Just as the Planning Board looked close to taking a vote on a major development plan for the Forbes site Tuesday night, Dec. 18, the attorney for developer YIHE asked the board to give his client another month to review potential changes to the project.
Paul Feldman, the attorney for the developer, requested a one-month continuance of the public hearing on the project after City officials, including City Manager Thomas Ambrosino, recommended decreasing the density of the residential units on the site.
Developers were seeking 630 studio, one-, and two-bedroom units in a mix of buildings on the property, along with 963 parking spots, and 20,000 sq. ft. of office, commercial, and retail space.
Chinese company YIHE purchased the 18-acre former Forbes Lithograph Manufacturing site, bordered by the Chelsea River and Mill Creek, in 2014 for just over $11.5 million. In 2015, the City rejected a far-reaching plan for the site that included skyscrapers more than 20 stories tall and more than 1.5 million square feet of residential and commercial development.
“The current proposal is more than half the size smaller than the one three years ago at 699,000 square feet,” said Feldman.
During a nearly three-hour public hearing Tuesday night, Ambrosino gave the project his qualified support, stating he approved of the developer’s plans to allow waterfront access to the public through a three-acre waterfront park. He also supported their willingness to work with the city on affordable housing levels and the plan to build 60 percent of the units as condominiums, dramatically helping to increase home-ownership levels in Chelsea.
“This is the first significant home ownership project to come to the city since I started here three-and-a-half years ago,” said Ambrosino.
However, the city manager said the project is too dense for the neighborhood, and asked the Planning Board to recommend to the Zoning Board of Appeals that the project be limited to 550 residential units. He also asked the ZBA to stipulate that 10 percent of the units in the project be set aside as affordable units at 50 percent of the annual median income.
“I advocate that outright denial would not be in the best interest of the city,” said Ambrosino. He noted that 630 units could be approved by right on the 18-acre parcel provided there were more parking spaces than the number proposed by YIHE.
During the public hearing, Feldman said the developer was willing to work with the city on affordable housing. With the recommendation to reduce the number of units, however, the attorney said his client would need more time to review the conditions.
“Given the enormous amount of information we have heard tonight, we do not want to be rushed,” said Feldman.
During the hearing, most of the questions from the board and the public revolved around some of the usual suspects with any large development — safety, traffic, and parking.
A good portion of the evening was dedicated to a traffic study conducted by the developer’s engineering firm.
Jeff Dirk of Vanasse and Associates said there would be a traffic impact from the 630 units, but that it would top out at about 200 vehicle trips during peak hours around 1 Forbes Street. He also noted that once traffic exited the development over one of two proposed new bridges to the site off Crescent Avenue, it would be dispersed throughout a number of thoroughfares throughout Chelsea, cutting down on overall congestion.
“It will be a relatively minor increase (in traffic) as you get away from the site,” said Dirk.
Feldman said the developers will work with the City to make infrastructure and traffic improvements in the area, including to Crescent Avenue itself. In addition, he said YIHE will work with the MBTA to improve public transportation to the site and the surrounding neighborhood.
While a dedicated bus stop is likely years away, Feldman said developers will provide a shuttle bus service to the nearest MBTA bus stops and the Silver Line for residents of the development and the neighborhood.
But some people Tuesday night, including District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda, said the development team was painting too-rosy a picture of the traffic and parking impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.
“This is in my district and I am still not on board,” said Perlatonda.
As it stands, the councillor said pedestrians dodge traffic on Crescent Avenue, and backups in the area can be severe, particularly during school drop-off and pick-up hours.
“Parking is also a major concern, and I also don’t want to see a bus circling Carroll Street and Clinton Street,” he said. “I see there being a complete bottleneck.”
Several residents and Planning Board members were also concerned about the two new planned bridges, questioning if they were too close together in case of emergency.
Feldman said a wider bridge would be for vehicles and a narrower one would be primarily for pedestrians, but could be used for emergency access by the police and fire departments.
However, Planning Board member Gladys Vega said she was worried that there could be issues in an emergency because the bridges are essentially side by side, with no other access point to the development.
