TND, Traggorth Finally get the Green Light on Midas Site

A 38-unit affordable housing project at the former Midas site on Broadway can move forward after the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) unanimously granted a special permit for the project Tuesday night.

The $15 million project is a partnership between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND). The developers initially came before City officials last year with plans for a 42-unit housing development with some market rate units included.

In addition to cutting the project down to 38 units and making all the units affordable, a planned fifth floor of a building along the Broadway side was eliminated.

“This project cannot do everything for everyone, but it can achieve many things for Chelsea by creating 38 units of affordable housing,” said Dave Traggorth of the Traggorth Companies. “This blighted site pays very little in taxes. This will change that and bring revenue to the city.”

In addition to providing affordable housing, Traggorth said there will be public access to Mill Creek for all Chelsea residents.

As has been the case during past public hearings on the project, a number of community members touted the need for affordable housing in Chelsea and TND’s past successes in bringing affordable units to the city.

City Council President Damali Vidot said she has never supported a TND project in the city until this one.

“There is a huge problem with affordability in this city and we are displacing residents at a rapid rate,” said Vidot.

Resident Sandy Maynard supported the creation of affordable units and the improvement of a blighted site in the city.

“I can’t think of a better project than this one to meet that (affordable housing) need and to beautify Chelsea,” said Maynard. “That lot is an ugly, ugly place.”

Several residents who have been homeless also spoke in favor of the project and of the need of affordable housing.”

A letter from District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda cited his objections to the project, including the welfare of neighboring residents due to traffic and parking concerns.

City Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda, who has spoken against approval of the 1001-1005 Broadway project in the past, said his overreaching concern has been TND’s lack of a vision to bring affordable home ownership, as opposed to rental units, to the city.

“Teachers and city employees are not able to bid on homes (in Chelsea) and they are pushed out,” said Avellaneda. “I understand the need for affordable housing, but there is no balance here … There is a broader discussion that is needed in this community.”

The special permit granted by the ZBA was required because the project did not meet minimum zoning requirements for rear yard setbacks, number of off-street parking spaces, and maximum lot coverage percentage.

A housing lottery will be held for all of those units, with 30 offered at 60 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI) for the area (about $64,000 for a family of four) and eight at 30 percent AMI (about $32,000 for a family of four). The maximum preference allowable under state law will be given to Chelsea residents for the units.

There will be 42 parking spaces for the 38 units (the majority of which will be two-bedroom apartments). And because of state law regulating public access to public waterways, 31 of those parking spaces will be available as public parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide access to Mill Creek for everyone.

•In other business, the ZBA held a public hearing for a retail marijuana shop at the site of the former King Arthur’s strip club at 200 Beacham St. GreenStar Herbals, Inc. is seeking to tear down the existing two-story building and replace it with a one-story retail facility.

Representatives from GreenStar said the building will feature state-of-the-art security and 34 parking spots on site. Representatives of several of the neighboring local produce businesses came to express concerns about traffic and parking affecting their businesses.

The GreenStar proposal still needs to go before the Planning Board later this month before coming back to the ZBA for special permit and variance approvals.

•The ZBA also denied a special permit for a church to operate out of the second and third floors of 307 Broadway because the plan did not include any parking spaces.

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Ambrosino, Walsh Wary of 4 A.M. Encore Liquor License

Everett might be all-in on the 4 a.m. extending liquor license for Encore Boston Harbor, but surrounding cities like Chelsea aren’t so excited.

In comments this week, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they weren’t in favor of Encore’s request for a limited 4 a.m. liquor license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC). The request is currently under review and in a public comment period. It would only apply to those actively engaged in gaming, and the last call would be 3:30 a.m. Most other liquor licenses have a 2 a.m. cutoff.

Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he doesn’t support the idea, seeing no advantage to Chelsea in having a luxury casino open late just a few hundred yards from the Chelsea city line.

“That would have no positive benefit to the City of Chelsea, so it would not be something I would favor,” he said.

Mayor Martin Walsh agreed with those sentiments as well.

“When the Legislature wrote the bill to have casino gaming, it was a 2 a.m. liquor license, which I voted on,” said Mayor Walsh. “I think that at this point in time, we should get the casino open, and see how the 2 a.m. license works. If there is a need, if there is a desire, or if there is a concern that it hampers the business, then I think we should explore the opportunity of maybe going until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. But right now, at opening, closing at 2 a.m. – let’s see what it looks like. You can’t say there are concerns there until it’s open. I would request we wait and then have a full vetting. Right now it needs to be opened and see how it all works with a 2 a.m. closing.”

