Inside Stories

Council Meeting Recap: May 30, 2023

1. A Broad Motion With A Specific Intent

C. Gitschier – Req. City Mgr. Have The City Solicitor Provide The City Council With A Report Outlining Haw A Resident Can Appeal A Zoning Board Decision With Estimated Cost To The Resident.

I’m no big city lawyer, but I’m pretty sure you can find this answer with a few seconds of Googling:

General laws c. 40A, § 17 permits “persons aggrieved” by a decision of the ZBA to file an appeal in either the Superior Court or the Land Court seeking to overturn the decision. The deadline to file a c. 40A appeal is twenty days after the ZBA’s decision has been filed with the city or town clerk’s office. The complaint must name all individual members of the ZBA as party defendants and must list their home addresses in the body of the complaint. If the appellant is not the applicant, but an abutter or other interested party, the applicant must also be named as a party defendant. Pursuant to c. 40A, § 17, the party aggrieved, or appellant, must allege that the decision “exceeds the authority of the board…and any facts pertinent to the issue, and shall contain a prayer that the decision be annulled.”

Well, that was easy. If you want costs, call a lawyer or check the Commonwealth’s schedule of court fees. Thus, I must conclude that this motion is pretext for teeing off on our Zoning Board Of Appeals rather than a real request for information. Specifically, people are pretty pissed over actions taken by our ZBA relative to a recent housing proposal on Gibson Street that would require a number of variances.

It was suggested that the ZBA was not acting in good faith and that backroom “handshake deals” were afoot. Interesting space to keep an eye on.

2. Lowell’s Citgo Sign?

There was a registered speaker to lend support to the following motion:

C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Work With The Community And The Proper Channels To Restore The Iconic LOWELL SUN Sign

This, I like. Ever since the Sun went out of business the sign has fallen into disrepair (Wait, what? The hell, you say?). Nevertheless, the sign does have iconic status and it’s depressing seeing it partially lit at night. I can’t imagine that it would be cost-prohibitive to add a few LEDs and get it shining again. As several speakers noted, the sign is “our Citgo sign” and is worth saving.

I agree that it should be saved, but please stop being so careless with your analogies:

3. Bad Bills II

For the second time in as many months, there was a vote scheduled for “To approve the payment of unpaid invoices from prior fiscal years for the School Department.” The total amount included for payment is $298,008.64. The amount is comprised of 25 invoices that the School Department was unable to pay for “various reasons.”

The funds to pay the bills would come out of the School Department Budget. However, the School Department first needs City Council approval before they can write the checks.

This vote initially came before the Council on March 28, 2023. However, the Council delayed the vote so that the school department could provide some additional information as well as verification that the services were rendered.

Incredibly, the invoices came back before the council without the requisite certification from the School Department that the goods and services were rendered.

In addition there were a number of typographical errors in the packet. Councilor Leahy, usually reserved and forgiving of human error, expressed frustration with the School Department and described the matter as “sloppy accounting.”

4. Micro Dog Parks

Councilors Leahy/Gitschier – Request City Manager Have Proper Department Explore The Feasibility Of Placing Micro Dog Parks In Around Neighborhood District Parks

Ohhhh, micro dog parks, not micro dog parks. [I know. It’s awful. I’m so sorry.]

As per the motion response:

Small, or micro dog parks are beneficial for city residents as it would create a dedicated space where they could bring their dogs on walks and would provide a space where they might use the restroom and dispose of any waste on site. The difficulty with creating these spaces is the cost of installation, maintenance, and the reliance on city residents to maintain the spaces as safe and usable areas. Rest stop dog parks can be as small as 50 square feet, costs associated for the installation of one of these parks would consist of fencing, grading, ground cover, and waste disposal facilities, such as bag
dispensers and trash cans. Public works staff, most likely from the Parks Division, would be charged with ongoing maintenance. DPD staff could work collaboratively with Parks to determine locations within some parks that may absorb this type of facility without negatively impacting the larger park.

DPD also reports that the installation of micro dog parks could increase comical “meet cutes” with your future spouse by up to 71%.

