A Winchester developer has filed with the
Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to build a five-story, 33-unit residential
apartment building on the site of the closed 7-11 and its parking lot in Cary
Anthony Quiles has filed the project with
the City and had an initial hearing on Tuesday night, Jan. 8, with the ZBA, and
will proceed to the Planning Board for a meeting later this month.
The project will be sited at 176-178
Washington Ave. and will contain 44 parking spaces (50 are required) for the 33
units. There will be a roof deck and other amenities. The project includes no
open space and requires seven pieces of relief, including height variances and
The unit breakdown would be nine studios, 15
one-bedrooms, and six two-bedrooms.
The Chelsea Fire Department has already
voiced its concerns with the project as they do not believe they can access the
building due to the size of the building on the lot.
“I am not in favor of a development of this
size…which encompasses the entire lot with no setbacks on both sides and the
rear,” wrote Deputy Richard Perisie. “The Fire Department should have access to
at least one side for apparatus placement.”
Councillor Leo Robinson said he has called
for the development to go down to at least 25 units and to add a retail venture
on the first floor, preferably a grocery store/convenience store.
He said he was very disturbed that the
purchase and sales agreement by 7-11 with Quiles details that no such retail
operations can go there. He said he wants to see about changing that.
“My concern and
what bothers me is that 7-11 put in the agreement not to allow a grocery store
to go there,” he said. “That is detrimental to that part of the city. It is
heavily used by the elderly at 14 Bloomingdale and the people from the
neighborhood too. The fact of the matter is I’ve talked with the City Solicitor
and the City Manager and I think there is a tool in our tool bag we need to
use. I don’t think 7-11 should punish us for their failure not to run a good
business. There has always been a grocery store there since I can remember.”
The year 2018 saw many
changes in Chelsea as the city tried to balance prosperity with priorities all
year long. While new investment poured in, residents struggled to stay in the
city and schools grappled with budget cuts. Meanwhile, public transit increased
substantially in a positive direction with the introduction of the new Silver
• Flooding becomes a
major issue after a Jan. 4 blizzard and a March 2 storm, both of which occur
during substantial high tides. The Jan. 4 blizzard caused a huge storm surge
that flooded many parts of the city and even shut down operations at the
Chelsea Street Bridge.
• The New England Flower
Exchange celebrates its first Valentine’s Day holiday at its new location on
Second Street after being in Boston’s South End for the past 50 years. The new
facility has been brought online seamlessly.
• Wynn CEO Steve Wynn
seemed to be in control of his company and the project in Everett until late
January, when he was accused of sexual misconduct in a Wall Street Journal
report. The allegations quickly gathered steam, and by February Wynn had
resigned from the company and the license for the Everett casino was in
jeopardy and the project to be moving forward “at risk.” The new CEO became
Matt Maddox and the company saw huge amounts of turnover throughout the year.
By the end of 2018, the license for the Everett site was still in limbo and an
investigation into the matter still had yet to be revealed – having been
delayed for months.
• City Manager Tom
Ambrosino says in his State of the City on Feb. 26 that now is not the time to
save up money, but rather the time to continue investing in the City and its
residents. He announces several key programs for the upcoming year.
• Sen. Sal DiDomenico is
involved in a heated and intense bid for the office of Senate President over
several months, but in the summer comes up just short in getting the votes
necessary to prevail. Sen. President Karen Spilka gets the nod instead, but
DiDomenico remains the assistant majority leader and ends up coming out of the
battle in a very good position of leadership.
• Students at Chelsea
High stage a walk-out in regard to school safety and school shootings on March
15. Despite lots of snow, thousands of students take to the Stadium for the
•YIHE company returns to
the City with a new plan for the old Forbes site in the Mill Hill neighborhood.
They start the process in April with a scaled down version of their previous
plan, but reviews of the project continue throughout the year and into 2019.