Meanwhile, Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria said the later closing hour is critical to the casino being an international destination, as no such 2 a.m. rules apply in other locales where Wynn Resorts operates.

“The City of Everett is committed to supporting the success of the Encore Boston Harbor Resort,” he said. “In order for it to be a destination for an international clientele, the resort needs to be able to offer these clients a cocktail during the time they play. At 2 a.m., all the bars and restaurants will be closed, and drinks will only be served to those on the casino floor by a trained and certified server. Over-serving and irresponsible behavior will not be tolerated.”

He added that State Police, Everett Police and Encore security would be on site during the late hours and transportation services would be available for guests.

Walsh said he realizes that the Springfield casino already has a 4 a.m. license, but he also added that the circumstances are different in Everett. He said there are a lot of other cities and towns in the immediate area without such licenses. He said there has to be a dialog with everyone after the first six months.

“I’m not going to assume they’ll do 4 a.m.,” he said. “I’ll ask the Gaming Commission to be respectful of the surrounding cities and towns and see how the process works and see how the casino does in its first six months. Then we’ll revisit it and have a conversation and dialog at this point.

“We filed legislation (in Boston) a few years ago to open some of the bars and clubs later,” he continued. “So, that’s why I think you need a six-month vetting. Let’s assume for a moment the Gaming Commission grants the 4 a.m. license, that puts a lot of businesses in surrounding cities and town, including Boston, at a serious disadvantage. I think let’s wait and see what the 2 a.m. does…It’s not simply opening the casino until 4 a.m. It’s about having a conversation about other cities and towns and their licenses and what would happen in their establishments.”

The MGC is expected to talk more about the 4 a.m. license application at its next meeting on May 22.

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In Contentious Vote, Council Votes to Allow Change to Insurance

Current and former municipal employees crowded into Monday night’s City Council meeting as the council took up a vote to allow City Manager Thomas Ambrosino to negotiate changes to the city’s group health insurance policies.

Most of those employees did not leave happily or quietly as the council voted 8-2 to grant Ambrosino that authority to negotiate the changes. Councillors Roy Avellaneda and Yamir Rodriguez voted against the order, while Councillor Calvin T. Brown was not present at the meeting.

The city’s current group health plan is governed by a three-year agreement with the Public Employee Committee (PEC) that expires on June 30 of this year.

“During the months of November through March, I did attempt to negotiate with the PEC a new multi-year agreement that would provide some cost savings to the group health plan,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the council. “Unfortunately, I have not been able to reach agreement with the unions.”

Under Massachusetts General Laws, Ambrosino stated, in the absence of a new agreement, the old PEC agreement will remain in effect indefinitely. Without City Council action, Ambrosino said he cannot put any health care cost savings in place.

The action approved by the City Council allows the city to take advantage of recent state legislation that allows municipalities to implement cost saving plan design changes on its own if no agreement can be reached with the PEC as long as the city agrees to share a percentage of its first year cost savings with the unions.

With the newly granted authority by the council, the City Manager said he will negotiate reasonable design changes to the city’s group health policies, likely by imposing deductibles in line with deductibles paid for health insurance by state employees.

Ambrosino said even with any changes, Chelsea will always have health insurance at least as good as that provided to Massachusetts public employees.

However, a letter to the City Council submitted by the Chelsea Public Employees Committee outlined over two dozen reasons why members believe the adoption of the changes to the group health insurance should not be adopted.

“The PEC strongly believes that the adoption of Sections 21-23 is inappropriate and premature for multiple reasons: the Self-Insurance Trust Fund is running about a $2 million surplus; the PEC has agreed to apply any surplus to reduce future health insurance costs; City Manager Thomas Ambrosino wants the sickest families among City employees and retirees to pay $1 million more on an annual basis currently paid by the City; the PEC and City Manager Thomas Ambrosino agree that no changes to employee/retiree health insurance are needed until FY2022; Ambrosino has failed to bargain in good faith for a successor PEC agreement; a grievance, including an alleged unfair labor practice, are pending at this time; and Sections 21-23 will effectively disable bargaining on health insurance,” the letter summarizes.

