Affordable Housing Rules Will Apply In Quincy Center

By SCOTT JACKSON

Future residential developments in the new Quincy Center will be required to comply with the city’s affordable housing requirements after the City Council voted to remove the exemption previously given to urban renewal projects.

The council approved amending Quincy’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance to remove the exemption in an 8-1 vote Tuesday night. The vote followed a public hearing in which three residents – including the Rev. Sheldon Bennett, who warned the downtown could be an enclave for the affluent, and James Ikeda, a teacher at Quincy High, who said housing costs might force him to move outside the city – spoke in favor of the amendment, with no one opposed.

Mayor Thomas Koch will sign the amendment into law, according to his Chris Walker, his communications director.

The requirements will not apply to two projects already in the permitting stage – Chestnut Place, a 15-story, 124-unit apartment building planned for the Hancock Lot, and Nova Residences, a 171-unit apartment building planned along Hancock Street.

Councillors Brian Palmucci and Joseph Finn had introduced the amendment to the city’s zoning code in March. Palmucci and Finn both said at that time that the affordable housing ordinance was amended to exclude downtown developments when the city was negotiating with previous master developer Street-Works, because its agreement with the city included contributions to a fund for affordable housing.

Finn, at Tuesday’s meeting, said the testimony at the public hearing from Bennett and Ikeda underscored the need for affordable housing in the downtown.

“There’s nothing I can add that you didn’t hear in terms of the need for such a measure that you saw demonstrated in the public hearing, particularly the words that Rev. Bennett brought to it but also from the gentleman who testified to the reality of what’s going on out there in terms of affordable housing,” Finn said.

Palmucci likewise pointed to comments Bennett and Ikeda made during the hearing.

“I will just point to the comments that were made tonight in support of this at the public hearing. What the reverend said tonight…if we don’t change this, the downtown will become an enclave for the wealthy, and that was striking because that’s really what it will become,” Palmucci said.

“We heard from the Quincy teacher who said he’s struggling to stay in Quincy because of the lack of affordable housing, and it makes you think he’s good enough to teach our kids during the day but not good enough to be our neighbor after work.”

Palmucci introduced an amendment – approved unanimously – to the original proposal that exempts Chestnut Place and Nova Residences from the requirements because they both applied for approval with the Planning Board prior to April 1. Palmucci said it would be unfair to change the requirements those projects must comply with at this point.

Councillor Noel DiBona cast the lone dissenting vote against the change in the zoning code. He said he was wary the requirements could stifle further development in the downtown.

“I think we’re going in the right direction,” DiBona said. “I don’t want to lose the momentum that we’ve got going, so I won’t be in support of this.”

Quincy’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance currently applies to all residential projects in the city that require a special permit, variance or site plan review from any board or commission and include 10 or more residential units. Under the zoning code, 10 percent of units in applicable projects must be made affordable – targeted at residents who make less than 80 percent of the median income for the area. Developers can also opt to make a payment into the affordable housing trust fund in lieu of building on site units.

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Page 1 – The Quincy Sun – Thursday, April 20, 2017

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Quincy Police Wrestling Club

QPD Wrestling copy

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Koch Would Reject Hotel Tax Amendment

By SCOTT JACKSON

Mayor Thomas Koch will not sign a home rule petition that will be introduced by two ward councillors that would allow the city to use receipts from the hotel tax on street and sidewalk improvements.

Ward 3 Councillor Ian Cain and Ward 2 Councillor Brad Croall are set to introduce the home rule petition, which would add street and sidewalk improvements to the items on which hotel and motel tax receipts can be appropriated, when the City Council convenes Tuesday night. Mayoral spokesman Chris Walker on Friday told The Sun Koch would reject the home rule petition if the council passes it.

“The mayor will not sign anything that alters the original intent of the legislation,” Walker said.

The legislation, first approved in 2001, allows Quincy to use 85 percent of hotel and motel tax receipts – the tax charged to those staying in a hotel or motel in the city – on parks and other open space projects. The remaining 15 percent of that revenue stream goes to tourism.

Walker said the money was dedicated to parks and open space because the city had difficulty finding funds for those projects. He noted Koch served 12 years the park director – a position his father, Richard Koch Sr., also served in.