• The new Silver Line
SL-3 service debuts on Saturday, April 21, in Chelsea. The service starts out a
little slow, but by December the MBTA reports that ridership has exceeded its
• The Chelsea Soldiers’
Home secured a $70 million budget item from the federal government in April
that allowed the replacement of the Quigley Hospital to move forward. The
Community Living Center has a groundbreaking in the fall and construction is
ongoing in the new year.
• The Chelsea Walk is
transformed throughout the spring, summer and fall in a unique placemaking
partnership between the City and GreenRoots. At the end, there is a new mural
on the Walk and more activity. New things are also planned for the Walk in
• A $3.1 million School
Budget gap hits the School Department hard, with numerous cuts reported to key
school services. Th School Department, City and state grapple with the issue
all summer long, but no resolution to the issue emerges at the end of the
legislative session. The school funding fix is still outstanding, and no fix
has yet been passed to help districts like Chelsea, who have been penalized
mistakenly by a new formula.
• Chelsea High sophomore
track star Stephanie Simon caps off a stellar year by heading to the National
Track Meet in North Carolina over the summer. She placed 15th in the high jump
and 27th in the triple jump out of a field of athletes from around the nation.
• Students at the Clark
Avenue Middle School are ecstatic to return to school on Aug. 29, and that’s
because they were able to enter their brand new building for the first time.
The Clark Avenue premiered to excited parents and students for the new school
term after many years of construction.
• The Sept. 4 Primary
Election features many surprises, but the biggest headline of the night,
however, was when Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley upset sitting
Congressman Michael Capuano decidedly. Capuano had campaigned hugely in
Chelsea, and won here with 54 percent of the vote. However, a strong Boston
turnout propelled Pressley to an big win. Pressley also had notable support in
Chelsea from Council President Damali Vidot and School Committeeman Julio Hernandez.
• The Two-Way Broadway
proposal gathers steam, but fizzles out as residents and elected officials
protest the change vehemently. That came after a late-August approval of the
plan by the Traffic Commission. However, in September, it fails to get past the
City Council. Broadway will remain a one-way street.
• Supt. Mary Bourque surprises most in late December when she announces
she will retire at the end of 2019, pledging to help the School Committee with
a new superintendent search throughout the year.
After more than two and a half years of negotiations, the City is on the verge of a new contract with its two police unions that will see pay increases of up to three percent and implement residency requirements for new hires.
Monday night, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino requested the City Council approve the contracts, which are retroactive to Fiscal year 2017. The Council forwarded the request to its subcommittee on conference, and will take up an official vote on the contracts at a future meeting.
The collective bargaining agreements are for the unions which represent police superior officers and patrol officers.
“Both deals encompass four years, made up of two separate contracts: a one year deal for FY17; and a subsequent three year deal for FY 19-FY20,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the City Council.
The contracts include a retroactive salary increase of 2.5 percent for FY17 and 3 percent for FY18 and FY19. There is also a 3 percent increase slated for FY20 and an additional 1 percent increase that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
All told, the retroactive salary increases total about $876,000.
“I strongly recommend that the City Council support these agreements, which have been the subject of lengthy negotiations spanning more than two and a half years,” Ambrosino stated. “We set aside in Salary Reserve for the resolution of these two agreements a total of $700,000. Accordingly, we will need an additional appropriation from Stabilization of $176,000 to satisfy these contractual commitments.”
The salary hikes are the only cost item in the new contracts, according to the City Manager. Other items in the contracts related to longevity, detail pay, sick leave incentive, and clothing allowance are limited to clarifications or minor changes and do not add any additional costs to the City, he added.
The percentage increases for salary are slightly more than those other City Hall unions have received, Ambrosino said.
“However, in return, the City did secure new language on residency upon which the City Council insisted,” he stated. “As of January 1, 2019, all new police hires must live in the City of Chelsea for five years, consistent with the Ordinance approved by the City Council earlier this year.”
While there was no debate over the union contracts themselves at Monday’s Council meeting, District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop did raise concerns about the City’s use of its stabilization, or “rainy day” funds.
