Brass Tax: some residents will see a decrease in property taxes this year

Brass Tax: some residents will see a decrease in property taxes this year

The Chelsea City Council unanimously set the property tax rates for residential and commercial properties on Monday night, instituting an increased 27.5 percent owner-occupant exemption that will lead to a reduction in taxes for most single-family homeowners.

“(These tax rates) will result in a reduction in the average tax bill for owner-occupied single family homes, and a modest tax increase to other owner-occupied parcels,” wrote City Manager Tom Ambrosino.

The new residential tax rate is $14.17 per $1,000 of value, and the commercial tax rate is $29.75 per $1,000 of value. Both tax rates are still pending state Department of Revenue approvals – which could result in minor adjustments, if any adjustments.

With that, the average owner-occupied single family home will see a decrease in their bill from $2,723 last year to $2,654 this year. There are 843 single-family homes in Chelsea.

Condos will see an increase from $1,893 to $2,100, while two-families will see a very small increase compared to previous years – going from $3,657 to $3,781 on the average bill.

Three-family homes will also see a much smaller increase than in previous years, going up 3.8 percent over last year ($4,927 to $5,114).

The largest tax bill increase came on the condo properties, which will rise 11 percent over last year. Condos also are the most prevalent properties in the city, with 1,839 properties units.

The Council does have the option to increase the owner-occupant exemption to 35 percent, but instead continued to keep with the incremental increase towards that higher number. Last year, after first having the ability to go from 20 percent to 35 percent, the Council chose the conservative approach, ratifying a 25 percent exemption.

This year, they chose the 27.5 percent exemption.

“By selecting the 27.5 percent residential exemption amount, the City Council will have the opportunity to spread the benefit of the 35 percent exemption limit over several additional fiscal years,” Ambrosino wrote.

The Council did not debate the matter much, but voted 11-0 the tax rates and other related measures.

Read More

Brass Tax: some residents will see a decrease in property taxes this year

Brass Tax: some residents will see a decrease in property taxes this year

The Chelsea City Council unanimously set the property tax rates for residential and commercial properties on Monday night, instituting an increased 27.5 percent owner-occupant exemption that will lead to a reduction in taxes for most single-family homeowners.

“(These tax rates) will result in a reduction in the average tax bill for owner-occupied single family homes, and a modest tax increase to other owner-occupied parcels,” wrote City Manager Tom Ambrosino.

The new residential tax rate is $14.17 per $1,000 of value, and the commercial tax rate is $29.75 per $1,000 of value. Both tax rates are still pending state Department of Revenue approvals – which could result in minor adjustments, if any adjustments.

With that, the average owner-occupied single family home will see a decrease in their bill from $2,723 last year to $2,654 this year. There are 843 single-family homes in Chelsea.

Condos will see an increase from $1,893 to $2,100, while two-families will see a very small increase compared to previous years – going from $3,657 to $3,781 on the average bill.

Three-family homes will also see a much smaller increase than in previous years, going up 3.8 percent over last year ($4,927 to $5,114).

The largest tax bill increase came on the condo properties, which will rise 11 percent over last year. Condos also are the most prevalent properties in the city, with 1,839 properties units.

The Council does have the option to increase the owner-occupant exemption to 35 percent, but instead continued to keep with the incremental increase towards that higher number. Last year, after first having the ability to go from 20 percent to 35 percent, the Council chose the conservative approach, ratifying a 25 percent exemption.

This year, they chose the 27.5 percent exemption.

“By selecting the 27.5 percent residential exemption amount, the City Council will have the opportunity to spread the benefit of the 35 percent exemption limit over several additional fiscal years,” Ambrosino wrote.

The Council did not debate the matter much, but voted 11-0 the tax rates and other related measures.

Read More

What to Do about the Logan Noise Study? Some Ready to Bargain, Some Ready to Fight

What to Do about the Logan Noise Study? Some Ready to Bargain, Some Ready to Fight

By Seth Daniel

Councillor Dan Cortell questioned the creators of the noise study on Monday night. Cortell represents Admiral’s Hill, which has a terrible time with jet noise. He and other councillors are debating next steps after seeing the favorable study

Councillor Dan Cortell questioned the creators of the noise study on Monday night. Cortell represents Admiral’s Hill, which has a terrible time with jet noise. He and other councillors are debating next steps after seeing the favorable study.

