Mayor Martin Walsh recently announced the creation of streamlined Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) process for small businesses and smaller residential applications.
A subcommittee of the ZBA will meet bi-weekly to hear zoning relief requests from small businesses and smaller residential projects. The move will is aimed at aiding small businesses and homeowners making renovations to their properties, by separating smaller projects from major developments that can take months to be approved.
Smaller residential projects means variances relating to one- or two-family, owner-occupied residential properties.
The process should also “lighten the load” on the ZBA and allow it “to focus more on the larger projects,” Inspectional Services Department (ISD) spokesperson Lisa Timberlake told the Gazette.
“I think the new two-track process is potentially a very good idea and I am hoping it will turn out to be a win-win,” Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council Zoning Committee Chair David baron told the Gazette this week.
Baron hopes that the faster timeline will be bolstered by prompt notice from the City to prevent time crunches.
“I am a bit concerned that if we don’t get prompt notice from the ZBA of new zoning matters in JP, the community process could get squeezed, with neighbors feeling short-changed without a sufficient neighborhood process and applicants and the City annoyed that the neighborhood councils are not able to meet the new faster deadlines,” he said. “So we will have to see how things play out in the coming months.”
“I will not the only one pushing back, I’m sure, if it seems like the new process is short-changing neighbors and abutters and allowing projects that violate the Zoning Code to slip through without meaningful notice to and participation by the community,” Baron added.
The first hearing of the ZBA Small Business and Owner-Occupied Residential Subcommittee will be Sept. 11. ZBA Staff is currently examining cases scheduled for September, October and November, and contacting applicants eligible for the streamlined process. Applicants interested in having their appeal heard through the subcommittee should contact 617-635-5300.