JPNC hears about Parcel Priority Plan; update from Rep. Nika Elugardo

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) met virtually on September 22, where Maggie Owens of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department presented information about the new Parcel Priority Plan, and Representative Nika Elugardo gave a quick update on what’s been happening at the State House.

PARCEL PRIORITY PLAN

Maggie Owens, Planner for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, stopped into the JPNC meeting to present on the City’s Parcel Priority Plan, which will help the city plan for protecting or acquiring open space in the future.

A virtual open house launched earlier this week, which includes a survey for residents to take about how they envision the use of open space in the City. 

“The park system hasn’t kept pace with current and future needs,” Owens said, so this a “deliberate plan to expand open space needs to be in place.” 

The website includes a map of the city for people to pinpoint where they’d like to see open space. Owens said that it doesn’t have to be vacant space; anything that is currently occupied that people feel would make for good open space will be considered. 

“We need survey responses,” she said. The survey closes on November 2.   

“This is a long term process and we hope that it’s a living document,” she said. 

JPNC member Gert Thorn praised the virtual open house and the amount of information it presents to the public. “I’m absolutely full of admiration for your team overall,” he said. “This is very, very good.”

JPNC member Michael Reiskind suggested the protection of Forest Hills Cemetery. He said that while he recognizes it is privately owned land, he has “always felt” like it was part of the Emerald Necklace, “even though it predates Olmsted.” He said he believes it is “more of an access issue” for residents, and he feels that it should be preserved in some fashion.

Owens said that the Parks Department has heard from several residents about the same issue, and it is something they are going to look into.

The survey and virtual open house can be accessed at https://www.boston.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/parcel-priority-plan. 

NIKA ELUGARDO UPDATE

State Rep. Nika Elugardo also stopped by the Zoom call to provide an update and talk about some of her recent work. She said that there is a “holding pattern happening in the House right now,” with conference committees “trying to work out the details” of legislation relating to things like climate, policing, healthcare, economic development, and transportation revenue. 

She said that it is not anticipated that the budget will be voted on until after the election, but this”means it will be difficult to have revenue conversations.”

She also said that it is “very unlikely” that the state will receive aid from the federal government, so moving forward, the state will have to raise its own revenue, but the legislature “won’t do any revenue work before we do the budget,” she said.”

She said that it is rumored that Fiscal Year 2021 “should be much stronger for revenue.”

She also said that much of the legislation around COVID-19 is on hold, and the budget discussion includes conversations like who will be prioritized with a limited amount of money. She said that while there will not be increases to education like many wanted, no cuts will be made either. She also said that there is a push for investments in small businesses and communities of color.

She also talked about her Tools for Schools program, which provides headsets and other school supplies for remote learning. She said that in homes with multiple children and parents trying to work remotely, the noise can get to be too much so headsets are “really critical” to ensuring that kids can focus and stay on track with their education. 

The Tools for Schools wishlist can be found at https://www.amazon.com. 

Elugardo also said that interns from local universities will be checking in with families and reporting back to her about the challenges of remote learning and what they think might work better. 

FOLLOW UP ON LETTER OF LIMITED NON-OPPOSITION TO APOTHCA DISPENSARY PROPOSAL

Last month, Joseph Lekach of Apothca, Inc. returned before the JPNC with more information about his proposed recreational cannabis dispensary at 54 Hyde Park Ave. After discussion, the JPNC voted to draft a letter of limited non-opposition to the project, and they discussed the letter at this month’s hearing.

JPNC Chair Kevin Rainsford said that the purpose of this letter is “to begin the process,” and it is “not an endorsement of whether we think it’s a good use or not.” There were several comments and concerns from both the Council and neighbors, such as issues with whether abutters were given sufficient information and opportunity for feedback once Lekach proposed recreational use for the site. The original proposal only included medical.

Others, including JPNC member Gert Thorn, were concerned about the lack of a traffic study at the last meeting. Since that meeting, a traffic study has been provided to the Council, but Thorn expressed his issues with it.

He said that while the study “talks about comparative situations,” in Lynn and Arlington, where Apothca has existing locations, he said “it has an overtone of salesmanship” and “omits something really desperate: it does not talk about parking in either of the comparative situations,” he said, adding that it “goes out of its way” to not address the parking situation in the newly proposed location.

JPNC member Bernie Doherty agreed with Thorn.

The Council voted to submit the letter of limited non-opposition “to at least allow [Apothca] to begin the process with the expectation that they will be back before is for zoning and/or licensing,” Rainsford said.

PUBLIC SERVICE,  HOUSING AND DEVELOPMENT,  AND ZONING COMMITTEES

The JPNC voted not to oppose the change in hours from 8:00am-9:00pm to 8:00am-1:00am for Mangú Dominican Bistro at 264 Hyde Park Ave., as well as voted not to oppose the change of occupancy at 7 Burroughs St. to include a smoothie and tea cafe called Cada Dia Nutrition.

Housing and Development Committee Chair Carolyn Royce discussed a proposed letter supporting The Community Builders in finding funding for the first phase of the proposed Mildred Hailey apartment redevelopment.

Rainsford said the letter was “not necessarily a support of the plan or the pacing of it,” as the proponents are expected to submit their Article 80 application by the end of the month, and will return to the JPNC with a proposal as part of that process.

“This is just an introduction so they can begin seeking funding,” he said. 

After some discussion, the Council voted to approve the sending of the letter.

JPNC member Max Glikman reported on the two Zoning Committee meetings from this past month, and the Council ultimately voted to approve the conversion of the existing beauty salon at 387-399 Centre St. to a body piercing studio, with the proviso that it is for this applicant only and that the JPNC would not be commenting on the ongoing legal issues between the landlord and the current tenant. 

They also approved a tattoo studio at 68 South St., with the proviso that it is for this applicant only, and approved the conversion of an existing two family residence to a four family residence with interior and exterior renovations at 3227 Washington St. with the proviso that the exterior mechanical are either hidden or screened from view from the street.

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