The City Council publicly unveiled the recent Airplane Noise Study done by Boston University at a Committee on Conference meeting Monday night, Nov. 13, and the consensus is that there are two different paths – fight in court or use the favorable study as leverage.

The noise study was performed by the Center for Research on Environmental and Social Stressors in Housing Across the Life Course (CRESSH), which is a division of the BU School of Public Health. Those involved in the study included Jonathan Levy, Claire Schollaert and Madeleine Scammell (a Chelsea resident).

That report showed that flights over Chelsea have nearly doubled between 2011 and 2015, and that certain health effects associated with airplane noise are very high in Chelsea.

On Monday, Councillors and City Manager Tom Ambrosino met with the study creators and the public to talk about next steps.

Ambrosino explained that the City has had an agreement with MassPort to have a $600,000 annual payment to mitigate the airport uses and airport operations in Chelsea. That agreement ran out in 2015, but he said MassPort has “begrudgingly” continued to pay – but may not renew the deal.

He has asked that they pay $700,000 annually and that they contribute a one-time $3 million payment to create a waterfront park.

Many in the audience, including Ambrosino and GreenRoots Director Roseanne Bongiovanni, are of the opinion that the study should be used as leverage to bring MassPort to the table to agree on mitigation.

“It took us two years just to get a meeting with them about the airport, and then another 18 months to say they would consider doing something,” said Bongiovanni.

Ambrosino said he is a great supporter of the mitigation and park concept – as it would serve the most people – and the report could help make that happen.

“I am a great supporter of the waterfront park,” he said. “That is a piece of mitigation that generates benefits to the most residents of Chelsea and not just a small that will get soundproofing. It won’t be Piers Park in East Boston. That’s a $20 million park, but a $3 million park with the City kicking in $1 million to make it a $4 million park is something that could create a very wonderful waterfront park for everyone.”

Meanwhile, Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he was of the opinion that it might be best to look at using the study to fight MassPort in court.

“We’re going to get to a point where we have to make a decision about this on behalf of our residents,” he said. “We can squeeze them for $700,000 and a park like the City Manager wants to do, or we do a real noise study with proper equipment and prepare to say we have proof that our community is impacted and possibly prepare to embark on a lawsuit against MassPort and the FAA…My preference will be to do a proper sound study and fight. I can’t go to residents and say that I got them a park and they are still suffering from the noise.”

Read More

No Debate Necessary:Strip Club Application Dismissed by ZBA, New Owner Might Look to Other Things

No Debate Necessary:Strip Club Application Dismissed by ZBA, New Owner Might Look to Other Things

By Leah Dearborn and Seth Daniel

In what has been one surprise after another with the Phantom Ventures suit-and-tie strip club proposal, Tuesday night’s events perhaps took the cake – with a new owner of the club now coming into play and the proponents withdrawing their three-year-old proposal at the last minute.

That came, however, after the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denied the application due to lack of standing.

It was a surprisingly quiet meeting on Tuesday night, despite all the behind the scenes excitement, with representatives of Phantom Ventures failing to make an appearance. The controversial application concerned a Special Permit to establish a nude cabaret and sports bar at 200 Beacham St. – the former site of the King Arthur’s Strip Club.

After addressing the room several times to ask whether a representative of Phantom Ventures was present, Chairman John DePriest announced that the board had received an email earlier in the afternoon requesting withdrawal of the application.

DePriest said the board also received an affidavit from the owner of the property, Demetrios Vardakostas, stating they had been unaware the proposal for the site was submitted. The affidavit clarified that the applicants are no longer tenants of the address at Beacham Street, and that they had been evicted in Chelsea Court last month for non-payment of rent and taxes.

Citing a lack of proper authority to come before the board in the first place, members of the ZBA dismissed the case without further debate from the public.

Another twist in the affair came in that the building was sold late last week, with Everett’s Greg Antonellli now being the new owner.

Antonelli, who owns GTA Landscaping Co., hasn’t revealed what his plans are for the site, but the real estate arm of his business has been buying up a lot of property in the industrial areas of Everett – some of them just on the other side of the Produce Center.

