Councillor’s demand for reconsideration on Kendall zoning is greeted with jeers
The zoning accompanying a 22-story apartment building set to go up in Kendall Square nearly went through Monday, but was pulled back at the last minute by a city councillor seeking “reconsideration.”
The council’s vote to sell 8,556 square feet of Ames Street sidewalk to developer Boston Properties for about $2 million passed on an 8-0 vote (Denise Simmons’ vote is missing while she recovers from an operation), but the creation of Ames Street District zoning became a sticking point. It passed 7-1-0 originally, with Craig Kelley voting no, marking the first time that night most of the council and gathered representatives of Boston Properties thought the issue was settled.
But some half-dozen minutes later Minka vanBeuzekom, for whom this is a second-to-last council meeting unless the numbers change in recount of the Nov. 5 election, asked to change her vote to a “no.”
Councillor Craig Kelley rejected the request, which needs unanimous consent, and the matter seemed settled again. The council went on to other issues.
But another half-dozen minutes later, the city clerk said vanBeuzekom had moved for reconsideration, which would bring the issue back to the council next Monday. Marjorie Decker, who opted not to run for reelection so she could focus on her work as a first-term state representative for the city in the 25th Middlesex District, urged Kelley to change his mind and allow the vote change so reconsideration wouldn’t be necessary.
At first it seemed Kelley wouldn’t go along.
“I am frustrated that the vote came up tonight – we had until February whatever to review it – and I think it was rushed. And that people voted on something and then didn’t know what they voted on is not what we should be doing,” Kelly said. “So no. She voted yes.”
Ultimately, saying he didn’t “want to be a pain in the neck” and make people come in for another meeting, Kelley allowed the vote change. It became 6-2-0 passage of the zoning petition, which the council had until Feb. 5 to vote on.
“I do think we’re rushing it,” vanBeuzekom said.
But then vanBeuzekom said she wasn’t withdrawing her reconsideration – news the couple of dozen people remaining at the meeting after two hours greeted with jeering laughter and astonished exclamations.
Mayor Henrietta Davis thought she had vanBeuzekom at that moment, since Robert’s Rules of Order specify that reconsideration can be called by the winning side, which vanBeuzekom had just left.
That’s not how the council rules work, though, and the bid for reconsideration stood.
It was vanBeuzekom herself who asked May 6 that the policy get a look by the council’s Government Operations and Rules Committee, but a 5-4 vote meant her order failed. It was itself called for reconsideration by councillor Tim Toomey, and on May 20 it was scheduled to be heard again. It was placed on file – but not revoted, apparently, and never heard in committee.
She drew pointed criticism from Decker and comparatively subdued criticism from Davis.
“People were trying to be considerate of one another in terms of there being a whole bunch of people here on this vote, and we’re accommodating you to also try to accommodate others. I believe that’s what councillor Kelley was trying to do, trying to be accommodating,” Davis said. “By continuing to have your reconsideration, you’re putting people in an awkward position.”
Decker noted that the next meeting was the final one for herself, Davis, Ken Reeves and possibly for vanBeuzekom, and “it was my hope that the last council meeting of this body … could [be used to] enjoy the council meeting and focus on wrap-up issues. If the outcome were going to change, that would be fine, but the outcome’s not going to change.”
Davis said options for withdrawing reconsideration would be “looked into.”
Next week is the final meeting of the current councillors’ two-year term because they voted Monday to cancel the meetings that had been scheduled for Dec. 23 and Dec. 30.
The recount deciding whether vanBeuzekom makes up a 13-transfer-vote difference from challenger Dennis Carlone pauses Tuesday for a special election to fill U.S. Sen. Ed Markey’s former 5th Congressional District seat. The candidates are Democrat Katherine Clark and Republican Frank Addivinola. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
When the recount begins again, at the Willis Moore Youth Center at 12 Gilmore St. in the Riverside neighborhood, the Election Commission will pick up where it left off: a 10th round of vote shuffles out of 17 needed last month to determine the outcome. So far the gap in votes has only widened, according to observers at the recount.
Despite the general outrage that greeted vanBeuzekom’s reconsideration, it isn’t too far a stretch from councillors’ various other requests for reconsiderations over the term or invocation of “charter rights,” which delay votes by a week with no explanation necessary.
The zoning is needed because Boston Properties promised a third time to put up an apartment tower in Kendall Square, assuring in March 2012 that it would happen this third time if the council allowed it to take away 42 percent of a rooftop garden. In something of a development Möbius strip, Boston Properties said it needed that much of the garden in part because it was going to attach an apartment building – although that building wasn’t designed at the time and needed the sale of the city’s sidewalk land (decided some 20 months later) to make it happen.
Boston Properties’ need for space was introduced in April and voted only a month later, with only Kelley and vanBeuzekom opposing the deal, which they called rushed.