Welch Chosen New Chair of the JPNC

The newly-elected Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council held its first regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 27, following the biennial election that was held on Saturday, June 24.

The first matter on the agenda was a report from Louise Johnson, Kevin Leary, and Marie Turley, the ombudspersons of the recent election. Leary announced the election winners, who were as follows:

At-large — Purple Reign, Sarah Freeman , Luke Mathew, Michael Reiskind, and David Baron; Area A  — Willie Mitchell, Danielle Sommer-Kieta, Peter DeCotis, and Renee Stacey Welch; Area B — Lorenzo Bartoloni, Ben Weber, Paige Sparks, and Leah Simmons; and Area C — Peg Preble, Alexis Rickmers, Nicholas Chaves, Katherine O’Shea, and Gert Thorn.

After Reiskind noted that there still were unfilled seats in Area A and Area B, Leary pointed out that one of the newly-elected candidates, Alexis Rickmers, who was elected in Area C, actually lives in Area B. (Rickmers moved from C to B a year ago while a member of the council, but neglected to note the change of her residence for the election). Leary then suggested that Rickmers be placed into Area B and Bernie Doherty, the first runner-up in Area C, should move into Rickmers’s slot in C.

After some back-and-forth regarding the procedural aspect of the JPNC’s by-laws, the full council voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of the ombudspersons, thereby moving Rickmers into Area B and Doherty taking the open slot in Area C.

All of the council members then introduced themselves and briefly spoke about the reasons for their desire to serve on the council.

Also on hand for the meeting was Melissa Beltran, the new liaison for Jamaica Plain from Mayor Michelle Wu’s Office of Neighborhood Services, who introduced herself to the council.

The council then took nominations for the lone remaining vacancy in Area A. Purple Reign and Mitchell nominated Esther Belliard for the seat. The committee will take a vote on her nomination, as well as any others, at the JPNC’s August meeting. Nominees by the council must attend two consecutive meetings before they may be considered for election to the council.

The committee then moved to the task of electing officers for the new term. The nominees were Welch for chairperson, Doherty for vice-chair, and Reiskind for secretary.

“I want to create a place where everyone has a voice and everyone can share their opinion, to make sure that Jamaica Plain is a place where everyone is welcome,” said Welch, who is a lifelong resident of JP.

Doherty, who has lived in JP for almost all of the past 76 years, said his priority is affordable housing, especially for senior citizens, “who should be able to remain in the neighborhoods where they have lived for most of their lives.”

The full committee voted in favor of all three nominations by acclamation.

The committee then took reports from its various committees. Baron presented the report from the Zoning Committee. He said there were six matters that were approved by the Zoning Comm. in the past month that now needed approval by the full council:

— 162-172 South St., conversion from an office space to a flower shop; 

— 25 Burr St., formalizing the widening of an existing curb cut;

— 35 Rockwood St., renovation of an existing deck;

— 21 Louders Lane, constructing a second-floor addition;

— 150-152 Chestnut Ave., creating a shared driveway; and

— 25 Neillian Crescent, adding a new vestibule.

The full council approved all six matters, which means that the property owners now can go with their favorable recommendation from the JPNC to the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals for final approval.

Welch presented the report of the Housing and Development Comm. and noted that the development at 920 Centre St. of the St. Claire’s Monastery will be coming up for discussion at its next meeting. Welch said the committee will view the development with an eye toward maximizing affordable housing.

She also discussed the recent public hearing regarding the MBTA’s new Arborway Garage project that was held in June. She said that the main request of the community members in attendance was for the T to maintain the eight acres of designated community development space that were in the original plans from 20 years ago (per the original Memorandum of Understanding between the T and the city), but which the T has reduced to 6.5 acres because the city has decided to keep its former pole yard as a staging area for DPW equipment and material, most notably rock salt in the winter months.

Mitchell brought up the issue of the hazards created by the open-air storage of rock salt by the city at the former pole yard site.

Reiskind presented the Public Service Committee’s report. He said the committee voted to oppose a request for a beer and wine license for the Green Basket Market at 186 Green St. on the basis that it is just a block away from Ruggiero’s Market & Liquors, a similar business.

However, the committee approved a request by Casa Verde Taqueria at 711 Centre St. , which is seeking approval for a permanent seasonal rear patio that had been established temporarily during COVID for the past three years.

A third matter involved the new BU Bistro at 38-40 Washington St., for which the Public Service Comm. approved a request for both a rear and front patio. The bistro’s request also included an entertainment license for recorded music for the rear patio, which abuts the train tracks and thus would not be a nuisance to neighbors.

The full council voted to approve all three of the Public Service Committee’s recommendations. All three of those businesses (including the Green Market, though with a negative recommendation) now can go before the city’s Licensing Board in order to obtain the licenses they are seeking.

Sparks presented the Outreach Committee’s report and thanked all who helped run a successful election. Sparks said there were 21 candidates, up from 11 the previous election in 2021, and there were 246 votes cast, which was the highest total in 10 years.

Chaves reported that the Parks Committee is involved with the city’s plans for bike lane projects on various streets in JP, as well as the proposed changes to the bike and pedestrian paths around Jamaica Pond.

The next meeting of the council will be Tuesday, July 25.

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