Some in the City said Antonelli may be willing to work with the Phantom proponents to re-apply at his new property, while others said he is considering a different use altogether.

Antonelli said it is too early to discuss any plans for the property, as he has just taken ownership.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he hopes the new owner will consider something different than the nude dancing use.

“I’m pleased that the Zoning Board of Appeals rejected the application,” he said. “Hopefully, the new owner will propose a better use for that site.”

City Councillor Dan Cortell has organized major opposition several times regarding the Phantom application, and he said he was pleasantly surprised by the outcome Tuesday – which was somewhat unexpected.

“A lot of hard work went into this fight that included not just of our City Manager, City Solicitor and staff, Department of Planning and Development and Inspectional Services, but also our volunteer Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board, Economic Development Board and Licensing Commission as well as the literally hundreds of residents I called upon to support the fight all whom were looking out for the best for the city and its future,” he said. “Some football games end in a spectacular interception or last second score. Others end with a run out the clock ‘kneel down.’  Last night’s ZBA meeting ended with the latter. A win is a win and last night Chelsea put the notorious history that is King Arthur’s behind us. Chelsea is a better and more desirable city for it.”

Member Janice Tatarka said Phantom Ventures could still theoretically re-apply for the permit since the original application never went to a vote.

“They could come back,” said board member Janice Tatarka. “It’s possible.”

What is certain is that the controversial Phantom Ventures application – which resulted in numerous hearing and a Constitutional Court case in federal court – is currently dead. Phantom Ventures had re-submitted their application for Tuesday’s meeting after a Federal Court ruling declared the City’s adult entertainment ordinance unconstitutional earlier this year – a case that resulted from the ZBA denying Phantom’s original application in 2015.

Currently, the ZBA said any nude dancing application had to be fit under the ‘theatre’ use. Phantom Ventures had planned to apply on Tuesday under the ‘Theatre’ use provision – that is until it was learned they had no standing with the owner and the new owner.

Phantom’s ownership, which did not appear before the Board, had no comment on the matter immediately.

Read More

Piece of Chelsea History Goes Down to the Wrecking Ball

Piece of Chelsea History Goes Down to the Wrecking Ball

By Seth Daniel

The old Chelsea Clock building was torn down on Friday and Monday of this week. The building stood as the headquarters for the luxury clock maker for more than 100 years. They moved out in 2014, and Fairfield Residential tore down the iconic Chelsea landmark to make way for more than 700 apartments.

The old Chelsea Clock building was torn down on Friday and Monday of this week. The building stood as the headquarters for the luxury clock maker for more than 100 years. They moved out in 2014, and Fairfield Residential tore down the iconic Chelsea landmark to make way for more than 700 apartments.

Three generations of Chelsea residents have worked, walked or driven by the famous Chelsea Clock building on Everett Avenue, but none will be able to do either any longer.

The last pieces of the former brick luxury clock factory – outfitted with the black banner and white lettering reading ‘Chelsea Clock’ – came down last Friday and Monday.

After more than 100 years and two major conflagrations, the old building that in many ways symbolized Chelsea as much as the Soldiers’ Home water tower, is now gone.

“I think most people in Chelsea are a bit saddened by seeing that iconic building disappear, but the environmental conditions made it impossible to retain,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “I just hope that what replaces it, a modern apartment complex with a bit of retail on Everett Avenue, will bring positive benefits to the City.”

The Chelsea Clock company, now on Second Street in a restored building, said it had no comment on the demolition of its former long-time headquarters.

What is about to replace that piece of Chelsea history is a 700-plus unit apartment community on a large piece of land, adding some retail in the mix fronting Everett Avenue.

Fairfield Residential is developing the property, and intends to begin construction soon now that the demolition is complete.

The Chelsea Clock company moved out of the old building in 2014, and has occupied their new headquarters for three years.

Fairfield has said it hopes to have occupancy of its project in 2019.

Read More

Chelsea Delegation Accepts RWJ Award in New Jersey

Chelsea Delegation Accepts RWJ Award in New Jersey

By Seth Daniel

Accepting the Culture of Health prize at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation headquarters in Princeton, NJ, are Jose Iraheta, Leslie Aldrich, City Manager Tom Ambrosino, Sylvia Ramirez, Dan Cortez and Roseann Bongiovanni.