Bishop noted that Ambrosino was requesting the use of stabilization funds for improvements to Eden Park and for a protective cover for the new high school turf field as well as for the contract salary costs.
Those stabilization funds should be used for emergency situations, Bishop said.
“I don’t think any of these requests rise to the level of an emergency to use the rainy day fund,” he said.
While Bishop said he supported the requests being made, he wanted assurances that any money taken out of the City’s stabilization funds be replaced by free cash as soon as those funds are certified by the state.
Outside graduation coming closer to a
resolution, decided Dec. 17
The Chelsea High School Class of 2019’s quest to graduate outside at the high school could come to a conclusion at the City Council’s next meeting on Monday, Dec. 17.
That’s when the Council is expected to vote on a $170,000 appropriation from the school stabilization account to pay for a protective mat for the new turf field at the high school.
City Manager Thomas Ambrosino made the request for the funds for the protective mat, which he said will allow for the use of the turf field for non-sporting events. The turf field comes with an eight-year warranty, but that warranty is voided if there are certain non-sporting uses on the field.
The possible purchase is good news for members of the high school’s senior class, who have been working with school and city officials, as well as fundraising, in an effort to have their graduation moved to the high school field.
Senior Manuel Teshe said the turf field cover will benefit the whole city, as well as students and their families attending the graduation.
“This investment is going to last for years,” he said. “If this is done, it is done for the city, and the future of the city is the students at Chelsea High School right now.”
Senior Class President Jocelyn Poste was one of a number of CHS students wearing “Dream Big” shirts who addressed the Council on Monday night.
“We are close to achieving our dream of graduating outside on our own field,” said Poste. “With the help of the City Council, this can be a possibility.”
School Supt. Mary Bourque also lent the students some support before the Council.
“This is a wise investment for our future and will have a positive impact on every generation here,” Bourque said.
District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia urged all the students present on Monday night to return with their friends on Dec. 17.
“I’m so incredibly proud of everything that was said tonight,” she said.
In other business, the Council approved a change in the zoning ordinance requiring tighter building controls in the Admiral’s Hill neighborhood.
Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda introduced an order requesting that the License Commission hold two recreational marijuana licenses for applicants that have a majority ownership consisting of Chelsea residents.
Ambrosino asked the Council to approve funding for renovations to Eden Park.
The majority of the renovations will be reimbursed through a state grant, the city manager stated.
“The proposed renovations of Eden Park include replacement of the playground’s rubber surfacing, introduction of new playground equipment, installation of a new water feature and splash pad, installation of new site furniture and lighting, and reconstruction of all site utilities,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council.
The total cost of the renovations is about $750,000, according to Ambrosino. The City Council appropriated $250,000 through the Fiscal Year 2019 Capital Improvement Program. Of the remaining $500,000, the City Manager said $400,000 should be reimbursed by the state.
The City of Chelsea is happy to announce that the Senior Tax Work-Off Program is being offered once again. We offer clerical tasks and various office duties.
The Senior Tax Work-Off Program is a special program offered by the City of Chelsea to help financially eligible seniors receive a reduction off of their annual real estate taxes. If a senior qualifies for this program, they then work for the City’s departments, earning $12.00 per hour for up to 125 hours for a maximum of $1,500.00 per year.
Deadline for all applications is January 31, 2019
There is a limit of 25 participants per year, in the event the city receives more than 25 participants a lottery will be held to determine the current year’s participants.
For further information visit https://www.chelseama.gov/ or contact Denia Romero at 617-466-4170 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Veterans Tax Work-Off Abatement Program
The City of Chelsea is happy to announce that once again we are offering the Veterans Property Tax Work-Off Abatement Program.
The program provides qualified Veterans and spouses of qualified Veterans who work up to 125 hours for the City an abatement of up to $1,500 against their real estate taxes.
We offer clerical tasks and various other office duties. If a Veteran qualifies for this program he/she would then work for the City’s departments, earning $12.00 per hour for up to 125 hours for a maximum of $1,500 per year.