5. A Missing Motion

Due to the ongoing “technical hiccups” plaguing the city, I have it on good authority that there was a motion that didn’t get uploaded to the packet:

C. Anybody: Req. City Manager Provide Update on WTF is Happening This Year With the School Building Committee and Outline Strategy to Increase Attendance or Replace Members Unable or Unwilling to Attend.

Soon after this council was sworn in January of 2022, the topic of the LHS project and, by extension, the School Building Committee, was all the rage. There were demands for more oversight of the project and criticism directed to the Donoghue Administration that (a) the Committee only met twice in 2021, and (b) attendance at meetings was poor (hovering around 50 some odd percent).

In February of 2022, Councilor Gitschier stated:

“If they don’t want to do their job, then put other people on the Building Committee that will.”

In March of 2022, presumably concerned with attendance, Councilors Gitschier and Robinson filed a motion “Req. City Mgr. Provide Council With Policy On Appointing, Replacing, Backfilling And Filling Vacant Seats On The Lowell High School Building Committee.”

Soon thereafter, Manager Golden took over in April of 2022. In June of 2022, Councilor Rourke filed a Motion asking the Manager to set a new School Building Committee. In July, the Manager responded to that motion and advised that he was, in essence doing something of a refresh:

In response to the motion made by the Council, I have drafted a letter (attached) to be sent to each current member of the School Building Committee thanking them for their service and asking them to submit a letter to my office, should they wish to continue to serve of the committee.

So, how are we doing in 2023? [green = present; red = absent]

By my count there was no quorum for the past 4 meetings. Officially, I think that they counted 11 present for the 3/22/23 meeting. Numbers improve (though only marginally) if we zoom out to all meetings since that July 2022 “refresh.”

[quick note: these numbers were pulled from the available meeting minutes and watching the Zoom meetings. As there was no quorum for the past few meetings it’s possible that a member was present but is not accounted for – Zoom feeds can be difficult to follow. For example, I believe that Manager Golden may have been marked present for the 3/22/23 meeting, though I didn’t see or hear him on the feed. Thus, I apologize to anyone whose attendance I may have missed. This is one reason why having a quorum and approving minutes is important.]

First, Conor Baldwin deserves a gold star. Next, given the Civil War that preceded the siting decision, I always assumed that the high school project was a big deal to people. Like, a really big deal. 2023 SBC attendance (and the Council’s apparent blind eye) suggests that those feelings are not universal or have gone out of fashion.

6. Edge of My Fricken Seat

If you know, you know. If you don’t, it’s always a wild ride. First, the three minute promise was broken. Second, the general gist was that we can combat climate change by eliminating air travel and cruises, limiting cars to one per household, working closer to home, stopping development (“all development”), reducing trash, etc. We ended with calls for workers to seize the means of production from private industry and implement a strong central government that can “act quick” – presumably, the kind that really gets the the trains to run on time if you catch my drift.

7. The Rest

A. There was a motion requesting an update on the high-rise development planned by the Lupoli Companies in the HCD. As you are likely aware, this is a 3 phase project with phase 1 being a publicly subsidized private parking garage that undermines a city-owned garage in the same area.

B. There was a request for more info to be provided to citizens relative to the “cyber incident” at city hall. From what I can gather, it sounds like your financial info is safe? I dunno.

C. Representative Elliott was present to speak, in part, on the dumping of trash on First Street in Centralville. If you know the area, they put up a chain-link fence that has been pretty effective at stopping dumping. However, the fence does not continue the entire length of the roadway for some reason. As such, there is a clear “trash line” where the fence stops. Again people, if you need to throw a couch off the roof of your Civic, please drive it into Chelmsford or Westford.

D. There was some yelling from the gallery at various points during the meeting. They were off-camera so I couldn’t tell who it was, but I have a pretty good guess.

One response to “Council Meeting Recap: May 30, 2023”

  1. […] motion response from Baez-Rose stems from a City Council motion from May 30, put forward by Councilor Corey Robinson. He requested the city manager work with the community and […]

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