A new Permit Tracking System, a search for new members of the Fair Housing and Anti-Displacement Task Force, and FabVille Advisory Board calls for new applicants
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Somerville launches new web portal for development permitting process
The City recently launched the Permit Tracking System, with the aim of making development permitting “more streamlined, straight forward, and transparent,” according to a press release. This web-based portal, which debuted last month, is an informational resource and application tool for the planning and zoning permitting process. Even in 2019, the process was paper based and required applicants to go to City Hall and download and print forms. During the pandemic, there was an interim process to keep approvals moving. Now the process is almost completely online, and one can even begin an application using a cell phone.
“I can’t stress enough how radically this new platform will change permitting in the Planning and Zoning Division,” said Sarah Lewis, director of Planning and Zoning, in a press release. “We are always working to improve our processes and resources, and this new tool will be instrumental to ensuring we provide exceptional customer service to residents, property owners, and businesses.”
The web platform features forms, automated notifications, and deadline reminders to guide applicants through the process. Documents are provided through a native-web format. Each application is given a tracking number, while project milestones are recorded and communicated to planners and applicants.
“This new approach to permitting is a game-changer,” said Mayor Joseph Curtatone, in the same release. “We worked for years with the community to overhaul our zoning policy—the next step is to overhaul the process, and I’m grateful to this team for their continued creativity and innovative thinking. We need these kinds of tools and systems in place to make sure our policies are truly working for everyone in the community.”
City seeks applicants for Fair Housing and Anti-Displacement Task Force
The City is looking for applicants for the newly established Fair Housing and Anti-Displacement Task Force, which will explore ways of incorporating federal, state, and local fair housing and anti-discrimination laws into Somerville’s Zoning Code. This will be a volunteer effort, and its aim “would be to determine whether zoning changes might help to mitigate the displacement of persons of color, immigrants, low- and moderate-income residents, persons with disabilities, and members of other protected classes that may result from new development,” according to a press release.
Areas of inquiry examined by the Task Force are included below:
- Identifying historical patterns of discrimination in housing on the basis of race, source of income, disability, national origin, or other protected classes within the City of Somerville.
- The impact of development on displacement within the city and region.
- Analyzing data on rental housing costs (including utilities, parking, and other amenities) and home sale prices and its correlation to displacement and fair housing concerns.
- Identifying a range of anti-displacement measures that developers could use to prevent displacement and/or increase access to housing for persons in protected classes.
- Making recommendations to the mayor, city council, and planning and zoning boards on whether to implement changes and next steps toward implementation.
Application Process: Interested applicants should submit a resume and/or letter describing their interest and experience along with brief answers to the questions below to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact Bryant Gaspard at email@example.com if you have any clarifying questions or need assistance with the application process. Applications are due by August 13, 2021. Applications can also be delivered to Ellen Shachter or Bryant Gaspard at the City Hall Annex, 50 Evergreen Avenue, Somerville, MA 02145.
FabVille Advisory Board seeks members
The City of Somerville and Somerville Public School Career in Technical Education is looking for applicants to serve on the FabVille Advisory Board. FabVille is Somerville’s digital fabrication lab, relaunching in the fall at Somerville High School. The advisory board will help guide the strategic development and growth of FabVille. The Advisory Board will meet on a quarterly basis to give input to the staff at the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development and Somerville High School on how to achieve FabVille’s goals.
“The goal of FabVille is to promote educational opportunities for Somerville community members in the areas of design thinking and rapid prototyping,” reads a statement from the City. “FabVille achieves this through a variety of project-based tool and software training programs including 3D printing, laser cutting, electronics, and coding. Through project-based learning, community members gain valuable knowledge applicable in many developing business industries including healthcare, automotive, energy development, and entrepreneurship. FabVille welcomes innovators, entrepreneurs, community partners, and curious minds interested in further developing a design thinking mindset in a supportive and welcoming environment.”
Interested applicants are encouraged to send a statement of interest to Nick Schonberger, Planner-Economic Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, July 30, at 3 p.m.
NOTE: Somerville Wire staff will be on vacation next week. Our next edition will be published on August 2!
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Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and assistant editor and staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.