Accepting the Culture of Health prize at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation headquarters in Princeton, NJ, are Jose Iraheta, Leslie Aldrich, City Manager Tom Ambrosino, Sylvia Ramirez, Dan Cortez and Roseann Bongiovanni.

A delegation of Chelsea stakeholders and residents traveled to Princeton, New Jersey on Oct. 11 to accept the City’s Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health prize.

The national celebration took place at the headquarters of the Foundation, and a six-person delegation from Chelsea appeared.

Chelsea was announced as the winner of the prize last month locally, and accepted the prize officially last week. A community celebration in honor of the award tentatively has been scheduled for Nov. 16.

The Prize honors communities that understand health is a shared value and everyone has a role to play to help people be healthier. Chosen from more than 200 communities across the country, Chelsea’s selection stems from its success in pursuing innovative strategies, leveraging their unique strengths, and bringing partners together to ensure good health flourishes for everyone. Chelsea is one of eight communities awarded the Prize in 2017. There are 35 trailblazing communities throughout the nation that have been honored with this distinguished award throughout the past five years – including four others from Massachusetts. Past winners include: Cambridge (2013), Fall River (2013), Everett (2015), Lawrence (2015).

Read More

Firefighters Union Prevails in Arbitration, City Disagrees Still

Firefighters Union Prevails in Arbitration, City Disagrees Still

By Seth Daniel

The City has been ordered by an arbiter to pay overtime that was in dispute from not backfilling a position last year with overtime pay.

The arbiter ruled on Oct. 9 that Chelsea had violated the collective bargaining agreement by not backfilling the position – mostly in 2016 – to avoid having to pay overtime. The open position was created when the City, by contract, created a new deputy chief position, leaving the Safety and Training Deputy Chief position open.

The dispute was whether or not that position had to be filled with overtime when appropriate. The City said it didn’t, and the union believed it did.

“It is undisputed that Chief Albanese was faced with an unexpectedly large overtime bill for the first quarter of his first fiscal year as Chief,” read the decision. “Contractual considerations, however, constrained his response.  I am not persuaded that the unilateral rescission of (regulations) was an appropriate exercise of management rights, pursuant to the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.  Instead, I determine that the parties’ present practice was consistent with a specific agreement the Union reached with respect to command staff changes; namely, that a new Deputy Chief position would be created, and that the Safety and Training Deputy Chief position would be backfilled, on a day to day basis, for certain absences.”

The arbiter ordered that the City repay the overtime to those that were affected.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the award would amount to about $30,000.

“I am further persuaded that, by operation of (the law), the Chief was obligated to meet and discuss overtime overrun concerns with the Union,” it read. “As a result, I conclude that by unilaterally rescinding (the regulation), the City violated the collective bargaining agreement. As remedy, I determine that the effected Deputy Chiefs should be made whole for their loss of overtime opportunities.”

Ambrosino said he is considering filing an appeal, but the ability to overturn an arbiter is not likely.

“We think the arbiter completely missed  the boat and didn’t interpret the contract correctly,” he said. “However, it’s hard to overturn an arbiter’s ruling.”

The Chelsea Fire Union was not able to comment as its president, Anthony Salvucci, has stepped down from his position – according to other members.

Former President Brian Capistran said he is a candidate for president of the union, and that an election was to be held this week.

Read More

Councillor Lopez: Too Many Commercial Vehicles Parking on Streets

Councillor Lopez: Too Many Commercial Vehicles Parking on Streets

By Seth Daniel

Parking is at a crisis point according to many in Chelsea, and Councillor Enio Lopez said at Monday’s meeting that matters are only made worse by some who park multiple commercial/business vehicles on City streets where parking is scant.

The matter passed the Council and was reported to the City Manager and Parking Clerk for review and suggestions.

“A lot of times you will see three  or four commercial vehicles from one house parked on the street,” he said. “I think you can only have one van or one truck, but I have seen some people that are parking four cars or vans on the streets for their businesses. They should pay for a parking lot to park their business vehicles. These spots are for people who live in the City and may be coming home from part-times at night and can’t find a spot.”

