. Chelsea education’s dynamic duo has been together since 1998 leading
the school system to many successes.
“I have the bittersweet and
yet privilege to honor a dedicated lifelong educator – Deputy Supt. Linda
Breau, who will be retiring in a mere 35 days,” Bourque said.
“Linda is a lifelong
educator who served in the Chelsea schools since 1993 – 26 years,” noted
Bourque. “She began her career as a paraprofessional at the ELC, went on to
serve our students as ESL teacher, Assistant Principal, and Principal of the
Clark Avenue Middle School.
“She moved to Central Office
in 2011 as Assistant Superintendent and was then promoted to Deputy Superintendent
in 2016. We have been side by side learning, serving, having successes and at
times making mistakes – but always learning, always looking to be better.”
continued her praise of the beloved administrator, stating, “We are a better
school district today because of Linda’s quiet strength, relentless work ethic;
her love of our students and Chelsea families.
“Personally I am a better
leader and better superintendent today because she has always been by my side.
Linda has changed lives and touched so many,” said Bourque. “So before she
leaves at the end of September for a well-deserved retirement, I want to
publicly thank her for her service and for friendship to us all and to me.”
As Breau left her seat and
approached the podium, the crowd stood up and acknowledged her accomplishments
with hearty applause. Making the moment even more significant for Linda Breau
was the fact that her husband, Robert “Bobby” Breau, a Chelsea High School
alumnus and one of the city’s greatest athletes, was there to witness it all
from a seat in the VIP section.
Breau humbly accepted the
award, thoughutfully acknowledging all employees in the school system in her
“I couldn’t think of a
better way to spend the last 26 years than working in this wonderful district,”
she said. “I have met and befriended so any wonderful and dedicated people,
from paraprofessionals to teachers/support staff to administrators to custodial
crew to kitchen staff to security.
“It takes a village and you
are that village. It has been an honor and a privilege to have worked with all
“I’m proud of who Chelsea Public Schools
has become today. I’m so proud that we welcome and educate. We open our doors
and provide opportunity to our kids. One thing I ask as I leave the district:
keep on welcoming and educating! Our kids need all of you.”
The School Department will be able to
replace a number of positions and items cut from the original 2019-2020 budget
due to an influx of state monies from the final State Budget.
Last Thursday night, the School Committee
approved an additional $1.3 million in state Chapter 70 appropriations.
That money will be used to add one
attendance officer and a half-time special education clerk in the special
education department, increase salary contingencies and health insurance funds
across the district, add one social communications teacher and two
paraprofessionals and increase funding for substitutes at the Early Learning
Center and the elementary schools, add a special education inclusion teachers
at the Clarke and Browne middle schools, and correct funding for athletic
coaches and increase funding for substitutes at the high school, among other
The City Council will now have to approve
the additional funding.
“Each year, the Governor’s proposed budget
numbers are used by CPS as the foundation for the upcoming year’s budget,”
stated Supt. Mary Bourque.
When the state budget is finally adopted
after deliberations by the House and Senate and considered by the governor, the
budget allocations by school district typically change.
The $1.3 million is separate and apart from
any changes to the “pothole” funding which could be finalized by the state in
the next several weeks, according to Bourque.
Last year, the Chelsea schools received just
under $300,000 in the pothole funding.
“I think it will be something in the same
range this year,” said Bourque.
As the schools await the additional funding,
Bourque said it’s important for parents and teachers to continue to advocate
for a change in the way the state determines the foundational school budget for
districts such as Chelsea. Bourque noted that Chelsea’s special education
program and benefits are underfunded by approximately $17 million.
“The state legislature is working on a bill
to fix the foundation budget,” said Bourque. “We want to make sure it is
something we can live with for the next 25 years. We need the City Council to
continue to advocate alongside us.”
•In other School Committee business, Bourque
updated the board on the superintendent transition plan.
Superintendent-elect Almi Abeyta will be
constantly shadowing Bourque through Dec. 1. On Dec. 1, Bourque will take a
step back and Abeyta will begin making school district decisions.
Bourque’s last day is Dec. 31, and Jan. 1,
2020 will be Abeyta’s first official day as superintendent.
