Council rejects proposed new zoning-board members; say they don’t meet council’s new vision of zoning oversight

A divided Boston City Council today rejected four proposed members of the Zoning Board of Appeal because their resumes showed no particular expertise in climate change or urban planning, which the council is hoping the state legislature will let Boston start using as criteria for a board that decides the fate of hundreds of projects a year across the city.

The council rejected Timothy Burke, Ann Beha, Konstantino Ligris and Eric Robinson as new members of the zoning board without prejudice by 7-5 votes, which means they could, theoretically, re-apply for the seats.

Councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Kenzie Bok, Liz Breadon, Lydia Edwards, Kim Janey, Julia Mejia and Michelle Wu – who had asked the board for the rejections – voted to dismiss the applications. Councilors Frank Baker, Annissa Essaibi-George, Michael Flaherty, Ed Flynn and Matt O’Malley voted against the proposals. Councilor Andrea Campbell did not vote.

The re-nomination of a current board member, Kerry Walsh, remains in committee, which means she continues to serve on the board.

Under the current state law that defines the Boston zoning board, the proposed members were those sponsored by the Greater Boston Real Estate Board and the Boston Society of Architects. A home-rule petition approved by the council last month asks the legislature to add members and alternate members nominated by the Conservation Law Foundation and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

Wu, chairwoman of the council’s committee on planning, development and transportation, started her request for rejection by noting that nobody serves on the zoning board for the glory or money but because they are “extremely dedicated Boston residents,” so her issue is not the applicants personally but “structural issues” to deal with the way environmental and planning issues now typically don’t come up in zoning hearings. She acknowledged her committee did not interview any of the candidates, but said a review of their resumes showed there would be little point since they did not have the conservation or planning expertise the council wants.

She added it’s unfortunate that the board now often runs short of a quorum because of vacancies that date back months, but noted that at least one of the vacancies would replace one of the members who resigned in the aftermath of the John Lynch bribery scandal. Also, she said, Mayor Walsh has yet to even submit nominations for four other currently empty ZBA positions – in total, the board theoretically should have seven full members and seven alternates.

She said that the architects’ society has agreed to submit new applications from people who meet what the council wants, but that the real-estate board told her it has not desire to nominate different people. She said she hopes to have new nominees in place in time for the council’s next scheduled meeting, on Sept. 16. She added that the zoning board would only have one more day of hearings in that period.

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