Deadline for all applications is January 31, 2019
There is a limit of 25 participants per year, in the event the city receives more than 25 applicants a lottery will be held to determine the current year’s participants.
For further information visit https://www.chelseama.gov/ or contact Denia Romero at 617-466-4170 / email@example.com
The Planning Board recommended approval to two changes to the City’s zoning ordinances on Tuesday night.
The first change affects the Naval Hospital Residential and Commercial Districts, also known as the Admiral’s Hill area of the city.
In the 1980s, the city slackened many building and zoning regulations for the district in an effort to encourage development, according to Lad Dell, the city’s planning and land use administrator.
“People were able to develop without much regulation at all,” said Dell.
A moratorium on building in the district was recently extended to the end of the year by City Manager Thomas Ambrosino as the City worked on new regulations for the district.
The new ordinance recommended by the Planning Board for approval by the City Council allows for four- to six-unit buildings to be constructed by right, with a special permit required for any construction above six units.
The ordinance brought before the Planning Board allowed for building heights of 2 ½ stories and 35 feet. The board amended the ordinance to allow for a building height of 40 feet.
“I would suggest that we add the half a story and a little height to allow for garages,” said John DePriest, the City’s planning director.
City Councillor Roy Avellaneda said the amendment was in line with Council subcommittee discussions on the ordinance to increase building height to make it easier to build garages.
The residents who spoke during the public hearing on the zoning amendment were supportive.
“It looks like this is an effort to protect the character of the neighborhood and not overload our streets,” said Christine Shields.
The second zoning amendment would allow for residential units on the first floor of buildings in the Retail Business District by special permit, as long as those units are not on Broadway.
Two years ago, a zoning amendment banned residential units on the first floor in the Broadway corridor. If the new amendment is approved by the City Council, residential units will still be banned on the first floor on Broadway itself, but could be allowed under special permit on other streets near Broadway in the zoning district.
In other Planning Board business, the developers of the massive 1 Forbes Street project withdrew their plans for the project.
But rather than a massive blow to development in the City, it was a procedural move that gives developers more time to fully present the project to a full Planning Board, according to Paul Feldman, who is representing the developer for the 630-unit residential and office building project.
“The public hearing on this was opened on Sept. 22, and at that time, there were a couple of vacancies on the board and a member who was not present,” said Feldman. “With a nine member board, to get site approval, we need six votes.”
Feldman said developers are withdrawing the site plan, but immediately refiling it to start the clock over on the hearing process. He said he expects the project to be back before the Planning Board at its Dec. 18 meeting.
“We would like the participation of all nine members, or all that can attend,” said Feldman.
Tuesday night, the board also approved a special permit for a 16-seat Peruvian bistro-type restaurant at the site of a former liquor store on 22 Adams St.
The Chelsea Council voted in the recommended tax rate and a residential exemption of 30 percent on Monday night, sealing the deal for nominal increases to most residential owner-occupants and decreases for condo owner-occupants.
The lone increase that was notable over last year was for three-family homeowners, who will see a 9 percent increase – or $449 over last year’s bills.
Notably, condo owners are the only property owners that will see a decrease in their tax bills. Condo owners’ tax bills will go down 13.3 percent from last year, a different of $279 on the tax bill.
“This (tax rate) will result in a reduction of the average tax bill for owner-occupant condominiums, but an average tax increase of varying amounts to other owner-occupied parcels,” wrote City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “By selecting the 30 percent residential exemption amount, the City Council will have the opportunity to spread the benefit of the 35 percent exemption limit over future fiscal years.”
The new residential tax rate, passed with the annual maximum 175 percent shift to commercial properties, came in at $14.26 per $1,000 of value. The commercial/industrial rate will be $29.15.
The values for industrial properties actually did not increase as greatly as residential values, a trend that has carried on for some time.
That, however, could change as industrial/commercial properties in the inner urban communities has become more desirable over the last 18 months. Ambrosino said the property values are from one year behind the market, so there could be some extra relief for residential owners if those industrial property values begin to climb – as some in the industry believe.