City Council President Damali Vidot noted that her husband works for the Department of Public Works and that any changes in health insurance would directly affect her. However, she said the changes are necessary to allow Ambrosino to negotiate with city unions.

“We hire the Town Manager to negotiate with the unions, and I’m not comfortable when he does not have all the tools needed for the negotiations,” said Vidot.

Vidot she said she hopes Ambrosino can go back to the unions with the new negotiating tools and find common ground with the unions. In addition to wanting the best for city employees, Vidot said the council has a fiscal responsibility for the entire community.

The council president also said that there has been some miscommunication on the issue, especially when it comes to retirees. Vidot said changes to group health insurance plans would only affect a very few retirees who do not qualify for Medicare.

District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop said he agreed that the City Manager should have all the tools available as he negotiates with the city’s union.

As the vote took place, many in the audience shouted and voiced their displeasure, with several people stating the council should be ashamed of their vote. The meeting came to a brief halt as the crowd noisily filed out of the council meeting, with several audience members individually appealing to councillors.

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Chelsea School Committee to Choose Superintendent Tonight

The Chelsea School Committee is poised to offer a position to one of the three superintendent finalists tonight, May 9, at a special meeting that is expected to conclude the search process.

In formal terms, the Committee can only offer the position to their favored candidate. That candidate has to accept the offer, and then a contract has to be negotiated and ratified before the matter is completely official.

The three candidates include:

•Anthony Parker, Weston High School principal.

•Ligia Noriega-Murphy, assistant superintendent of secondary schools in Boston Public Schools.

•Almudena Abeyta, currently the assistant superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for the Somerville Public Schools.

The three candidates have been through a whirlwind tour of the City over the last two weeks, engaging in community forums and School Committee interviews.

The final interview will take place on Thursday evening, with the Committee convening to make the decision afterward.

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A Good Start – Community Preservation Recommends Five Projects in First Round of Funding

Rehabbing historic monuments and buildings and establishing a community garden are among the first projects the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) will be recommending to the City Council during their initial pilot round of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding.

Monday night, the CPC recommended approval of funding for five projects, and tabled two other proposals until May so they can get more information on them.

The projects recommended by the CPC Monday night included money for the rehabilitation of the city’s Civil War monument, improvements to the Garden Cemetery, a Marlborough Street Community Garden proposed by The Neighborhood Developers (TND), and renovation of the Governor Bellingham-Cary House.

The two proposals that were tabled until more information could be gathered were for renovations to the Congregation Agudath Shalom Museum (Walnut Street Synagogue) and for the city to hire an Affordable Housing Trust Fund housing specialist on a one-year contract basis.

Each of the proposals generated debate to its merits, with members keeping an eye on the potential that future years will feature requests with potentially larger impacts on the CPA fund.

Chelsea voters approved the adoption of the CPA in November 2016. It will provide hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to be used for the creation and acquisition of affordable housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation. The CPA trust fund currently has a balance of just over $2.2 million.

The projects that could be funded during the initial pilot round are capped at $50,000 each. The total of the seven proposals that came before the CPC is just under $270,000, according to CPC Chair Jose Iraheta.

The pilot round of funding is not only a way to get out the word about CPA funding, but also gives the CPC an opportunity to work out the best method for recommendation of the projects, Iraheta said. The CPC can make recommendations for projects, but the funding is ultimately approved by the City Council.

“There’s so much we have to do to educate the community and have them understand what this is all about,” said CPC member Bea Cravatta. “This is a good amount of money that can change the city in a positive way.”

Key among the factors CPC members weigh in considering recommendation for a project is its community support, benefit to the city’s vulnerable populations, matching funds from the project’s proponents, and how it fits into Chelsea’s overall Master Plan.

“I believe that little pieces like this are important to the community and to people of all income levels,” CPC member Tuck Willis said of the Civil War monument rehab. “Seeing a decaying monument is not good for anyone. A neater, cleaner, spiffier look is better for everyone.”

Improvements to the Garden Cemetery also got high marks from many of the CPC members.

“This is a fantastic project that strongly aligns with our leading and supporting principles,” said CPC Vice Chair Caroline Ellenbird.

Cravatta and CPC member Juan Vega both supported the project but said they would like to see some more ideas about how the community at large could make more use of the space.

The two projects with the most questions about them were tabled to give Karl Allen of the planning department time to gather more information for the CPC.