The City Election ballot for November has
been set for City Council and School Committee, and it features several
intriguing races – and one blockbuster Preliminary Election on Sept. 24 in
The City Clerk’s Office has concluded the
certification process this month, and one of the most interesting outcomes is a
Preliminary Election for District 2.
Three good candidates have filed signatures
for the Powderhorn Hill district, and the campaigns will begin to take shape
Incumbent Councilor Luis Tejada has filed
his signatures, and he will once again face challenger Olivia Ann Walsh – an
attorney who lives at the Soldiers’ Home and ran against Tejada two years ago.
The interesting new candidate is Melinda
Vega Maldonado, who is the daughter of Chelsea Collaborative Director Gladys
Vega and the wife of a Chelsea Police officer.
Those three in the race are all very
well-known in the City and will hustle for votes around the district. The outcome
will leave only the top two vote getters to square off in November.
The at-large Council race will also be
interesting, but will not come up for a vote until November.
Council President Damali Vidot and incumbent
councilors Roy Avellaneda and Leo Robinson will be on the ballot.
Challenging them will be License Commission
Chair Mark Rossi – who ran for a district seat last time out – and Chris Winam,
a newcomer on the scene with deep Chelsea roots.
District 1 Council features a vacant seat
with the bowing out of Councilor Bob Bishop. Running for the empty seat are
Planning Board member Todd Taylor, and Economic Development Board member Rick
Pantano. Both are very well-known in the city and are very active in City
affairs. It will be a close race to the end.
In District 4, it seemed like Councilor Joe
Perlatonda wasn’t going to have an opponent, but late in the process Naomi
Zabot successfully turned in her Nomination Papers – and so Mill Hill will have
a race on its hands too.
Councilor Judith Garcia in District 5 has
had several contests over her tenure, and this time won’t be different, as she
will face Jason Benetti from the waterfront area.
Councilors Enio Lopez (District 3), Giovanni
Recupero (District 6), Yamir Rodriguez (District 7) and Calvin Brown (District
8) will have no opponent on the ballot.
There is no Preliminary Election in the
School Committee, but there will be one to watch when it comes to the at-large
race, where there is no incumbent due to School Committeeman Frank DePatto
choosing not to run again.
That leaves Shawn O’Regan, a former School
Committeeman, who is making another run and said he is ready to challenge the
system after having watched it work previously.
The other candidate for the at-large seat is
Roberto Jimenez Rivera, who grew up in Puerto Rico and came to the mainland to
attend the University of Michigan. He and his wife, Sarah, recently moved to
Chelsea, and he works as an admission’s officer at a local university.
A race in District 1 will also be
interesting as long-time School Committeewoman Rosemarie Carlisle will face
James O’Regan. Both have deep roots in Chelsea and the votes will be close.
The only other race is in District 7 where
incumbent Kelly Garcia will face former School Committeeman Charles Klauder.
Jeannette Velez (District 2), Marisol Santiago (District 3), Lucia Henriquez
(District 4), Henry Wilson (District 5), Ana Hernandez (District 6), and
Yessenia Alfaro-Alvarez (District 8) will have no opponents on the ballot.
Noise in the City’s Community Noise Lab was
developed by researcher Dr. Erica Walker to take a more creative look into the
relationship between neighborhood noise issues and corresponding health
Walker has partnered with volunteers in the neighborhood to take part in some lab based experiments on how individuals respond to noise by measuring brain waves, stress and cardiovascular changes.
Researcher Dr. Erica Walker is gearing up for her noise study in Chelsea and is looking for volunteers.
The study also sought Chelsea residents
willing to place sound monitors in their homes for one year to test neighborhood
At a meeting last week Walker said the study
is moving into forward and will start collecting data on how noise impacts
residents’ daily lives.
“The Community Noise Lab are gearing up to
conduct a sound monitoring study in Chelsea this fall, starting on Friday,
September 20,” said Walker. “Community members have expressed interest in
allowing us to place a sound monitor in their homes and we are reaching out to
start making arrangements for this to happen.”
Walker said she and MHHM intend to monitor
noise in Chelsea for one-year in both a “hot” and “cold” season.
“During each season, we would like to place
a sound monitor in an accessible, secured location on a resident’s property,”
she said. “Potential locations could be a balcony, porch, roof, yard, or any
location that works. The sound monitoring station will be outside and will need
no electrical inputs.”
