Government Affairs Committee February 2017 Update

While the drama continues at the national level, we are focusing on some significant accomplishments here in Cambridge and keeping an eye on upcoming legislation in the state.  Here is your Cambridge Local First Government Affairs update for February, including:

  • Central Square Re-zoned
  • Trash Pick-up, Lab Spaces and More
  • Business/Business District Grants Available
  • Cheaper Filing Fees
  • Welcome to the Board
  • Your Employee Wants to Be Involved

Central Square Re-zoned

After decades of frustration and a year of very hard work by business owners, landholders and residents, the Central Square District has new zoning laws. Among the new provisions are a greater floor area ration (FAR), which will let many of the Square’s owners add the extra floor or two to existing buildings, some new leeway for creating rooftop decks and balconies, easier (of-right) permitting for dancing and entertainment establishments on Mass Ave, a limit on the amount of Mass Ave or Main Street frontage that can go to banks and financial institutions, some parking and loading waivers and an exemption from FAR for small (under 1,500 sq. feet) retail spaces. Notably, the Formula Business provision was not attached to this round of zoning. Borrowed from other towns in Massachusetts, that zoning provision would have required chains and franchises to moderate the large-scale branding on store fronts to fit the Square or face a Planning Board permit review. The City Council, Planning Board and Ordinance Committee voiced strong support for the provision and are working closely with Cambridge Local First, Central Square Business Association and others to come up with a version that will be as effective as possible.

Trash Pick-up, Lab Spaces and More

Cambridge Local First and our partners in the business associations, resident associations and City leadership are studying an array of City policies that could provide better support to local, independently owned business. Among the ideas we are hearing and discussing are the return of City pick up for commercial trash and recycling along main thoroughfares. The City did once include small business pick-up as part of its services but stopped a number of years ago. We believe the return of this program could help alleviate a little bit of the pain of sky-high, triple-net rents in our city.

Business owners and residents alike have been dismayed to find that one of the most profitable uses for commercial space in our city is laboratory facilities. Cambridge Local First is part of a City-wide discussion about whether zoning needs to be updated to eliminate lab use in significant sections of the city.

What else could the city do to alleviate the high cost of doing business in Cambridge? We are working closely with other business associations and City leaders to explore everything from favorable tax treatment to better communication in the policy-making process to less onerous regulations. And we are drawing ideas locally and from Independent Business Associations around the country. If you have an idea, let us know.

Business/Business District Grants Available

The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority is taking grant proposals to “support specific physical improvement projects that better Cambridge’s built environment for the benefit of all the city’s residents, workers, and visitors. Grant money will come from the Forward Fund. Those applications are due Wednesday, March 21, 2017 at 5:00pm

The Economic Development Division is offering Small Business Challenge grants in increments of $1,000 forfor well-designed projects that bring together neighborhood business interests around shared goals of improved design, promotion, and business resilience in a commercial area.” You can find out more at: http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/econdev/resourcesforbusinesses/smallbusinesschallenge. The deadline for that application is March 8th 2017, at 5:00 PM (EST).

Cheaper Filing Fees

At the State level, Senator Brownsberger has filed SD.1403, a bill that would create a sliding scale for LLC filing fees. This would make that fee cheaper for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Welcome to the Board

The Board of Directors of Cambridge Local First welcomes new Board Members Patrick Barrett, III (JLB Realty), Susan Labandibar (Community Member), and Maria Montgomery (Cambridge Trust Bank)

Your Employee Wants to Be Involved

Did you know that any employee of CLF business member is welcome to join a Cambridge Local First committee? If you have an employee who has great ideas to share and want to be part of the action, send her or him our way. Committees include Government Affairs, Public Outreach, Business Member Relations, and Business Seminars. And, of course, we can always make room for you, too. All committee members are welcome to participate in person or by phone. Send us an email to get involved.

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