Vega and Willis both said they both had concerns about CPA funds being used to fund a staff position for the city with the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. CPC members also had questions about funding and budget specifics for rehab of the Congregation Agudath Shalom Museum.

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Council, School Committee Seeks to Fill Vacancies Quickly

The Chelsea City Council and School Committee held a joint meeting on Tuesday night, April 9, to get a quick step forward on filling two vacancies on the School Committee.

Members Present included City Councilors Roy Avellaneda, Damali Vidot, Bob Bishop, Luis Tejada, Enio Lopez, Judith Garcia, and Yamir Rodriguez.

School Committee members present were Frank DePatto, Rosemarie Carlisle, Jeannette Velez, Rich Maronski, Lucia Henriquez, Ana Hernandez, Kelly Garcia, and Yessenia Alfaro.

Due to the recent resignations of School Committee Chairman Richard Maronski and Vice Chairman Julio Hernandez, the Chelsea City Council and Chelsea School Committee are looking to fill their seats.

“This is a job that should be taken seriously and hopefully we get someone that’s responsible and will show up,” said Maronski.

“It’s unfortunate that we have these two sudden resignations, but I’m hopeful as it has allowed for significant dialogue around expectations and the representation our families deserve,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “I am looking forward to working with the School Committee to fill the vacancies.”

Any residents of District 3 or District 5 that are interested in serving the remaining unexpired terms through December 2019, are asked to submit their resumes and letters of interest to City Council and Chelsea School Committee at: LKoco@Chelseama.gov or mail to City Council at 500 Broadway, Chelsea, MA 02150.

Candidates must be registered voters in their respective districts and must be able to pass a CORI. The Chelsea City Council and School Committee will be accepting resumes until Friday April 26, and will conduct interviews on Monday April 29. Anyone that lives in either District 3 or District 5 is encouraged to apply. If you aren’t sure of your district, please visit HYPERLINK “http://chelseama.gov” t “_blank” chelseama.gov under the City Clerk’s department for a map or call the City Clerks office at (617) 466-4050.

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New Broadway Sign and Design Guidelines Head to City Council for Review

New Broadway Sign and Design Guidelines Head to City Council for Review

Dr. Deborah Wayne’s optometry shop has been on Broadway in one way or another since 1936, but in 2019 she’s hoping that new City guidelines and a store improvement program will help her shop – and others around it – catapult into the new century.

“You want to see quality businesses and you want them to look like quality businesses,” she said. “I think it’s a fabulous idea. It’s an old storefront. I have a storefront that doesn’t have any grates. We’ve been operating in one location or another on Broadway since 1936 and we’ve never had a grate. I’d do anything to get the grates off the businesses on Broadway. I think they’re ugly. I’m hoping that these regulations go through so I can take advantage of the program. I don’t want to take action and build something that isn’t in compliance. I’m ready to rip the front off my store. I can’t wait.”

She shares the enthusiasm of most of the business community on Broadway, who wholeheartedly support a set of design guidelines for the corridor, as well as a storefront improvement assistance program.

Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney has proposed the regulations this spring to the Planning Board, and had a hearing on April 1. They will have a stop at the City Council again with a ruling promised in May.

“The goal is to be attractive and be maintained and lit well,” she said. “It’s also transparency of the windows. We’re telling folks not to have the big frosted glass and we would like the business to take down the big metal grates. In a lot of cases, they aren’t necessary because it can done other ways. We can meet the goal of safety and meet the goal of feeling safe and having an attractive façade.”

One of the problems, she said, is that the regulations for signage and façade improvements are woefully outdated – in some cases not allowing simple things like a blade sign. A blade sign is a suspended sign that faces those walking on the sidewalk. Because of the outdated regulations, she said, many store owners are hesitant to make upgrades that could be a code violation.

“The downtown has always been a bunch of things, but the rules never changed so it means the businesses can’t update or maintain their facades,” she added.

Alberto Calvo of Stop & Compare Supermarket said they improved their façade and sign a few years ago, and it made a huge difference. He’s excited to see that happen throughout the business district.

“We’re absolutely excited to see movement toward the revamping of sign ordinances,” offered Calvo, also executive vice president of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. “A few years ago, we at Stop & Compare in Chelsea invested significantly to improve our building’s façade and to install updated, modern signage. It has made a marked, positive difference in our foot traffic and sales at that location, and I very much want to see other businesses in the Downtown corridor benefit from these kinds of improvements.”

