After community meeting, Sánchez holds Norris Square rezoning bill

Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez held a bill Thursday that would rezone portions of Norris Square from multi-family to single-family, saying some residents needed more time to obtain permits for already existing multi-unit buildings that would be illegal under the new zoning designation.

The bill, which changes certain parcels zoned R10 between Front, Second, York, and Berks streets to R10-A, got a favorable recommendation from Council’s Rules Committee last week. Since the bill was introduced on March 15 of this year, Norris Square Civic Association and other members of the community have repeatedly voiced opposition to the change, in part because of its potential effect on NSCA’s plans for the site of St. Boniface church.   

After a contentious community meeting in early April, Sánchez held another earlier this week. While the majority of attendees at the second meeting still protested the change, they seemed, as a group, less opposed to the R10-A designation itself, and more upset about the Councilwoman’s introduction of the bill without their involvement.

“How did you come up with the data that justifies this?” asked one participant.

Bill Kramer, director of the development division at the Planning Commission, admitted that the Commission’s review was “not done on the basis of a statistical analysis, but that a walkthrough of the neighborhood gave the commission a sense of the amount of conversions from single- to multi-family residence taking place. Sánchez has said she introduced the zoning change because of those conversions.

“[The Planning Commission] never said ‘too many’,” Sánchez said. “I did.”

After the meeting, some attendees said they are supporting the bill as a way to potentially slow down the gentrification trend which they fear will push out low-income, longtime Norris Square residents.

Sánchez says she still plans to call the bill up for a vote before the end of the current Council session in mid-June.

Regarding NSCA’s original plans for St. Boniface, which she opposes, Sánchez says she is working with the group to make an alternate plan for the site and for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds designated to its development.

“Let’s just say that we both are working in good faith to come forth and make sure we keep all the [federal] money, [and] potentially create more units with less density,” Sánchez said. “So there’s going to be a win-win-win.”

Sánchez declined to talk about specifics of the negotiations, as did NSCA director Pat DeCarlo.

Contact the reporter at jaredbrey@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @jaredbrey

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