City Council President Damali Vidot raised concerns about the density of the project, as well as the lack of three-bedroom apartments in the initial plans.
“I do appreciate the 10 percent affordable housing at the lower annual median income, if the developer is willing to do it,” Vidot said. “But I do have an issue with (Feldman) minimizing the impact of the project on the community. This would be an increase in population of 2,000 people, or about five percent of the city’s population.”
The Planning Board will take up the public hearing on 1 Forbes St. at its January meeting.
Feldman said he will also be asking for a continuance from the ZBA, which needs to grant a special permit to allow for fewer parking spots than are required under zoning for the Waterfront District.
Council President Damali Vidot has lined up the votes to be chosen as the Council President for a second year in a row, a rare move on a Council where most only serve for one year and pass it on.
“I’m excited to serve again and thank my colleagues for their confidence,” she said this week. “From what I’m hearing, it’s the first time a woman has served for two consecutive terms as Council President. I don’t have it all figured out, but I believe my colleagues trust my leadership and know I’m trying to do the right thing.”
Aside from Vidot, the vice president will be Luis Tejada and the School Committee liaison will be Yamir Rodriguez.
The Council in Chelsea doesn’t vote on its leadership positions until its first meeting in January. However, the Council does line up its votes and preferences in December. Rarely, if ever, does the vote change between December and January.
Vidot said one of her goals is to begin looking at the boards and commissions within the City, such as the License Board and Zoning Board.
“One of my goals is to better monitor these boards in the city, like the Traffic Commission and the ZBA,” she said. “I feel like at different levels these boards exist and that no one is in control. I’ve seen residents come up 100 percent against a project, and it goes through anyway. These are things we really need to look at to make sure we’re all on the same page. It feels like we’re all running in different directions now.”
Additionally, Vidot said she hoped to foster a good working relationship between councillors in the coming year.
“I take a lot of pride in being able to work with all the different councillors,” she said. “I want to make sure we’re all working together and doing the best we can…There are so many different needs. You take a councillor like Bob Bishop from Prattville and a Councillor like Enio Lopez from District 4 and their needs in those districts are so different, but I look forward to being able to work together to address each of them equally.”
The Council has yet to set a date for its first meeting and its organizational meeting for election of officers, but it is expected to be on Jan. 7.
When Chelsea residents go shopping for the holidays next year, they will have to either bring their own bags or pay a dime for a heavy-duty plastic bag.
Monday night, the City Council approved an anticipated single-use plastic bag ban in the city. The ban goes into effect one year from the Dec. 17 vote.
The proposal has been discussed in committee and meetings on the ban have been held with local businesses, but the issue was not listed on Monday night’s agenda.
District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez made the motion to take the ban out of conference committee and have it voted on by the full Council. Lopez noted that single-use plastic bags are bad for the environment and are also a constant source of litter around the city.
“This is a great idea and it is in our power to do it,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “I think small businesses will be able to adjust to the change.”
District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop said he initially had some mixed feelings about the proposed ban, but said he was swayed by Sunday night’s ‘60 Minutes’ segment on the environmental dangers of plastic.
“I think plastic will kill us all if we keep going the way we are going,” said Bishop. While Bishop said plastic bags are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dangers of plastic, banning plastic bags is a start.
District 3 Councillor Joe Perlatonda voted for the ban, but said he did have some concerns about the cost to consumers and businesses. While single-use plastic bags will be banned, consumers will be able to purchase sturdier, multi-use plastic bags for 10 cents.
Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson shared some of Perlatonda’s concerns and recommended the proposal be kept in committee, giving local businesses more time for input.
But the majority of the Council favored taking action Monday night.
“There have been other cities that have implemented this, and you can see a huge difference in the streets,” said District 2 Councillor Luis Tejada.
The one year time-frame before the ban goes into effect will give the City time to do outreach to local businesses, and give the businesses time to go through any existing stock of plastic bags.
The ban passed with a 10-1 vote, with District 8 Councillor Calvin Brown casting the lone vote against it.
