Boston Zoning Board Of Appeals Decisions

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Boston Zoning Board Of Appeals Decisions – Originally, a proposal to create six-family housing on a small parcel of land on Bailey Street in Dorchester was met with neighborhood opposition and led to a swift veto in late 2015 by the Board of Zoning Appeals.

So instead of downsizing and demolishing the house in situ, the developers opted to renovate and build a two-family cabin behind it. Neighbors still thought it was too much for a lobby, but the developers had their consultant, Craig Galvin, a well-connected local real estate agent, as a resident lobbyist.

Boston Zoning Board Of Appeals Decisions

Boston Zoning Board Of Appeals Decisions

In June 2018, less than three years later, the project went back to the Zoning Board. Prior to that, Galvin was appointed to the council by Mayor Martin J. by Walls. This time, the project won unanimous approval despite continued neighborhood opposition. Galvin abstained from voting. In the video recording of the meeting, he can be seen at the back of the room. Karag begged the board, but in vain.

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“In my opinion, it didn’t pass any sniff tests. “It’s over, but it still leaves a dirty, vile taste in my mouth.”

When the unit went on the market, Galvin’s company, the Galvin Group, was the listing agent. The home sold in December for $750,000, and the two apartments are listed for $759,000, records show.

There is no evidence that Galvin influenced the council’s deliberations, and one of the developers, Chris Barbour, said in an interview that Galvin, whom he called a childhood friend from Dorchester, was not the reason the project was approved by the county council.

But the Bailey Street project illustrates the incestuous dynamics of a permitting system currently mired in influence-peddling scandals and underscores how zoning commissions are almost doomed to potential conflicts of interest by their very organization.

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The composition of Boston’s panel, where by state law more than half of the council seats come from the real estate and construction industries, is unusual for an American city. And their twin loyalties clash enough that board members routinely shun them.

The commission is being investigated by federal prosecutors who pleaded guilty to accepting bribes to influence zoning votes on the project. The mayor’s top aide who heads the agency that reviews permits has gone on unpaid leave, and the Walls administration has launched an internal review of the commission’s procedures.

And after selling a Dorchester duplex built by the same guilty municipality, Galvin resigned from the zoning commission in early September, saying he wanted to focus on his real estate business.

Boston Zoning Board Of Appeals Decisions

Along with helping buyers and sellers navigate the housing market, Galvin Group serves developers as consultants, promising key insights and support on its website in meetings with “communities, arborists, zoning board of appeals, BRAs and other stakeholders.”

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The website lists 25 projects the Galvin Group has worked on, mostly in Dorchester and surrounding areas. At least eight of those were presented to the Circuit Board of Appeals during Galvin’s three years of service.

Zoning commission minutes don’t always show whether members voted or abstained. Some drafts are not included in the meeting minutes, and the written notes sometimes conflict with the video recordings of the meetings. On four of the eight projects Galvin listed, written records show he abstained from council votes. Bailey Street was fifth in the video, which shows him stepping off the podium.

In another example, Commission records show that in June 2017, Galvin entered into an agreement allowing single-family home and vacant lot zoning in Roslindale for a pair of three-family buildings. Board minutes show it was approved with only one member voting against it.

Since June 2018, the Galvin Group has acted as the listing agent when the apartments were built and put on the market. They sold for a total of more than $3.2 million in the past year.

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As for the Roslindale site and other properties, it’s unclear when Galvin’s company became involved in the project.

53 Bailey St., Dorchester. The construction was opposed but ultimately approved by the ZBA. Nick Antaya of The Boston Globe

In another project before the Zoning Commission in March 2018, Galvin cast the only vote against the redevelopment of an old parking lot on Dorchester Avenue near Ashmont for small, affordable housing. At the hearing, the developer of an adjacent property at 8 Banton St. testified that the project is too large and has too little parking. Still, the board approved 6-1, and minutes show Galvin didn’t vote alone.

Boston Zoning Board Of Appeals Decisions

The Galvin Group served as a marketing consultant for the Banton Street neighborhood project “through all phases of development,” according to its website. The Banton Street project launched in June 2017 and rental units opened in January 2019. Affordable housing projects have not started yet.

Boston Zoning Appeals

State law prohibits Boston County Council members from hearing or voting on projects for which they have been “awarded” or owned within the past two years.

And state ethics laws provide other prohibitions, such as voting on projects that could directly benefit a friend or family member. »

All city officials, including county council members, undergo ethics training. Boston’s education documents state that “engaging as a City employee in any matter in which you, your immediate family, a business or a prospective employer has a financial interest is prohibited.”

Government officials must decide whether to do so, though the state Ethics Commission provides guidance on potential conflicts, such as when board members must disclose or consult with city attorneys. One easy way to avoid conflict for zoning board members is to avoid them themselves.

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Through a spokeswoman, Galvin declined to discuss the specific case. However, he noted that zoning board members typically see about 125 cases a month and spend several hours of their free time preparing “to fully understand the nature and value of each case.” A spokeswoman said the board’s process required a “fully transparent vote on the merits of the case presented.”

The possibility of a board conflict is subject to an independent review ordered by Walsh after a federal court admitted in 2017 that the developer took a $50,000 bribe to help the developer get a positive vote on the board.

Prosecutors have released few details, but people familiar with the case told the Globe it involved a residential proposal on H Street in South Boston that required a zoning change extension that expired in May 2017. When developer Steven M. Turner was unable to attend the hearing, the board denied his request and the project was effectively put on hold. Galvin, whose firm Lynch served as a consultant and broker for a separate project he was building in Dorchester, uniquely voted against killing Southey’s development.

Boston Zoning Board Of Appeals Decisions

And two weeks later, the extension of the H Street project came back on the council’s agenda and was unanimously approved. Turner later sold the licensed lot for $3.2 million, double what he paid to buy it in 2014, and prosecutors said Lynch intervened to save the densely populated lot, raising the value by at least $500,000.

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On Sept. 6, Walsh launched a full review of the case and zoning commission and announced that William “Buddy” Christopher, a close aide who then headed the City’s Inspectional Services Department, was taking an unpaid leave of absence. Galvin resigned from the board two days later.

His spokesman said: “Due to his extensive role as a County Committee member and the uncertain nature of his professional career as a real estate agent and broker, Mr. Galvin felt it best to resign.”

Walls and Galvin had long moved in the same political circles in Dorchester. He ran for City Council in 2011 and volunteered with Walsh’s mayoral campaign, hosting a 2015 fundraiser for Walsh in Venice, Port Norfolk. .

A spokeswoman said last week that the mayor’s review will include an examination of the zoning commission’s procedures and membership.

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“Mayor Walsh. . . Spokesperson Samantha Ormsby said. “These findings made it clear that we would eliminate even the possibility of the position that there is an ‘inside attitude’ zone.”

Potential conflicts or potential clashes between city zoning committees and planning commission members are not uncommon, especially in Boston.

One longtime zoning board member, Bruce Bickerstaff, resigned hours after Walls issued an executive order barring city employees from participating in marijuana companies that required City Hall approval. Bickerstaff co-owns Silver Therapeutics.

Boston Zoning Board Of Appeals Decisions

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