Chelsea Chamber President Joseph W. Mahoney added, “We do get member businesses, and non-members, too, asking whether there are programs to assist business owners to fund signage and façade improvements. For façades, we know that there is a small program to be made available, but the roll-out of the façade program has been at least a couple of years in the making. Our understanding is that there may also be a cost-sharing program for signage as well. The new signage ordinances still need to be passed by the City Council, so we’ve been telling businesses to sit tight, but be ready. We’ve been saying the same thing to our member and non-member businesses in the signage business. We suggested to Craig Murphy, owner of our member Cambridge Reprographics, start talking to people now.”

“I think businesses are most excited about the potential return of blade signs,” Mahoney elaborated, “those that are perpendicular to the building.” Newburyport’s shopping district is full of those signs.

When one drives down its streets, one can see the businesses’ signs before accidentally passing them. Pedestrians also can spot their destination from a half-block away.

•Another piece of the regulations addresses outdoor or sidewalk dining – which was pioneered by the Ciao! Market on Broadway two summers ago. It was a success, by most accounts, and Graney said they would like to encourage others to try it.

First, however, they wanted to put some standards in place.

The regulations would only allow such dining on sidewalks and they would have to be immediately in front of the business. The furniture would have to be matching and of a high quality. There would have to be a safety plan, and businesses would be responsible for the area. No alcohol service would be allowed for the time being.

Seasonal heaters for outdoor dining are also being considered.

“Realistically, there’s not a lot of space,” she said. “Downtown, where this works, it’s two or three tables or six people. It’s similar to what Ciao! Did on their pilot.”

Addressing the proposed sidewalk dining ordinance, Chamber Executive Director Rich Cuthie was slightly more cautious.

“Edson and Marvin from Ciao Pizza definitely have been the market movers on this and need to be applauded,” he said. “They put in the work and time with the City to test it out. But let’s say it’s a nice summer evening and you and I wanted to have a beer and split a plate of nachos al fresco at a local restaurant on Broadway; maybe an after work meeting or just something social. We sit down at the table and chairs on the sidewalk and then are told, ‘No, sorry. No alcohol is allowed outside.’ Like many people, we’re just going to get up, apologize, and either go to the inside of that restaurant, or another restaurant, or worse, decide to move our meeting or dinner to another town.”

Cuthie said there is no compelling argument for a business owner to make the investment in tables, chairs, and staffing while also having to insure against additional outdoor liabilities if the potential revenues to offset those costs are not there.

“No mistake,” Cuthie continued, “we’re happy and appreciative that the City is moving to try to formally create a path to outdoor dining, but without beer, wine, and cocktails—which by the way are a restaurant’s highest margin offerings and offset food costs, we’re missing the mark and I have to reserve judgment on the initiative’s ultimate success. I don’t want Chelsea to always be 10 years behind other communities. We need proper updating now so that people will say, ‘It’s a beautiful evening, let’s have some margaritas and good Latin food in Chelsea tonight. We’ll decide where we want to eat when we get there, because there are so many outdoor dining choices.’”

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Pupusa Fiesta Highlights Latino Cuisine; Ready to Roll Out on April 7

Pupusa Fiesta Highlights  Latino Cuisine; Ready to Roll  Out on April 7

Several local restaurants and the City’s Chelsea Prospers program is stepping up to celebrate all things about the pupusa this Sunday, April 7, at Emiliana Fiesta as part of the first annual Pupusa Fiesta.

As a precursor to the coming Night Market events, and a nod to the City’s Latino and Central American heritage, the City and local business owners have combined efforts to put on a free festival to highlight the stuffed corn tortilla delicacy – as well as all the trimmings that go with it.

Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney said that five businesses have signed up to participate in the free event, where they will have pupusa samples, forchata drinks, pupusa-making demos, curtido and mariachi music.

“It’s kind of flexing our muscles to see how well we get people together and I also wanted to have a celebration of a particular food that we have in Chelsea,” said Graney.

Julio Flores of El Santaneco Restaurant said they are very excited to participate and feel it is very important that a dish like the pupusa is being highlighted.