Monday night, City Councilors rejected a plan that would dramatically impact traffic and parking around the John Silber Early Learning Center on Hawthorne Street.
The recommendations from the Traffic and Parking Commission, based on a request from School Facilities Director Joseph Cooney III, sought to block traffic from Congress Avenue and Hawthorne Street, only allowing bus access to Hawthorne Street during the hours of 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. and to move a school bus lane from Shurtleff Street to Hawthorne Street. Cooney also requested a painted “Buses Only” parking area in front of the school on Hawthorne Street and to change the existing language on the signs to “No Parking, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., School Buses Only.”
Several councillors said they were dismayed by the effect the changes would have for residents in the area, and also said they thought the Council should have had more of a say in the proposed changes.
“Why take away all of the parking for the whole day?” asked District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero. “You can’t just say we are going to do this and this is what it is. What’s going to happen to the people who live there?”
Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda echoed Recupero’s concerns.
“Reading this, it is a major change and there has not been the outreach this deserves,” he said.
Many major details were missing from the proposal, Avellaneda added, including what would happen with parking when school is not in session. He said it would have been preferable if school officials had met with councillors before making the recommendations.
“I know that behind this, the intent is the safety of school children,” Avellaneda said. “But I don’t think this has been fully vetted or thought out.”
In other business Monday night, the Council unanimously approved spending $170,000 for a turf field cover at the new Chelsea High School field. This cover will allow for outdoor activities on the field, including high school graduation.
For the past several meetings, Chelsea High students have organized and spoken out in favor of the proposal.
With the vote taken, several councillors praised the students for the role they played in making the request a reality.
“I’ve never seen a group impact the Council on an issue as much as you guys,” said District 2 Councillor Luis Tejada. “Keep up the good work and know that this is the way to get things done in life.”
The Council also approved a request by Council President Damali Vidot to place signs at five locations around the city where Chelsea police officers have been killed in the line of duty over the past 150 years.
In other parking and traffic related news, District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia announced that Fire Chief Leonard Albanese rescinded a request to change the traffic flow on Chestnut Street.
A petition from St. Stanislaus Church with dozens of signatures stated that the temporary change of direction on the street had been detrimental to the day-to-day business operations of the Parish rectory and created multiple hardships for parishioners and others in the area.
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 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 leader of MS-13’s Eastside Loco Salvatrucha (ESLS) clique was sentenced last week at federal court in Boston for RICO conspiracy.
Edwin Guzman, a/k/a “Playa,” 32, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to 16 years in prison and three years of supervised release. In February 2018, Guzman and two other MS-13 members, Herzzon Sandoval, a/k/a “Casper,” 36, and Erick Argueta Larios, a/k/a “Lobo,” 33, were convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy. A fourth MS-13 member, Cesar Martinez, a/k/a “Cheche,” 37, was convicted at the same trial of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine.
According to court documents, MS-13 was identified as a violent transnational criminal organization whose branches, or “cliques,” operate throughout the United States, including in Massachusetts. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence, specifically against rival gang members, to gain membership in and be promoted within the gang. Guzman and Sandoval were the leaders, also known as the “first word,” and “second word,” of the ESLS clique in Massachusetts.
On Sept. 20, 2015, Joel Martinez, a/k/a “Animal,” murdered a 15-year-old boy in East Boston. On Jan. 8, 2016, as a reward for the 2015 murder, Joel Martinez was promoted by the gang to “homeboy” status with a 13-second beat-in by other MS-13 members at an ESLS meeting that Guzman, Sandoval, Martinez and Argueta Larios attended.
In May 2018, Joel Martinez was sentenced to 40 years in prison and two years of supervised release after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy involving murder. In October 2018, Sandoval was sentenced to 20 years in prison and two years of supervised release. Argueta Larios and Martinez are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 19, 2018, and Nov. 28, 2018, respectively.
Guzman was one of 49 defendants convicted as part of this case. All nine defendants who went to trial were convicted and 40 others pleaded guilty. In all, 16 defendants, including Joel Martinez, were found to have committed or knowingly participated in murders.