“The mayor remembers how hard it was to secure funding for park improvements before this legislation,” Walker said. “If you look at the improvements to the park system in the last 10 or 15 years, they would not have happened without this funding source.”

Walker said the mayor understands the sentiment behind the proposal by Cain and Croall, adding that Koch is committed to street and sidewalk repair.

“The sentiment in the proposal by the councillors is certainly a valid one,” he stated. “We are doing more work today (on roads) than we were at any time before, but there is a huge amount to be done and the mayor is committed to getting us there.”

As a home rule petition, the amendment by Cain and Croall would require approval from the City Council, the mayor, and the state Legislature. By not signing it, Koch would prevent the measure from moving on to Beacon Hill. The council would not be able to override the mayor’s decision not to sign it.

The two councillors, in phone interviews earlier Friday, said that street and sidewalk repairs are the most frequent concern they hear from constituents.

“The residential outcry I hear more frequently than not is that roads need investments,” Croall said. “Tuesday’s conversation is an opportunity to broaden the scope of the funding source, which by the way would not come out of the general fund and is not tied to the taxpayer.”

“This is just a nice way to leverage money that hasn’t come from property taxes for investments in infrastructure,” Cain said. “It’s something I hear about on a much more frequent basis than park spending.”

“What Brad and I are trying to do is present an alternative, present another option, to leverage money for the benefit of the city,” Cain added. “These are big-ticket items and you don’t just find that money everywhere.”

The home rule petition was introduced as the council considers passage of a $27 million park improvement bond that would be paid for using hotel tax receipts. Money than half of the request – $15.7 million – is for the construction of the Hancock-Adams Green in Quincy Center. Other projects in the spending measure include permitting and design of a series of boardwalks and trails at Merrymount Park as well as money for a new dog park on Quarry Street.

The council’s finance committee – which Croall chairs – met this week to review the proposal. Councillors were receptive to many items in the package, but several suggested it be broken up so they did not have to take an up or down vote on the entire $27 million plan.

Croall and Cain both said they support park funding, but believe streets and sidewalks and should be prioritized.

“If we’re taking into consideration utilizing a revenue source today that we’re going to be paying off over 15, 20 or 25 years, wouldn’t it be nice to potentially broaden its use?” Croall said, referring to the $27 million bond request.

“I’m a huge fan of parks, but if we’re trying to address needs without exacerbating taxpayers, we should definitely have this conversation.”

Cain said parks are important and several projects in the package – including Hancock-Adams Green and Merrymount Park – are good ones. But, as he did as this week’s meeting, Cain suggested the city should look into securing outside funding for the Merrymount Park project, such as through a conservancy.

“I think we need to think creatively to fund projects like that,” he said.

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Residents Support North Quincy T Development

Proposed development in the North Quincy MBTA station's parking lot includes 610 apartments and 50,000 square feet of retail space. Rendering courtesy Atlantic Development.

Proposed development in the North Quincy MBTA station’s parking lot includes 610 apartments and 50,000 square feet of retail space. Rendering courtesy Atlantic Development.

By SCOTT JACKSON

Residents gave their backing to a proposed $205 million development at the North Quincy MBTA station featuring 610 apartments and 50,000 square feet of retail space, saying it would provide both housing options near mass transit and a place to shop and eat for the local community.

The Planning Board is currently reviewing a proposal by two firms – Atlantic Development and Bozzuto Development – to develop the parking lot on the Hancock Street side of the station. The MBTA awarded those firms rights to develop the station a year ago. The two companies would enter into a 99-year lease with the T to develop the station site.

The Planning Board heard from residents and a city councillor who supported the proposal Wednesday night.

Kelley Stenberg, a young professional who works in downtown Boston, said apartments like the ones proposed at the North Quincy station appeal to people like her who commute to Boston daily.

“I love living in Quincy but without access to a car getting to the T is very difficult and I’m thinking about my next spot. If there was an attractive option like this that is super close to the MBTA and accessible to the city…I would jump on it in a second,” Stenberg said.

“I think other people like myself who…don’t want to be out in the suburbs, don’t want to be downtown, would make that move as well.”

Andrew Howell said the retail space could be beneficial to people working in one of the several office buildings in the vicinity of the train station. Howell, who moved to North Quincy from Florida for a job near the T station, said those workers currently have to head to Milton or Dorchester on their lunch breaks for a healthy option.