“We’re very excited because we opened the restaurant in 2000, and since then we’ve participated in different events like Taste of Chelsea and others,” he said. “However, this is the first time it’s going to be just about the Latino cuisine – particularly the pupusa. That’s a very huge thing.”

A pupusa is a thick corn tortilla stuffed with cheese and beans – sometimes meats as well. Curtido is a common side dish with the pupusa and it is a vinegar-based slaw made of cabbage and carrots – and a touch of spiciness.

“I think the city manager and Mimi and Chelsea Prospers are doing a great job because I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think it’s the first time there is an event just about Latino food. It also opens up the opportunity for this to happen again. I would love to see this as an opportunity to start a tradition and that it won’t be a one-time event.”

He also said it gives homage to the culture in Chelsea, but a culture that is changing.

“The City is changing,” he said. “The Latino community has been in Chelsea many years.”

The Pupusa Fiesta will take place on Sunday, April 7, from 2-5 p.m. at Emiliana Fiesta, 35 Fourth St. It is a free event.

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School Committee Passes Budget Without Majority

School Committee Passes Budget Without Majority

The School Committee passed a $95.4 million School Budget last week, but it was passed with less than a majority of the total number of nine committee seats.

The budget, which passed with a $1.9 million funding gap that led to the elimination of 10 teaching positions, was approved by a 4-2 vote.

School Committee members Rosemarie Carlisle and Frank DePatto voted against the budget, while board member Jeanette Velez and Chair Richard Maronski recused themselves from the vote, citing relatives who work for the School Department. Last week, Julio Hernandez resigned from the Committee and his seat has yet to be filled.

School Committee members and administrators said it has been a long struggle to present a budget that attempts to meet the needs of the Chelsea schools.

Supt. Mary Bourque and City Manager Thomas Ambrosino were among those who noted that falling enrollments in the Chelsea schools, as well as an antiquated state funding formula that underfunds urban communities such as Chelsea, were the main culprits in the budget cuts.

“I’ve spent a lot of the time with the superintendent trying to provide city support for the budget,” said Ambrosino. “The City is really trying to do its fair share.”

That included the City providing an additional $1.5 million to the schools to address budget shortfalls.

“Every new tax dollar I can raise in Fiscal Year 2020 is going to the School Department,” said the city manager.

Regardless of how the School Committee ended up voting on the budget, Ambrosino said the $95.5 million figure is the figure he would present to the City Council as the school share of the overall City Budget.

“The budget (Bourque) presented is fair and reasonable,” said Ambrosino.

Once the budget is approved, Ambrosino said attention should be turned towards advocating for change to the Chapter 70 state education funding formula on Beacon Hill.

Bourque said she agreed that the time is now to fix the state funding formula, noting that Chelsea schools will be underfunded $17 million by the state.

The other factor leading to cuts in the budget is falling enrollment, Bourque said. Between January of 2018 and January of this year, she said Chelsea schools have lost 217 students. That is part of a larger trend of falling enrollment over nearly a decade, according to the superintendent.

Carlisle voted against the proposed budget, but said the problem with the $95.4 million figure laid not with the City, but with the state.

“The problem is with the state,” said Carlisle. “They are not doing the right thing, and we have to send them a message.”

School Committee member Ana Hernandez backed the budget, but said it wasn’t a decision made lightly.

“The votes we make are very hard,” she said. “This budget is what we dread every year. We have to make a decision for the best of the entire school system.”

But for DePatto, further cuts to teaching positions was a bridge too far to support the FY ‘20 budget. He said the schools laid off seven teachers in 2017, 20 in 2018, 10 in 2019, and have projected another 10 for 2020.

“Forty seven teachers and 25 paraprofessionals,” he said. “When is it going to stop? I can’t vote for this budget (when) I don’t support these cuts.”

School Committee member Yessenia Alfaro-Alvarez voted in support of the budget, stating that it was in the best interest of the City’s students to pass the budget, and also noting that Chelsea is hamstrung by declining enrollments and inequities in the state funding formula.

•In other business, the Committee voted to forgo School Choice for the 2019-20 school year.

•The School Committee also approved a field trip to New York City for high school and middle school REACH students to participate in the Andover Bread Loaf Writing Conference in May.

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Split Decision for Broadway Affordable Housing, Faces Tough Path Again

Split Decision for Broadway Affordable Housing, Faces Tough Path Again

It was a split decision for a 38-unit affordable housing project at the former Midas site on Broadway before the Planning Board on Tuesday night.