“An increase in industrial/commercial property values would be good for residential properties,” he said. “The values now are behind the market, and if values do increase going forward, it would offset some of the tax burden. We’ve made a concerted effort to maintain our industrial areas. We want to keep industrial uses in our industrial areas because there isn’t a lot of space available for these businesses and they are good taxpayers. We don’t want to lose them.”
The average tax bills for this coming year would be:
Members of the Chelsea High School Class of 2019 are a step closer to getting their wish of an outdoor graduation on the new high school field.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino is requesting the City Council approve spending $170,000 from the City’s Stabilization Account to buy a protective mat for the new turf field at the high school.
“This removable, plastic covering will allow for greater use of the field for non-sporting events, including allowing for an outdoor graduation for the Chelsea High School Class of 2019,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council.
The city is in the midst of a $3 million-plus upgrade of Veterans Field at Chelsea High School. The first phase of the project, replacement of the artificial turf and the new track, is scheduled for completion this fall, according to Ambrosino. A second phase involving lighting and restrooms will continue in the spring.
The new turf field comes with an eight-year warranty, but that warranty is voided if certain uses occur on the field, including large static crowds, spiked heels, or chairs with four legs. The City Manager said these restrictions would all but eliminate the use of the surface for any non-sporting events.
“One method for eliminating this problem is to purchase a removable, protective surface for the turf, which is how the problem is handled in many large artificial turf stadiums across the country,” Ambrosino stated. “However, we did not budget for such a protective surface in this project.”
At the request of the school, Ambrosino is asking the Council to approve the additional funding through the School Capital Stabilization Account, which Ambrosino said was specifically established for these types of School Department capital expenditures.
At its Monday night meeting, the council voted to take up the issue in its Finance Subcommittee.
The request from the City Manager was good news for Chelsea High Senior Manuel Teshe, who addressed the Council earlier this month about senior class fundraising efforts to secure an outdoor graduation.
“Mr. Tom Ambrosino made me feel like people were listening to us after all the work we did,” said Teshe. “We felt alone, and now we appreciate the chance that the City is even considering it.”
Prior to hearing from Ambrosino, Councillors Ray Avellaneda, Leo Robinson, and Yamir Rodriguez introduced an order asking the City Manager to explore the purchase of an event decking system. After hearing about Ambrosino’s request to use the stabilization funds for the purchase, Avellaneda withdrew the order.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said this week that the City has negotiated three Host Community Agreements (HCA) with marijuana operators looking to establish dispensaries in the City.
Ambrosino said all three HCAs are identical and are really a formality for the dispensaries, which include the one at the former King Arthur’s, the one on Eastern Avenue and the one on Webster Avenue at Chelsea Commons. He said the City’s policy is they would negotiate an HCA with any entity that had gotten through the process and wanted to proceed to state approval.
“My guess is that it’s another year or so before any of them are set up,” he said. “It’s my understanding that all of the enterprises with HCAs here are not very close to being approved by the state Cannabis Control Commission (CCC).”
The HCAs are the next step after the community meeting, which all three have completed. To go before the CCC, an entity must have an HCA in place, and Ambrosino said the law is clear towards what can be in those agreements.
In Chelsea’s case, the City has asked for 3 percent of gross revenues from the sales of marijuana products. Those payments will come annually and will be in addition to the 3 percent local sales tax already approved. The first 3 percent mitigation payment would come 14 months after the dispensary opens.
A second monetary piece in the agreements includes two, $30,000 payments over two years to the City’s non-profits that have an anti-drug focus.
An important aside, Ambrosino said, is that the HCA doesn’t mean the City has agreed to support the license of any entity.
“My signing off on these is not a substantive decision on them,” he said. “I’m just giving them the chance to move forward and you have to have these in place to move forward. We’ll make the substantive decisions on these proposals not behind closed doors in a negotiation, but rather at the Zoning Board and Planning Board in a public as part of a process.”
