WECA Hears Talk on Future of BRA

The West End Civic Association (WECA) sponsored a meeting Tuesday night to discuss the BRA’s (Boston Redevelopment Association)  role in neighborhood planning and development, the BRA’s Article 80 process and what action residents can take to impact development.

The meeting, held at the West End Museum, was titled “Neighborhood Development: Civic Discourse – BRA’s Role and Citizens Options for Action”.

Speakers and neighborhood activists Shirley Kressel and David Kubiak told several members of the West End Civic Association that it’s time to get rid of the BRA.

“The city and the BRA change zoning rules on a parcel by parcel basis and this is wrong.  Zoning is changed even on small parcels in the North End,” said Kubiak.

Kubiak, an engineer with the MWRA, says the Article 80 reviews he’s participated in have been for the purposes of changing zoning.

According to the BRA’s website, Article 80, required by the Boston Zoning Code, is the mechanism created for public comment on large and small projects during the review process.

Kubiak, who has worked on many projects including Battery Wharf, Government Center garage and the Boston Harbor garage, said the North End is changing.

“The North End is heading toward a new future.  Planning decisions are not being made through a public participation process, they’re being made by zoning board variances,” said Kubiak

A spokeswoman for the BRA says the agency plays an important role in the city.

“There are 12 active planning studies underway in Boston and more than $4.4 billion is under construction totaling 10 million square feet and including 4,890 units of housing,” said Melina Schuler.  “The BRA plays a critical role in guiding economic development and planning in Boston.”

Shirley Kressel, a landscape architect and Back Bay resident, is also calling for the elimination of the BRA.

“The BRA, enacted in 1957, was supposed to be temporary during the urban renewal process.  It should be dismantled because they’re unaccountable and its mission is not compatible with good community planning,” said Kressel.

Kressel, co-founder of Alliance of Boston Neighborhoods, said she’d like to see a planning agency put into place whether or not the BRA is ultimately eliminated.

Several members of the West End Civic Association agreed that eliminating the BRA is a good idea and expressed interest in starting a home rule petition to dismantle the agency.

Kubiak said in the past there have been other home rule petitions put forward to get rid of the BRA but they have failed.

Jim Zahka, who chaired the meeting, said he hopes that other civic organizations in the city will come together to put forth a planning development process in the city.

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