I have tweaked the Board of Aldermen for extracting bike racks from Beacon Street as a special permit condition. Aldercritter Hess-Mahan weighs in with a defense:
Oy! "Extorted"? Really? Please!
The special permit laws provide that when a special permit granting authority (SPGA) approves a special permit, it may impose conditions that are intended to mitigate the impact of the project. That is exactly what the Land Use Committee and the Board of Aldermen, as the SPGA, did in this instance. The BOA granted a special permit waiving the requirement that B Street provide additional parking in Newton Centre for its proposed expansion. As a condition, Land Use proposed, and B Street agreed to require bike racks that were intended to encourage people to ride their bicycles to Newton Centre instead of driving their cars, thereby reducing the demand for parking spaces.
As the Chairman of the Land Use Committee, I have worked tirelessly with the planning department and my colleagues trying to erase the antiquated and incorrect notion that every special permit requires a "public benefit," which has no basis in the law and bears the indicia of paying "tribute" rather than providing mitigation for the impact of special permit projects.
Please do not unfairly malign our efforts to improve the special permit process. I am also working on amending the parking regulations. But until they are changed, we must apply the law as it is written.
My position continues to be that the parking requirement that necessitated the special permit application is a bad law. So, any condition put on its waiver is unwarranted.
But, Alderman Hess-Mahan deserves credit for his committee's continued good outcomes on parking waivers and for wrestling with these issues.