by David Dahlbacka in Beat Reporter, City Finances, Development and Zoning, Environment and Open Space, Housing, Neighborhoods and Squares, Transportation
Posted on April 29, 2012 at 8:36 pm
Last Modified on May 5, 2012 at 9:04 pm
April 29, 2012
Chair, Somerville Redevelopment Authority
c/o Michael Glavin
Director, Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development
City of Somerville
25 Hancock Street
Somerville MA 02144
Re: Somerville Redevelopment Authority and the Somerville Comprehensive Plan
Now that the Somerville Comprehensive Plan has been endorsed by the city and adopted by the Planning Board, I would like to pass along a suggestion.
As you know, a few months ago I began attending meetings of the Somerville Redevelopment Authority (SRA), of which you are Chair. At first, I wasn’t even sure what your organization was about. There was no web page on the City’s web site or mention in the “Contact Us” list, even though the Somerville Housing Authority, a parallel Somerville organization, had a web page and contact information. The names and salaries of the members were only available as a subitem of OSPCD in the 2012 Somerville City Budget. The meetings were sometimes announced on the City calendar under “Other/Non-Somerville” and other times were announced only on paper on the City Hall lobby bulletin board.
Upon looking further, I learned that the SRA is a legal requirement for Somerville’s participation in Federal grants and has been in existence since at least 1968. I learned that according to state law, Redevelopment Authorities are empowered to buy and sell property, acquire property through eminent domain, and grant tax concessions.
An organization with such powers will surely play an important part in Somerville’s implementation of the Comprehensive Plan. I am therefore surprised that the SRA does not even have a web site to make known what it is working on. A brief Google search (“Redevelopment Authority” MA) shows that the following Boston Metropolitan Area locales, plus many more across the state, have Redevelopment Authority web sites:
Arlington MA (http://www.town.arlington.ma.us/Public_Documents/ArlingtonMA_Planning/ARB/index)
Boston MA (http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthority.org/Home.aspx)
Brockton MA (http://www.brockton.ma.us/Business/Economic/BRA.aspx)
Cambridge MA (http://www.cambridgema.gov/boardsandcommissionsdirectory/boardsandcommissionsdirectory/cambridgeredevelopmentauthority.aspx)
Malden MA (http://www.maldenredevelopment.com/)
Stoughton MA (http://www.stoughton-ma.gov/Redevelopment/)
Taunton MA (http://www.taunton-ma.gov/pages/TauntonMA_BComm/Redevelope)
Woburn MA (http://www.cityofwoburn.com/index.aspx?NID=92)
Somerville leads in many areas. It has the entire zoning ordinance and city budget online, along with the schedule of city meetings. It has Board of Alderman meetings on streaming video. And now it has the Comprehensive Plan online. Yet, when it comes to the Redevelopment Authority, it seems that Somerville is trailing, not leading.
As you know, an important part of creating a good business climate is that the rules of the game be known, clearly stated, and consistently and equitably enforced. The Comprehensive Plan is an important step toward creating a good business climate in Somerville. Turning the Somerville Redevelopment Authority into a known, visible leader is another good step. I hope that Somerville will take this step.
Mayor Joseph Curtatone
Board of Aldermen