For the second time in less than a year, the Planning Board approved the site plan for the development, a partnership between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND).

Late last year, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) narrowly denied the 42 unit affordable- and market-rate residential development at 1001 Broadway. The Suffolk County Land Court remanded the controversial Zoning Board affordable housing denial on Broadway back to the ZBA with a revised plan.

However, the project did not garner the necessary votes from the Planning Board for a recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals to grant special permits for the project for parking and lot coverage relief.

The project will still come before the ZBA at its April 9 meeting for approval, but if the revised project is to move forward, it will have to do so without the Planning Board’s seal of approval.

Four of the six board members who voted Monday night did support recommending the special permits to the ZBA. But given the need to pull in a two-thirds vote of the overall nine-member board, it wasn’t enough to gain official approval of the project.

Planning Board members Todd Taylor and Shuvam Bhaumik cast the votes against the recommendation, in large part echoing the parking and larger economic impact of the project on the city.

Monday night’s two hour public hearing covered a lot of familiar ground for residents and city officials who have been following the course of the project over the past year.

Supporters of the project touted TND’s past successes in providing affordable housing in the city and the continued need to provide more affordable housing units in the city.

Those opposed to or with reservations about the development raised questions about traffic and parking, as well as continued development that puts affordable rental units on the market without providing for home ownership opportunities.

Representatives from TND and the Traggorth Companies presented their revised plans for the project, much as they had to the ZBA during an initial meeting earlier this month.

The major revisions to the proposed $15 million project include cutting the total number of units from 42 to 38, making all the units affordable, and eliminating the fifth story of the building that had been proposed for the Broadway side of the development.

The commercial space on the first floor in the initial proposal has also been eliminated and replaced by a community room.

“The goal of the project has not changed since we have begun,” said Tanya Hahnel of the Traggorth Companies. “Our number one goal is to provide affordable housing and increase public access to Mill Creek.”

The original proposal denied by the ZBA totaled 42 units, with nine of those at market rate. The revised plans cut four units out, and lower the height of the building facing Broadway from five to four stories.

A housing lottery will be held for all of those units, with 30 offered at 60 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI) for the area (about $64,000 for a family of four) and eight at 30 percent AMI (about $32,000 for a family of four), according to TND Project Manager Steve Laferriere. The maximum preference allowable under state law will be given to Chelsea residents for the units, Laferriere said.

There will be 42 parking spaces for the 38 units (the majority of which will be two-bedroom apartments). And because of state law regulating public access to public waterways, 31 of those parking spaces will be available as public parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide access to Mill Creek for everyone.

As with almost all development proposals in Chelsea, traffic and parking are a major roadblock to support for approval.

District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda, who represents the area where the affordable housing will be built, said the project at the corner of Broadway and Clinton Street will only worsen a nightmare traffic and parking scenario.

While Perlatonda said the city needs more affordable housing, he said it can’t be at the detriment of the many residents who live in the already crowded and congested neighborhood.

“How are we going to get in and out of there?” he asked. “I think the board really needs to think this through.”

But for others, including City Council President Damali Vidot, the need for affordable housing units in Chelsea trumps the traffic and parking concerns.

“Housing shouldn’t be something we argue about,” said Vidot. “Affordable housing creation is absolutely needed.”

Vidot, who said she has almost never supported development in the city, said her main concern about the Traggorth/TND project was its impact on parking.

Hahnel said the developers would be willing to consider an agreement where residents would not be eligible to apply for city street parking stickers, thereby helping ease parking congestion in the neighborhood.

At-Large City Councillor Roy Avellaneda took a different view of the affordable rental units.

While Avellaneda said he is a supporter of affordable housing in Chelsea, he questioned TND’s recent history of developing affordable rental units at the expense of creating affordable home ownership opportunities.

“TND has a (real estate) portfolio but they keep building apartments,” said the councillor. “Where is the home ownership? Where is the balance?”

Avellaneda said the lack of more affordable home ownership opportunities in Chelsea is pricing out middle income and working families who want to set down roots in the city.

Taylor echoed Avellaneda’s sentiments that a lack of home ownership is an issue in Chelsea.

“I bet that by 2020, the new statistics will show that there is more affordable housing than home ownership (in Chelsea),” he said. “That’s not a good place to be in, and this is a problem that the city should really address.”

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