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City councilor aims to revamp Boston zoning board

City Councilor Lydia Edwards plans to file legislation on Monday.
City Councilor Lydia Edwards plans to file legislation on Monday.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

With federal investigators probing Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeal and Mayor Martin J. Walsh considering changes, a City Council member is pushing to overhaul the board.

Councilor Lydia Edwards plans to file legislation on Monday that would reshape the seven-member board, which rules on zoning changes for small and mid-size buildings, and bar people who work in real estate and development from serving on it.

The goal, Edwards said, is to eliminate potential conflicts of interest. In early September, longtime city staffer John Lynch admitted taking $50,000 to help a developer influence a ZBA vote in 2017. He has resigned and agreed to plead guilty to federal charges.


Instead of having seats on the seven-member board reserved by law for real estate agents, architects, and construction unions, Edwards would mandate seats for renters, urban planners, and environmental and fair-housing advocates.

The bill would also require better record keeping and public notice of board votes.

“These changes protect against conflicts of interest, improve standards of review, ensure critical perspectives of tenants and environmental protection are represented, and modernize the Zoning Board of Appeal by providing 21st-century transparency for all residents,” Edwards said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Dorchester real estate agent Craig Galvin resigned from the ZBA after the Globe reported he had served as a sales agent for a duplex condo project that Lynch built in 2018.

Since then, the Globe and other news outlets have uncovered other projects that went before the ZBA during Galvin’s tenure for which he worked as a consultant or as a listing agent. In some cases, Galvin recused himself from voting; in others, he did not. It was sometimes not clear when he began working for the projects — early in their development, for example, or later as construction wrapped up and sales began.


Walsh, too, has pledged changes and has retained a law firm, Sullivan & Worcester, to review how it functions. Edwards said she hoped her bill and any changes Walsh may propose would be “a team effort.” Because a state law created Boston’s ZBA, any changes in its makeup would need approval from the Legislature as well as the City Council and Walsh.

Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bytimlogan.