Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards addresses reporters about changes to the city's zoning board of appeals on Feb. 24, 2020 as Mayor Marty Walsh and City Councilor Liz Breadon look on. Photo courtesy of the office of Councilor Lydia Edwards.

An executive order by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is adding new requirements designed to weed out conflicts of interest for the city’s zoning board of appeal following a city hall employee’s recent conviction for taking a series of bribes from a developer.

At a morning press conference, Walsh announced an executive order requiring ZBA members to disclose all properties and projects in which they or business partners have an interest and are likely to require ZBA review. ZBA members will be barred from participating in review of any project in which they had a financial interest in the previous five years, and prohibited from having business dealings on any project they reviewed. Members and alternates will be required to submit annual statements of financial interest.

The executive order comes a day before a city council hearing on legislation by Councilor Lydia Edwards that would dramatically reshape membership of the board, which grants variances for building projects.

“As we clarify and modernize zoning rules across the city, it’s necessary we also look at how we grant exceptions from them. The Executive Order today moves us forward and I thank Mayor Walsh for listening to the need for action,” Edwards tweeted this morning.

The executive order also modernizes the ZBA’s record-keeping by requiring online payment and applications within 180 days, and electronic submissions of plans within 18 months. And it creates a searchable online database of applications and decisions within 18 months.

A new ombudsman position to provide information on board procedures will be created within 45 days.

John Lynch’s recent conviction for accepting $50,000 in bribes from a developer to influence a ZBA vote on a condominium project has spotlighted the board’s role in regulating the city’s building boom. In January, Lynch was sentenced to 40 months in prison. He resigned in August from his job as assistant director of real estate for the Economic Development Industrial Corp. of Boston, which manages properties owned by the BPDA.

In September, Edwards proposed legislation removing real estate and construction industry representatives from board membership and barring board members from going into the real estate business for five years after their term expires.

Instead, the board would be comprised of members representing affordable housing, civil rights and fair housing, environmental protection and climate change, urban planning, homeowners, renters and expertise in zoning and the general laws.

Walsh Adds New Reporting Requirements for ZBA Members

by Steve Adams time to read: 2 min