The Boston Redevelopment Authority is marshaling its resources for a new, fresh and careful look at zoning rules, as they apply to South Boston. Rezoning is obviously a critical project affecting our community’s future. Plan to attend the BRA’s first overall rezoning meeting on Monday evening, Feb. 29, at the Tynan School from 6 to 7:30 p.m.


Mark McGonagle is employed by the Boston Redevelopment Authority as its Community Affairs Liaison for zoning. Because of that responsibility, along with his South Boston roots, Mark has been asked by the BRA to spearhead a rezoning project that will include over half of South Boston. This project will include most of what we’ll call “the South Boston residential areas.” These areas extend along and to each side of Broadway and Dorchester Street.

Mark McGonagle, the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s Community Affairs Liaison for zoning, during an interview at Cranberry Café.

Mark McGonagle, the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s Community Affairs Liaison for zoning, during an interview at Cranberry Café.

Please note that certain areas in South Boston are not included in the rezoning project. The Waterfront developments are not in this study. Fort Point developed its own so-called 100 Acre Master Plan some years ago. The area along and on each side of Dorchester Avenue (between Andrew Square and Broadway) is already being studied – the BRA’s “Plan Dot Ave” project has been ongoing for the last eight months.

The proposed rezoning project was presented to South Boston’s seven civic groups last year. It’s now time to involve the general public, so a meeting on Monday evening, Feb. 29, has been scheduled. You are invited and encouraged to attend. Take an active part by all means – it’s your future.

Why is rezoning necessary, even to the point of being urgently needed? Well, no one has to be told that Boston is experiencing rapid growth. The Boston 2030 plan – our city’s 400th anniversary – estimates that the city’s population will grow from 630,000 to 750,000. A good chunk of that will take place in South Boston. Our community has only 5 percent of the city of Boston’s population and just 10 percent of its area, but we “own” as much as 60 percent of newly issued building permits. At the risk of being too simplistic, we can only grow in two directions – upward and sideways. That requires patient, careful rezoning.

However we end up growing, it’s clearly important that we grow in a well-planned way. This first rezoning meeting will deal with “dimensional” zoning – height, width, depth, setbacks, etc. It will also be an informational meeting, followed by a Q&A session. For example, do you know what the zoning abbreviation “FAR” stands for? South Boston Online admits that we don’t fully understand FAR, either.  But McGonagle stated that rigid enforcement of existing setback and FAR zoning might mean a property owner could build nothing larger than an elevator shaft on his property. Mark was only half joking.

And then there’s the need for what can be called “usage” zoning – residential, retail, commercial, open green space, parking, and so on. In addition, proper rezoning is required in order to fulfill the plans we make. Master plans are excellent methods to start building a great city, but please remember, only formal zoning or rezoning gives those plans “the force of law.” The BRA, the City Council, and the Mayor are working together, so that rezoning can be an integral part of the “Plan Dot Ave” project mentioned above. The BRA will take the same cooperative approach in developing rezoning all over South Boston’s residential areas.

Watch for the Feb. 29 meeting announcements. See you there.