Walker stressed that the equipment does not
“We will need to leave the sound monitoring
station with community volunteers for one-week,” she said. “You can participate
in as many one-week sessions as you would like to throughout the year.”
If you live in Chelsea and want to
participate Walker said residents can start by filling out a brief form that
can be found at https://form.jotform.com/91614289131153.
“A member of the Community Noise Lab team
will reach out to you to make arrangements to place a sound monitor at your
home,” she said.
Walker, who earned a ScD (Doctor of Science)
degree from Harvard, has been interested for several years on how noise impacts
health. Walker said she wants to bring her Community Noise Lab to Chelsea and
begin engaging the community on how noise impacts their daily lives.
“When I first started out I sort of assumed
what the noise issue (in the city) was and what the impacts were but I quickly
realized this is going to take a community effort,” said Walker. “So I’ve been
grappling with what I want this Community Noise Lab to be. Typically in
academia we do a top down approach to studying these issues but I wanted to try
something different and try a bottom up approach.”
The bottom up approach, explained Walker,
will start with no assumptions on how noise impacts residents living in
Chelsea. However, Walker will collect real time noise monitoring data using
sound measuring technology as well as an app that residents can download to
their phone. Through the NoiseScore, an in-house smartphone app, residents can
also participate and can register a noise event and provide notes on how the
event made them feel both physically and mentally.
“I always use this example; imagine you are
waiting for a bus at a bus stop and you can hear the bus coming and you can
hear when the brakes start squeaking,” said Walker. “But even if you put your
fingers in your ear you can still feel the vibrations of that sound in your
body, the rumbling in your chest even though you are blocking out the actual
sound. So there is a complete picture of sound that is not only heard but felt
physically and I’m interested in how both those aspects of sound affect
research on the impacts of community noise is funded by a grant from the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation. The two-year, $410,000 grant will fund a real-time
sound monitoring network, which consists of a series of eight rotating sound
stations; upgrades to Community Noise Lab’s smartphone app, NoiseScore, which
allows residents to objectively and subjectively describe their environmental
soundscape and map their responses in real time; a laboratory-based experiment
examining the neurological underpinnings of noise exposure; and a series of
community engagement activities ranging from sound walks to podcasts.
The historic clock in Bellingham Square is
right on time.
Thanks to the efforts of the world-renowned
Chelsea Clock Company, the clock has been repaired and is now showing the
correct time for all 1,440 minutes of each day.
“The clock is fixed – I’m very happy,”
proudly reported master horologest Bhupat Patel of Chelsea Clock. “We’re going
to come back again to put the new lenses on the glass. The city is going to
remove all the rust and repaint the clock.”
Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson was on hand
for the relaunching of the clock.
“They did an outstanding job,” said
Robinson. “Tom [Ambrosino] had reached out to me to get in touch with Chelsea
Clock to fix the clock.”
Robinson is the
brother-in-law of long-time Chelsea Clock official D. Bruce Mauch.
Water and sewer rates are increasing, but
not as much as some City Councillors initially feared.
Most of the City’s residential water and
sewer customers will see an increase of 1 percent in rates for Fiscal Year
2020, and larger users will see a 4 percent increase.
In June, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino
presented the Council with a proposed three percent increase for water and
sewer customers who use less than 2,500 cubic feet of water. A 5 percent
increase was proposed for customers who use more than that amount.
In June, a number of Councillors spoke out
against the proposed increases.
“This is killing the poor people who live
here,” said District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero. “This is not only going to
drive the homeowners out, this is going to drive the tenants out, too. This is
a bad thing to go up this much.
Following a public hearing on the rates
earlier in July, Ambrosino and Public Works Commissioner Fidel Maltez discussed
concerns about rising sewer rates, according to a letter the City Manager sent
to the Council.
“Although rising rates are inevitable when
the majority of the City’s water and sewer costs are determined by charges from
the MWRA, and those charges rise each and every year, we are cognizant of the
City’s need to try to keep the rate increases moderate,” Ambrosino stated.
After looking at some of the recent
improvements to the water system in the past year, including the start of the
program to replace aging water meters throughout the system and better tracking
of water use by contractors, Ambrosino said he believes the City will be able
to reduce non-billable usage.