“As a nearby homeowner I think from a property value stance it’s wonderful. It would look beautiful. It’s another close-by place to eat and shop,” Howell said.

“I’m very much in favor of the project. I think it will be a great addition to North Quincy. I’ve seen just in the five or six years I’ve lived here the investment that’s gone into Quincy Center and how much more frequently I’m down here eating at all the new restaurants and actually going out in downtown Quincy rather than Boston.”

Maureen Conway, a member of the bicycling advocacy group Quincycles, said the organization is happy to see the developers prioritize safety for pedestrians and cyclists who plan on accessing the station.

“We’re very pleased on the focus on pedestrian safety and cycling safety,” she said. “It would be great if we could encourage more folks to not only walk to the T station, but to cycle…It is our hope that more people will cycle back and forth to the T station, reducing traffic.”

Tom McFarland said the project would improve one of the main entrances to the city.

“I’m so happy to see this type of investment,” he said. “[It will] really clean up the city’s gateway. It’s what you get when the state and the city and the T get together and design transit-oriented housing.”

John Rodophele said he liked the look of the proposed development, but would prefer to see the commercial building at 275 Hancock St. – adjacent to the project site but not included in it – razed to make way for open space.

“That would make a beautiful park,” he said. “That would be something I wholeheartedly support.”

Ward 1 Councillor Margaret Laforest echoed the sentiments of those who spoke before her, saying the project would provide new transit-oriented housing and retail to serve the neighborhood. Additionally, she said the project would be beneficial in terms of stormwater management because new drains lines will be installed and the amount of asphalt on site reduced.

“I do want to be here tonight to support this project – to support development in the gateway to our city,” Laforest said. “We need to take advantage of this opportunity to make the improvements. We all know Quincy’s potential – the sky is the limit – and this is a really great kick-off to our transit development.”

The Planning Board closed the public hearing on the proposal at Wednesday’s meeting, meaning no more testimony from community members will be heard during future sessions. Written comments will still be accepted via mail or email.

Prior to the public hearing section of the meeting, the development presented new architectural plans for the site to the board.

The proposal includes three buildings and a garage. MBTA officials have said construction of the garage – which has 852 spaces, equivalent to the number of parking spaces on site today – could begin in early 2018 and take about a year to complete. The proposal by the developers includes a total of nearly 1,600 parking spaces.

Nancy Ludwig, the president of Icon Architecture, said the development would be built in two phases. The first phase includes the new garage and two buildings adjacent to it that will envelope the parking structure and block it from view. The third building, located in the north side of the parking lot, would be built in phase two.

Ludwig said the buildings have been designed to better blend in with the surrounding area.

“It does not feel like one long building but a series of buildings that run the length of the property,” she said.

The current entrance to the station will serve as one of the entrances to the new development, including the parking garage. As part of the projects, the sidewalks along either side of the entryway will be widened to about 20 feet and lined with trees to promote pedestrian access. The street level includes large windows to make the site more inviting.

“At the ground level, we’re proposing broad areas of glass so you can look in and see the activity and life of the uses that we’ve brought down to the street,” Ludwig said.

The developers also plan to open the entrance to the station of Sagamore Street in the north end of the parking lot.

D.J. MacKinnon, the president of Atlantic Development, said the developers plan to look for a grocery store to occupy the large retail space located near the Squantum Street side of the station.

Coleman Barry, the vice chairman of the Planning Board, said he would like to see a restaurant located in the new development to serve the North Quincy community.

“We need better restaurants in North Quincy,” he said. “As much as I love going to the 99 when the Red Sox win and kids eat free, I want to go home to where I grew up, which is that part of the city, and go and get something to eat.”

MacKinnon said the developers would like to see a grocery store that offers prepared foods and a dining area.

“If you go to a lot of the new concepts, you actually have not only prepared foods in them but eat-in areas that are different than just eating in a grocery store – they’re actually like a restaurant,” he said.

As for putting a restaurant in one of the other storefronts, MacKinnon said it would be a great direction to go, but there are no commitment for the retail spaces yet.

The board did not vote on the proposal Wednesday. The project is undergoing a state environmental review.

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