1. Action Plan Spending Amendment
Let’s kick things off with a vote “[a]uthorizing the approval and submission of an amendment to the Federal Fiscal Year 2022-2023 City of Lowell Annual Action Plan to allocate uncommitted funds.”
As per a letter attached to the vote:
The Department of Planning and Development Community Development Division is requesting your approval to allocate uncommitted funds to the projects on the enclosed spreadsheet. The majority of the funds will be used on capital improvement projects for city owned facilities in low- and moderate-income areas. Per US Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations, the City of Lowell has a requirement to spend all the uncommitted funds by the end of April. Thus, we feel that all of the attached projects can meet this requirement.
Also attached was a little table of projects:
Councilors Gitschier and Robinson took exception to the allocation of $550K to the Lowell Housing Authority (“LHA”). The LHA is the first public housing authority in Massachusetts and is now the states’ third largest. The LHA is tasked with providing “safe, decent, and sanitary housing” for low income residents of the community. Councilors Gitschier and Robinson acknowledged the important work of the LHA, but argued that the $500K would be better spent “in-house” on properties owned by the city – such as schools and possibly fire houses. However, the administration and the majority of councilors cited other revenue sources for repairs to city property, such as MSBA funding. In addition, Councilors in favor of the of the spending plan noted the importance of being a “good partner” of the LHA as it serves a vital need in our community.
Councilor Gitscher moved to remove the $550K allocation from the Plan. This motion was defeated 7-2, gaining the lone support of Councilor Robinson (Councilors Scott and Jenness were absent). The full plan proceeded to a vote and passed 8-1 with Councilor Gitschier the lone vote in opposition.
2. ARPA Art Update
Peter Crewe, our Director of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (“CASE”), was on hand to present an Informational Report on $800k Allocation of ARPA “Cultural Sector Grant Programs.” $200K was set aside for Festival and Event programming. However, the bulk of Mr. Crewe’s presentation focused on the remaining $600K, that has been split evenly between Cultural Organization Recovery Programs and Public Art Programs:
Councilors speaking on these programs were effusive in their praise for the work done by CASE as well as the administration. Notably, for a simplified and accessible grant process that allowed for smaller organizations to take advantage of the free money.
3. A Partial Homelessness Summit
Incredibly, homelesness wasn’t solved. Nevertheless, the Council received a motion response summarizing the The Greater Lowell Regional Meeting on Homelessness that took place on August 3, 2023 at UMass. As a brief recap, in an attempt to address homelessness, the council made multiple calls for a regional summit on the topic.
Reaction to this summit was mixed. Though councilors praised the administration for its efforts to pull the meeting together, there was a lack of state-level involvement (ie: people with checkbooks). Further, only 3 or 4 representatives from surrounding communities were present. Manager Golden touched on the housing creation piece of the puzzle – noting that future state involvement in this area is likely to include more “sticks” than “carrots.” An interesting area to watch as local and hyper-local decision makers drag their feet on housing creation.
4. HCD “Update”
A trio of motions seeking info on the HCID project generated a motion response:
MOTION RESPONSE: 3/21/23 – Councilor Robinson – Request City Manager
Provide a Report On The Process Used To Attract Potential Development In The
MOTION RESPONSE: 5/30/23 – Councilors Nuon/Jenness – Request City
Manager Provide The City Council With A Copy Of The Agreement Between The
City And Sal Lupoli Regarding The Parking Facility And Proposed High Rise In
The Hamilton Canal District And To Update The Council On The Status Of Said
MOTION RESPONSE: 9/12/23 – Councilor Jenness – Request City Manager
Provide Update On Hamilton Canal Development Projects, Including City Held
Parcels As Well As Parcels That Have Been Sold To Private Developers.
If you have the perception that development has hit a wall over there, I don’t think that you are alone. The response spells out all the reasons why not much seems to be happening at the moment. I guess I can understand the challenges in developing some of the open parcels, but what about the parcels already under agreement? It’s October of 2023. Our agreement with the Lupoli Companies requires that construction was to start on Parcel 5 or the “signature high-rise” on Parcels 2-4 by the end of the year.
What’s going on? We got a hint in the response:
“The City Manager and DPD have been in regular communication with Lupoli Companies
regarding their development within the district. Currently, the garage on Parcel 1 is close to
completion. Lupoli Co has met with the city to discuss changes to their plans for parcels 2-5 which
will require modifications to the existing form-based code. DPD staff and representatives from
Lupoli Co have identified all potential changes to the code to review whether those changes are acceptable to the city and consistent with our vision for the district. Lupoli Companies will be
coming before the council in the coming months with additional details regarding their updated
project plans. DPD staff feel the modifications being requested are reasonable but will require
amendments to the LDA which are up to the Council to review and approve. If that approval is
granted, DPD will pursue form-based code changes with HCD.”
Councilor Gitscher and the Manager cautioned that there is some stuff happening behind the scenes. Issues surrounding the HCD are somewhat shrouded in mystery as they are the subject of Executive Session discussion. As such, we will have to stand by and await word. I’m especially curious as to the changes sought by Lupoli and whether the representative they send to the council with news will be as condescending as the last one.
5. The Rest
Apologies for a long (and let’s be honest, lackluster) recap of a relatively short meeting.
Also of note, it wasn’t on the agenda, but Joe Hungler of the Boys and Girls Club provided the Council with an update on fundraising efforts and improvements underway at the Boys’ Club. Exciting stuff over there.
As we are 3/4 through the year, it’s time for another update to the Motion Tracker:
Enjoy the rest of the week. Hopefully, you can get out there and sweat your ass off picking a $36 dollar bag of apples while your kids meltdown.