The City Manager said he also plans to
implement a better process for water and sewer rate-setting, beginning next
year. Those plans include a spring subcommittee meeting with the City Council
to present recommendations for water and sewer rates for FY21.
While the water and sewer rate increases are
lower than initially proposed, there will be a heftier price to pay for the
City trash rate with a 10 percent hike.
“For the past several years, we have been
running deficits in our trash accounting because the rate has not been
sufficient to cover the true cost of solid waste collection and disposal in the
City,” Ambrosino stated.
The 10 percent increase is an effort to
eliminate that deficit.
The new FY20
trash rate is $33.10 monthly for residential property and $156.15 monthly for
commercial units in mixed buildings. Owner-occupied units will remain exempt
from the fee.
Two Chelsea residents looking to break into
the recreational cannabis industry in Chelsea are challenging the ideas behind
the zoning regulations set by the City – regulations that bar such
establishments from the Broadway business corridor and relegate them to
expensive industrial locations in the city.
Chelsea has been known to be quite progressive when it comes to permitting and welcoming the marijuana industry, but the zoning regulations set more than a year ago required that any marijuana businesses be located in the industrial or shopping center districts.
Ola Bayode and Kyle Umemba, both from Chelsea, are questioning the zoning regulations for marijuana establishments – saying they should be allowed in the downtown area to help local residents and people of color to break into the industry. They said they believe retail marijuana could help to revive the downtown area, and they believe the current zoning unintentionally sets a barrier too high for locals to overcome.
That limits them to the Produce Center,
Eastern Avenue or Parkway Plaza, and many in the City have postulated that it
has excluded local people unintentionally from being able to participate or
profit from this new industry.
The Chelsea City Council had just such a
discussion earlier this year, asking if it were possible to set aside licenses
for residents who might qualify in the future – that coming because most of the
City’s licenses were being gobbled up by big-money interests from out of town,
and sometimes out of state.
Now, add Chelsea residents Ola Bayode and
Kyle Umemba to those critics.
Both are young professionals working regular
jobs, but with a hope on the side that they could establish their own business
in Chelsea within the emerging cannabis industry. Being right at the nexus of
Boston and Somerville (and with Everett and Revere having prohibited marijuana
shops), they felt the downtown area was a prime location.
Then they found out about the zoning
restrictions, and found it nearly impossible to draw the interest of investors to
be able to afford the buildout of a place in the industrial areas.
“For us, we can’t even find a place,” said
Bayode. “The one place we did find was on Broadway and Congress. It was a great
location and we went to the City and found it wasn’t allowed. We believe the
City Manager and the City Council need to think five to 10 years ahead…Our
demographic is not Chelsea residents but people who live in One North and
upcoming new Forbes development – people new to Chelsea. We want to provide a
premier boutique opportunity here…This is a critical time. This game is the
first three years and who is able to navigate the waters early will prevail.
It’s hard to grip and replace the incumbent business. That is why it’s so
important to create a business friendly environment that is helpful to local
residents. Right now is the time for that. Later will be too late.”
Bayode said they believe that retail
marijuana would fit really well with the City’s idea for reviving the downtown.
Umemba said it is proven that such establishments are more safe because of
required security, and the foot traffic brings vibrancy to the areas. Having
them walled off, both said, misses a great opportunity to bring people to the
business district, and also to help local business-people get into the
“The build-out cost in the industrial areas
are so expensive,” said Bayode. “Spaces on Broadway are retail ready. They are
made for this. It’s also hard to attract any investors because locating in an
area like that doesn’t seem as credible.”
Umemba said he believes the zoning now
creates a barrier to local people and people of color – maybe even those who
have marijuana convictions and are encouraged by the state to get involved in
“There’s so much investment that can be brought
into the downtown,” he said. “The zoning there now creates an extremely large
barrier for individuals. We’re young guys who went to college and now we work.
We have middle-class jobs. We want to break into this industry in Chelsea, but
the way it’s set up creates an unfair playing field…and Chelsea is progressive
compared to others and we still don’t have an equal playing field.”
Both said they plan to talk with elected
officials and City leaders over the summer to see if there is room to make such
zoning changes – perhaps allowing a few licenses to be located in the downtown
and reserved for Chelsea residents.
“If there are
four or five at least have one or two for Chelsea people,” Bayode said. “It
shouldn’t all be big companies from the outside.”