YEAR IN REVIEW:The Boston Sun’s Top Stories of 2016

Concerns over height

A moment of silence was held for victims of fatal crashes that have occurred in Boston throughout the year.

A moment of silence was held for victims of fatal crashes that have occurred in Boston throughout the year.


The public has spoken out against the proposed tower at 115 Winthrop Square that would cast a shadow over the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall, breaking existing Shadow Laws. The tower would be a 775 foot high mix use tower that would need to be about half the current proposed size to not cast additional shadows on the historic parks.

South End

Major project on the Albany/Harrison corridor raised concerns over height of proposed building exceeding the zoning by 75 feet, with the tallest building slated for 200 feet. Legall McCall Properties of Boston was proposing the large-scale project of four buildings with 710 residential units, 14,100 square feet of retail space spread through three of the buildings and 40,1000 square feet of commercial office space.

After another revamp in November, the project reduced the number of units from 687 to 650 to bring down some heights and to make the parking garage smaller. Instead of 10 stories, they’re at nine stories.


Proposed development of 2 Charlesgate West spurred uproar amongst residents over the 29-story residential building slated for the half-acre site located by Ipswich Street and Boylston Street to the South. The zoning for the spot is currently 135 feet but the proposed plan consists of a 340 foot zoning height, an approximately 150 percent increase.

The development which will take over the current Trans National Building, a six-story commercial building, will transform into an approximately 344,000 square feet, 29-story residential building that 295 residential units with a mix of rental and ownership units. It will also have restaurant and office space.


BPDA Extends Urban Renewal 

The Boston Planning Development Agency (formally known as the BRA) approved a proposal to extend the use of urban renewal for another 10 years. Boston City Council then voted for the extension of the 14 urban renewal districts for a six-year period on March 23. The plans are set to expire on April 30, 2022.

Urban renewal allows the BPDA to take eminent domain and clear land titles within the urban renewal districts, which include the South end, Bay Village, Fenway and Park Plaza.

Part of the agreement with BPDA was to revisit several outstanding issues including the expansion or contraction of zones and to get a twice-annual report. There was also promise by the BRA to create a two-year action plan to address outstanding issues.

Those included, progress on Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) inventory, process for reviewing Urban Renewal map boundaries and overview of Urban Renewal projects pipeline.


Gas Leaks Raise Concerns Amongst Residents

The Boston City Council passed an ordinance at the December 14, hearing that will work to eliminate all gas leaks within the city in the next six years.

Many of these gas leaks that are deemed non-hazardous by utility companies have been open for years, killing nearby vegetation, triggering long-term respiratory illness, and adding harmful chemicals into the atmosphere that aid global warming.

It is estimated that $90 million per year is being spent on gas that has leaked out. Conservative estimates say there are around 1,300 gas leaks in Boston, but in a 2013 Boston University study that mapped the location and volume of gas leaks in the city, it was estimated to be closer to 3,000.

New legislation comes after outraged advocacy groups, residents and ratepayers worked hard to speak out about the harmful impacts of gas leaks throughout the city and throughout the state.


Marijuana becomes legal

The law went into effect on Dec. 15 in Massachusetts. The state will recognize marijuana as a legal substance for adults 21 and over. Adults may carry up to one ounce of marijuana in public and cannot have more than 10 ounces of marijuana in their residences.

Each resident can grow up to six plants but there can be no more than 12 plants in a household.

The new law will not affect medical marijuana, which is a separate program overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

An amendment to the City’s Zoning Code restricts medical marijuana dispensaries with a half-mile buffer zone. Only one dispensary now exists, on Milk Street downtown, through a second in East Boston has been given the green light by the Council.

Council President Michelle Wu admits she has never tried marijuana but came out in favor of legalization while Mayor Martin Walsh came out against it.

It is still illegal to be operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana.


Pedestrian safety comes to the forefront

In December, Boston passes an ordinance to reduce the speed limit to 25 mph in an effort to reduce crashes on city streets.

In June, a vehicle in the area of 640 Commonwealth Ave near the Boston University campus struck an adult and a child. Although the injuries were non-life threatening, the accident highlighted the importance of the Vision Zero effort now underway by the City Planners – an effort that looks to cut such accidents down to zero in the future.

In July, the death of a 69-year-old man that was hit and killed by a car on Albany Street new Thayer Street sparked residents to voice their concern over wanting more enforcement and safety measures to be put into place.

Vision Zero recently added Massachusetts Avenue to its plan.

In the Back Bay, a pedestrian was struck in a hit-and-run drag-racing incident near the intersection of Beacon and Exeter streets this past March. This pushed the city to put new radar speed sings up near the location.

Beacon Street was also the site of three pedestrian deaths in two separate crashes in 2014. A flatbed tractor-trailer truck fatally struck a bicyclist last August.


Methadone Mile sees up tick of activity

New triage workers for the City’s two homeless shelters in the Worcester Square area of the South End in July will hopefully curb some of the addiction-related issue that have grown exponentially over the past couple of years.

Those in the neighborhood have struggled with the influx of addicted persons to add to the historic numbers that have existed there around the shelters and Methadone clinics for years.

The Boston City Council last week voted down an order that would place a two percent tax on certain alcoholic beverages to fund prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse.


ISD continues ban on weekend work

Last spring ISD Director Buddy Christopher consented to extend a weekend work ban to the South End giving peace and sound to residents on the weekend.

South End Forum Moderator Steve Fox said the stop to weekend work has been one thing that he has received the most ‘thank yous’ about – from all corners of the community.

Christopher said he had some contractors initially who were concerned, but most had no problems with it at all in the end.

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