Before any of the three dispensaries could open their doors, they would need state approval from the CCC. Then they would have to come back to Chelsea and get a special permit after visiting the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and the Planning Board. If that permit is achieved, they would then have to get a license to operate from the Chelsea License Commission.
Only then could an establishment open for business.
Council President Damali Vidot and Councillor Roy Avellaneda have been battling over a campaign finance violation issued by the state to Vidot earlier this year, with both having radically different views on the matter.
This week, the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) released its fall report that contained the paperwork on the violation by Vidot, which was hammered out last June between OCPF and the Vidot Campaign.
Officially, the OCPF found that Vidot and her campaign did not initially report at least $1,341 during campaigns in 2016 and 2017, and received $180 in cash contributions without keeping appropriate records. Some of the cash contributions were received at a raffle, according to OCPF, and political committees are not allowed to hold raffles.
The resolution was that the Vidot Committee amended its reports and the candidate agreed to forgive $1,000 in loans that she made personally to her committee as punishment.
Vidot said it was simply oversight, and the fact that she is new to politics.
“Basically, I’m new at this whole politics thing and last year in the midst of the re-election, our campaign missed some deadlines,” said Vidot this week. “It’s not that we didn’t want to file it. My treasurer works a full-time job and I was buy and we didn’t get it done. When we did, we made an error and didn’t capture some items. It wasn’t a case of there being any money missing or anything like that. OCPF notified me in May of the problem and we worked it all out by June…The whole reason I got into politics is I don’t like the things that happened that weren’t transparent. I would never do something that was hiding money people gave me. I have cried at a $20 donation…Everything balanced out. There was not missing money. Every dollar donated to me went to mailers, phones, office space, and what it was supposed to go to.”
However, Avellaneda, who Vidot said reported the matter to OCPF, had a far different view of the matter. It was something he first brought up at a Council meeting a few weeks ago, but was not allowed to talk about due to being ruled out of order.
By his count, Vidot should have paid penalties of more than $8,000 had the law been enforced to the letter.
“The law was broken,” he wrote. “Actually, laws plural, were broken. Specifically, Mass General Laws pertaining to campaign finance… The City of Chelsea regularly fines its residents on any number of issues from not having an up-to-date resident parking sticker, trash bags overflowing, and not shoveling snow on sidewalks within 48 hours… Wait more than 30 days (to pay) and the City Clerk sends notice to the RMV to suspend your driver’s license and registration.
Yet here we had an elected official not being disciplined by the City Clerk for non-compliance of state finance laws deadlines, which when finally filed, showed unreported donations and expenses. One could argue that this is a show of favoritism towards an individual because of the position they hold. My call to have the City Council address this with the City Clerk was not only voted against, but Vidot’s supporters deflected and made personal attacks on me.
So much for transparency. So much for insuring the integrity of the electoral process in Chelsea.”
Vidot said that Avellaneda is incorrect about the City Clerk’s and City Solicitor’s role in the matter. She said they did contact her several times about filing the report, and that if she did not file, they would have to turn it over to the state for levying fines.
At that point, Vidot said they did file, but they filed it incorrectly.
“Roy puts at fault the state, the City Clerk, the City Solicitor and everyone else,” she said. “The City Clerk and City Solicitor reached out to me several times, and when I filed it was out of their hands. Roy needs to just back up. We could get so much done if he played nicely…The focus needs be on the 02150 where it should be…If there’s any fault, it’s with me.”
Avellaneda said he takes offense to not being allowed to discuss the matter in public at the Council.
“While President Vidot can use her powers as president to both impede motions and orders that she doesn’t agree with and stifle discussion on the floor of the City Council Chambers, she cannot stop my ability to reach out to the Citizens of Chelsea,” said Avellaneda.
Vidot said she is taking as a learning experience, and noting that it is a confusing process for a lot of candidates. She said will be calling for a joint City Council/School Committee subcommittee that would host an OCPF seminar on campaign finance.