While Gov. Charlie Baker cruised to re-election statewide with 67 percent of the vote, he barely made any traction in Chelsea this time around.
Though former City Manager Jay Ash is a key member of his cabinet once again, the Republican Baker didn’t seem to get much support in Chelsea over Democratic candidate Jay Gonzalez.
In Chelsea, 3,350 people voted for Gonzalez, while 3,115 voted for Baker – a sharp contrast to the statewide results.
During his victory party at the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay, he said his administration will continue to build bi-partisan relationships to tackle the tough issues.
“The people of Massachusetts elected us four years ago to bring fiscal discipline, a reform minded approach to governing, and a commitment to bipartisanship to state government,” he said. “We have done just that. Every single day. And today, the voters have spoken. They like what we are doing and they appreciate the way we work. So here’s the good news. That collaborative, purposeful and humble approach to governing is exactly what you are going to get from us and from our team for the next four years. Non-stop. Let’s rock.”
While governor made the headlines, the most active voting took place on the ballot questions, particularly Question 1 that focused on mandated nurse staffing ratios. The question was defeated easily statewide, and in Chelsea it was also defeated with 67 percent of the vote.
Question 2 won with 70 percent of the vote, and Question 3 to uphold the transgender rights bill passed locally with 68 percent of the vote.
For District Attorney, Rachael Rollins won big citywide and in Chelsea over Mike Maloney. Rollins, who has held great popularity in Chelsea, had been a controversial candidate in submitting a “list” of crimes she would decline to prosecute during the campaign last summer. That “list” had gotten a lot of attention after the September primary victory, and she has spent most of the last month explaining the plan – which would essentially divert resources from smaller, quality-of-life crimes to investigate larger crimes like homicide, rape and aggravate assaults.
In Chelsea, Rollins got 4,812 votes to Maloney’s 1,169.
On Tuesday night, Rollins’ said her election reflects a widespread demand for change in a criminal justice system that for too long has not worked fairly for everyone. Rollins has promised to bring new solutions to the office that will break down wealth and racial disparities, keep communities safe and treat all people with dignity and respect.
“I am humbled by the trust the voters have placed in me to serve as Suffolk County’s next District Attorney,” said Rollins. “I am beyond grateful for the hard work of our volunteers and the support of our community over the last nine months since we launched this campaign. Voters sent a very clear signal today that our criminal justice system is not working for too many people and it’s time for a change. We will start by creating an office that adequately reflects the communities it serves and that is engaged with every neighborhood within the county. Then together we’ll make our criminal justice system better and work to strengthen relationships between communities and law enforcement.”
All three of Chelsea’s state elected officials, State Rep. Dan Ryan, State Rep. RoseLee Vincent and Sen. Sal DiDomenico were unopposed, but prevailed with a good vote Tuesday.
Ryan got 3,637 votes in his unopposed race (Chelsea only), and DiDomenico (for Chelsea only) got 5,409 votes. DiDomenico also represents parts of Cambridge, Allston and all of Everett and Chelsea. Vincent, who also represents Revere, got 1,495 votes in Chelsea.
As a side note, City Clerk Jeannette Cintron White said that early voting was a success in Chelsea once again. She said there were 731 early ballots cast this election cycle.
If District 1 City Councillor Robert Bishop gets his way, he’ll be taking $6,000 per year out of his own pockets, and those of his fellow city councillors.
Monday night, Bishop introduced an ordinance asking that the Council salary be cut from $14,000 to $8,000 per year beginning in 2020. The councillor said he was unhappy when the salary increased from $8,000 to $14,000 several years ago, and wants to see it cut back.
The ordinance was moved to a second reading at a future council meeting before there was any discussion on the proposal, but Council President DamaliVidot said there will be an opportunity for debate and discussion during the second reading.
The council voted for the pay raise to $14,000 in 2013 and it went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
In other business, the council heard a legal opinion from City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher that stated that the Council’s subcommittee on finance violated the open meeting law when it discussed a $20,000 appropriation for legal services that was not properly placed on the subcommittee’s agenda. Bishop, who heads the finance subcommittee, countered that the matter was properly posted and fell under the heading of financial requests.
