Mayor Files Executive Order for ZBA Changes

It is no secret that North End/Waterfront community organizations and other residents have up and downs with the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) over the years regarding development in the neighborhood.

Mayor Martin Walsh signs executive order relating to ZBA changes as Councilor Lydia Edwards looks on.

Potential developers and property owners have also had their share of positive and negative dealings with the ZBA.

Both areas have grown over the years with the ZBA calling all the shots relating to large and small projects, occupancy changes in land development. Decisions made by the ZBA were not always popular and there seems to be some distrust for the agency.

For the most part, the community in general felt that when it came to crunch time, they were basically on the short end of the stick. However, that’s past history and cannot be changed. It was part of the growth of the City of Boston.

Confidence in the ZBA could get better as Mayor Martin Walsh has signed an executive order that reportedly will establish new ethical standards for the ZBA by instituting strong policies and procedures that are geared toward significantly increasing the levels of transparency, accountability and integrity of the board.

“The ZBA plays a crucial role for our city but to be effective in this role and maintain public confidence, the board must operate at the highest standards of professionalism, ethics and assess ability,” Mayor Walsh said.

Apparently, suggested changes will go further than state ethic laws that currently govern the board and its members.

Proposed change will modernize the function of the board to make it more transparent and accessible to the public.

The Mayor plans to file legislation to also change the membership of the board but that requires state approval.

Working with City Councilor Lydia Edwards, whose district includes the North End, the Mayor plans to craft a home-rule petition to the state legislature to make the changes to the composition of the board by adding more expertise.

Councilor Edward said, “It is crucial that residents trust and have full and indiscriminate access to the 21st century government.”

She added, “The executive order takes critical steps to modernize the ZBA, promoting transparency and strengthening ethical standards.”

Edwards plans to continue to work with the Mayor on legislation dealing with ZBA changes.

The executive order also calls for the designation of an ombudsperson to notify the public of the rights during ZBA meetings to guide residents or applicants to the basic procedure steps of appeal.

In addition, a provision of translation services is included in the suggested changes.

There was no official notice of how the home rule petition will be acted on at the State House.

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