Councillor Matt Frank said Lopez had identified a large and growing problem in the City that makes parking much more difficult.

“This is a serious problem when you have a small  side streets and you have four or five vans operating there and parking there and there is nowhere for residents to park,” he said. “A lot of people are running small businesses out of their homes. That’s great, but if you start bringing in 10 or 12 employees and then you park your vans on the street, that’s a problem.”

Councillor Giovanni Recupero agreed, saying he sees it a lot in his district.

“There’s a loophole based on the numbers of axles, the difference is between a commercial vehicle and a commercial plate,” he said. “The way it is now, they can park all day long. Maybe we can go back and change this so it doesn’t have that loophole. We have to revise the regulations to accommodate residents.”

Councillor Dan Cortell agreed, saying that making the distinction between commercial vehicles and commercial plates might be a problem. Perhaps, he said, both should be included in the regulations.

Read More

The Next Cycle:City Will Allow Ofo Bike Service to Launch Pilot in Chelsea This Week

The Next Cycle:City Will Allow Ofo Bike Service to Launch Pilot in Chelsea This Week

By Seth Daniel

Yellow bikes are preparing to invade the City’s sidewalks and thoroughfares as the increasingly-popular ofo bike sharing service has been approved to launch in Chelsea this week.

“ofo is coming to Chelsea,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “I think they may launch this week.”

ofo is a bike sharing company based in China that has recently launched operations very successfully in Revere – where their trademark yellow bikes have seen wide-spread  usage in the rollout there this month. City Councilor Roy Avellaneda brought ofo to the attention of Ambrosino and, after a meeting, he said the City was willing to allow a 60-day pilot in Chelsea with about 150 bikes stationed in the city.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “I think this concept is in some ways better because there’s no investment. HubWay wanted a major investment from the City for infrastructure and they were still reluctant to come to Chelsea. This business is far superior from that perspective. The only question is are they going to be a nuisance. As long as you they get the right numbers for the usage, I don’t think they’ll be a nuisance.”

He said there is no commitment from the City and the bikes will be removed in December and the City will evaluate the program.

ofo is one of a number of companies, which also includes HubWay that is used exclusively in Boston. However, unlike HubWay, ofo doesn’t use permanent parking stations that take up sidewalk and/or parking spaces. Instead, the bikes have a GPS monitoring system and are parked wherever the user desires. They lock up automatically and are activated using a QR code scanner on a cell phone. They are also a lot cheaper, at $1 per hour.

However, right now, Revere is the only other user in the general area, making it a potential problem to be able to ride across City lines to Everett or East Boston.

Ambrosino said they are leaning towards a regional carrier that will be determined by a Massachusetts Area Planning Council (MAPC) Request for Proposals. He said connectedness is likely very important on this issue.

“I think the goal is to have what the region goes with,” he said. “MAPC will put out an RFP for a regional user. They will select one company so there is interoperability between cities and towns. I think we’ll be wanting to use  the same one in Chelsea. You can’t have one in Boston and one in Revere and one in Chelsea…We’ve told ofo that’s where Chelsea wants to go.”

Read More

French Club Comes Down to Make Way for Affordable Housing

French Club Comes Down to Make Way for Affordable Housing

By Seth Daniel

After hundreds of athletic banquets, wedding receptions and a whose who list of Chelsea political functions, that history all came tumbling down last Friday when the French Naturalization Club on Spencer Avenue was demolished for affordable housing.

Crews secured the area last Thursday, and began the demo on Friday – taking down the old Function Hall that many had known from the old days of political times or youth sports banquets. By the end of it’s stretch, though, it had seen better times, as a man was murdered in the Club during a party a few years ago.

That led to the Club’s end, and it became vacant until The Neighborhood Developers (TND) purchased the property for an affordable housing development.

That development was controversial when Mill Hill neighbors learned late in the game of TND’s plans to put up the housing.

That sparked a vigorous debate throughout the community two years ago, and led to a scaling back of the project and a return of the Spencer Avenue Extension to the City so cars could continue using it.

Now, the project will include 34 units of affordable rental housing in a brand new building that will feature a community space on the bottom floor and the activation of the sidewalks with front porches on ground-floor units.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said TND has its permits and its financing in place. They are ready to commence the construction phase now.

Read More