“I felt it would be appropriate to discuss,” Bishop said. “I see nothing in Rule 26 that says we could not speak about it. … To me, this is kind of petty and picayune.”
But Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson said he didn’t understand how the matter had gotten to the finance subcommittee without coming before the full Council first.
Vidot said there will be a subcommittee discussion about how to best move forward with financial matters on the Council.
Bishop also asked for a meeting to discuss traffic flow issues at Revere Beach Parkway and Washington Avenue, Revere Beach Parkway and Webster Avenue, and Spruce Street and Everett Avenue. The councillor noted that motorists are faced with an especially dangerous intersection at Revere Beach Parkway and Washington.
“It’s a wonder that there are not more accidents than there already are,” Bishop said.
The District 1 Councillor is also requesting a subcommittee meeting to discuss issues with the city and the Chelsea Housing Authority’s rodent baiting programs. Bishop said he has concerns that the programs are ineffective and dangerous for the workers implementing them.
District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero introduced an order asking the public works director provide the Council with an accurate account of how the City sets water and sewer rates and how those rates could be stabilized.
In contrast to the past several meetings, when discussion over water and sewer rates brought a steady stream of residents to the microphone, it was a more subdued public speaking session at Monday’s meeting.
Chelsea High School senior Manuel Teshe advocated for fundraising efforts that would allow the senior class to graduate outside at the school’s football field. Teshe estimated the total cost of covering the field to keep it safe for a graduation ceremony would be about $30,000.
“We are passionate about this and want to graduate from the school in the best way possible,” said Teshe.
Teshe’s classmate, senior class president Jocelyn Poste, was also on hand at the meeting to promote the Red Devil Turkey Trot race on Saturday, Nov. 17 to benefit the school’s track and cross country programs.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the race can visit HYPERLINK “http://chelseahightrack.com” t “_blank” chelseahightrack.com. The event begins at 10 a.m. at Admiral’s Hill.
The City Council passed District 6 City Councillor Giovanni Recupero’s measure to provide a 10 percent water and sewer percent discount to Chelsea homeowners last month.
Yet, since that vote, there has been a fair share of resident dissatisfaction from condominium owners who don’t qualify for the price break, as well as allegations of some social media shenanigans between councillors.
But despite an attempt on Monday night by Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda to consider a repeal, the discount will stand for now.
The discount applies to all units in any owner-occupied single, two-, or three-family homes and any owner-occupied condominium that has an individual water meter. The problem, as some condominium owners noted at Monday night’s council meeting, is that very few condominium units in the city have individual water meters.
“I chose 15 years ago that I wanted to buy a condominium and not a house,” said resident Suzanne Perry. “I consider this to be a basic issue of discrimination and unfairness. I’m sure it was not meant to be that way, but that’s the way it ended up.”
Condominium owner Alison Cuneo circulated an online petition with more than 130 signatures as of Monday night asking the Council to overturn its water and sewer discount vote.
“I would oppose this even if I were to benefit from (the discount),” Cuneo said.
The debate over the issue took a personal turn early in the meeting, when District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop spoke out about a social media post by Avellaneda. In the post, Bishop said Avellaneda posted a Google maps image of his home and pool, noting that Bishop would benefit from the discounted water and sewer rates.
“Councillor Avellaneda wrote that Bob Bishop would get a discount to fill up his pool next year,” said Bishop. “That is not only petty, but it is untrue.”
Bishop said that he, like many people, has an individual water meter on his pool that would not qualify for the homeowner discount.
The District 1 Councillor also said he would be in favor of extending the discount to condominium owners if there was a way to determine the water use in owner-occupied units.
Avellaneda’s attempt to overturn the discount was struck down on a procedural vote.
Council President Damali Vidot ruled the request by Avellaneda to take another vote as out of order.
“We shouldn’t set a precedent just because this is something you disagreed with,” she said. “The majority of the Council voted in favor of adopting this.”
Avellaneda challenged Vidot’s ruling that his request was out of order, but the challenge failed.